Recapping the Division II Men's Basketball Tournament

Admit it: you had #2 Winston-Salem taking care of business against #7 Slippery Rock—but alas, the magic of the spring is upon us once again. The NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament has come and gone, leaving a nation enraptured, reeling from the possibilities of what could have been—two early exits from East Stroudsburg and Tarleton State, but the inviolable promise of next year, when our brackets may be better prepared and so may be the Fort Lewis College Skyhawks.

There are some, I've been told, who apparently follow the Division I tournament at the expense of the Division II championship—known fondly to its enthusiasts by the less melodious but equally sportive moniker "March Craziness"—and to these people, I say that you have made a grave error. Thus I have taken it upon myself to recap the tournament, which concluded last weekend. I do not want to bore you, so rather than dwelling on basketball specifics, I will focus instead on overarching trends and developments that can interest even the poorly initiated.

The tournament began, in the top-left regional, with a 1-8 matchup between Franklin Pierce and Bloomfield. Franklin Pierce won the contest 90-78, carrying a significant amount of momentum from its regular season finale versus crosstown rival Millard Fillmore. New Haven, Assumption, and Bridgeport also advanced out of the top half of the bracket. Franklin Pierce defeated New Haven, while #3 Assumption made an ass out of you and me by losing to heavy underdog #7 Bridgeport. In the bottom half of the region, Metro State and Midwestern State squared off in the Battle of Uncertain Locales, with Metro State ultimately prevailing in a close one. Metro State defeated St. Mary's (Texas) to earn a showdown with Franklin Pierce in the regional final, which Metro State dominated to earn the first spot in the Eventual Four (lacking a unique term to parallel Division I's "Final Four," I've taken it upon myself to create one).

Opening round matchups in the bottom-left regional included Augustana over Upper Iowa and Indiana (PA) over East Stroudsburg, long plagued by its inability to recruit from West Stroudsburg. #1 West Liberty dominated the region after its opening round victory over a particularly idiosyncratic Bowie State squad, setting it up for showdowns with Indiana (PA), which is based in Berlin, and Winona State, which abruptly had its season interrupted.

The opening round loss of Northeastern State in this portion of the bracket made regions of the United States one-for-five in all three divisions of the NCAA Men's Baksetball Tournament, the lone victors being the aforementioned Midwestern State. The other disappointments included Northwestern State and Southern University, each losing its opening-round Division I tilt, and Northwestern College, which lost by 17 to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in first-round Division III action. Next year, in addition to the traditional West, South, East, and Midwest Regionals, this writer proposes creating a Regional Regional, which will feature the greatest regional squads of this season with a few of their closest competitors:

1. Southern University

8. University of the South

3. Midwestern State

6. Northwestern University

5. Northwestern College

4. Northeastern State

7. Northeastern University

2. Northwestern State

The top-right Division II regional was filled with classic matchups, most notably #2 Alabama-Huntsville against #7 Christian Brothers, which narrowly squeezed into the tournament over perennial conference powerhouse Jewish Brothers. Eckerd lost its opening matchup to Benedict, but the latter promptly abdicated a round later to Alabama-Huntsville. Dixie State gave way to Cal State-San Bernardino, Saint Leo vanquished Rollins, and Seattle Pacific conquered the Grand Canyon University Antelopes. It was Western Washington, however, with its mascot Victor E. Viking, that was the class of this region and ultimately emerged triumphant.

Last but not least was the bottom-right regional, which saw first-round results of South Carolina-Aiken over Belmont Abbey and Wingate over Limestone, who fell just short despite erosive point guard play. The University of Findlay Oilers similarly faltered against Drury, which encountered little resistance on its way to the Pleasant 16 (again, my innovation). #3 Barton marched through the other half of the bracket, exposing the statuesque defense of Lincoln Memorial in the round of 32, before falling to South Carolina-Aiken, who in turn was defeated by Drury—the fourth and final regional champion.

Those results set up an Eventual Four for the ages, featuring four #1 seeds and matchups between Metro State and West Liberty—heralded as "The Clash of the Concepts"—as well as Western Washington and Drury. Metro State and Drury emerged out of those battles, leading to a championship game in which Drury, alma mater of Bob Barker, defeated Metro State, home of Rowdy the Roadrunner, by a single point. They were honored alongside Division III champion Amherst during the Division I championship game, and both squads proceeded to a celebratory dinner at the downtown Atlanta Applebee's.


Jamie Berk