Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MIAC Snubbed

The NCAA announced its D3 brackets yesterday (Monday, Feb. 28) and there was surprise that the Concordia (Moorhead) women and St. Thomas men were included.

OK, I'm being facetious. Of course they were included. They are the MIAC post-season champions and they get an automatic bid.

But here's the deal. Regular season champions St. Thomas (women) and Carleton (men) were excluded from the NCAA's post-season festivities. How often has a regular season MIAC champion, especially one that gets to the playoff finals before losing, not gotten an invitation to the little dance??? I'm guessing, not often.

But the fact is that the MIAC, once a post-season threat--powerhouse, even, in the case of the women--has fared poorly in post-season over the past several years, and that has to be a factor in its embarrassing showing (just 2 post-season invitations) this year.

I mean, the Concordia, St. Ben's and St. Thomas women used to show up at the D3 Elite Eight and Final Four with regularity. Concordia won it all in 1988, St. Thomas in 1991, and the three of them had six other Final Four appearances through 2000. But last year 4 Minnesota entrants went 0-and-4 in the first round of NCAA tournament play. Why would the NCAA shoehorn more than 1 team in each class (men and women) into the field this year?

Of course it's true that last year one of the four was the Minnesota-Morris women of the UMAC, who in theory stole a slot from the MIAC. This year the UMAC gets an automatic bid for the 1st tie and takes 2 slots away from both the men and the women. (Northwestern [Roseville] among the men, Morris again among the women.)

So here's the deal.

Friday March 4

Northwestern (Roseville) men at St. Thomas 7:30 p.m.
Illinois Wesleyan vs. Wisconsin-River Falls at St. Thomas 5:30 p.m.

Concordia (Moorhead) women vs. Simpson at Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Minnesota-Morris women at Coe

Saturday March 5

Northwestern (Roseville) or St. Thomas in "pod" finals at St. Thomas 7 p.m.

The bottom line is that there's too much parity in the MIAC. It used to the be the Big Two or Big Three just dominated. Now the rest of the field--the Hamlines, the Augsburgs, the St. Kates, even the St. Marys of the world--is recruiting some darn good ballplayers and putting a pretty decent product on the court. As far as I'm concerned the MIAC's players of the year this year both happen to be Hamline posts, Carl Hipp and Mary Wilkowski. In the old days, they'd have been playing for a St. Thomas or Gustavus team that is a top 2 team without them. Suddenly they go from local power to national power, maybe.

I haven't yet researched Illinois Wesleyan and Wisconsin-River Falls, so I don't have a line on the Tommies, but at least they're at home. The other Minnesota entrants in D3 face some very, very long odds out there on the unforgiving playoff road.

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