Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2010-2011 Schedule Preview

We're still waiting on final team and pairing details for the tournaments, but here's a (1,000 foot) look at the 2010-2011 Calvin non-conference schedule.

Saturday, Nov. 13 at Ferris State (D-II) -- Exhibition

This has become a yearly tune-up match for the Knights. The Bulldogs from Big Rapids usually field a good team with more athleticism than the Knights will see in the regular season. It's a good opportunity to see how the team reacts to quality competition.

Tuesday, Nov. 16 at Davenport (NAIA II)

In a departure from the norm, the Knights will not open up play with their home tournament. A trip across town to Davenport should provide the Knights with some quality competition. The Panthers finished last season ranked #19 in the NAIA II poll and earned a trip to the national tournament. (NAIA II is a very comparable competition level to NCAA D-III).

Friday, Nov. 20 and Saturday, Nov. 21 Calvin Tip-off Tournament

The pairings have yet to be announced, but the participants are Grace Bible (NCCAA II), Ohio Wesleyan, and Heidelberg.

Grace Bible surprised Calvin with their first ever win over the Knights (in convincing fashion, I might add) in last year's season opener, but Grace didn't end up losing too many games en route to a second straight National Christian College Athletic Association Division II national championship. The Tigers beat several NAIA II schools, including #12 Cornerstone.

Ohio Wesleyan will be looking to rebound after a bit of a tough year last season. The Battling Bishops only managed a 13-14 record and finished in the middle of the pack of the NCAC, which is similar to the MIAA in terms of talent. Ohio Wesleyan is only two years removed from a tournament bid, so they're no pushover. Should Calvin play Ohio, it would be counted as a regional game.

Don't let Heidelberg's 15-13 record from a season ago fool you, they were a very good team. The OAC is usually one of the top conferences year-in and year-out in division III (they placed two teams in the tournament last year in a "down year"). The Student Princes suffered their fair share of close defeats last year and ended up as the six seed in the OAC tournament before making a run to the championship game, including a defeat of top seeded John Carroll (No. 23 in the nation). Should Calvin play Heidelberg, it would be counted as a regional game.

Firday, Nov. 26 and Saturday, Nov. 27 at Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament

The pairings have not been determined, but as usual Calvin will compete with Cornerstone (NAIA II), Hope, and host Aquinas (NAIA II) for this year's GRSHOF Tournament championship.

I'm not a big fan of this tournament, at least in it's current format. No one wants to play a conference rival this early in the year, and this tournament always potentially pits Calvin versus Hope and Cornerstone versus Aquinas in the second day. The teams will see enough of each other in conference play, they don't need to see each other in November.

I wouldn't be sad to see this tournament go away completely, but at the very least, the format should be changed to scheduled matchups so that Calvin cannot play Hope and Cornerstone cannot play Aquinas.

Wins are never easy to come by in the GRSHOF Tournament, and even the loser of two games may end up having a nice season. Just last year Calvin lost twice, but went on to win the MIAA in league play.

Friday, Dec. 3 at Carthage at MIAA-CCIW Challenge

Carthage looks to be an exceptional team in 2010-11. The defending CCIW champs were a Sweet Sixteen team a year ago, and put together a fantastic 24-6 overall record. The Red Men will return team leader and national player of the year Steve Djurikovic.

The Knights were able to outlast Carthage last season, but this year the game will be in Kenosha, so the Red Men will be the decided favorites.

Saturday, Dec. 4 vs. Wheaton at MIAA-CCIW Challenge

Wheaton's 19-9 overall record from last season isn't overly impressive, but they played one of the toughest schedules in division III. The tournament selection comittee obviously agreed sending the Thunder to the Big Dance, while leaving Calvin at home.

The Thunder vanquished the Knights in a dandy of a game last December and I would expect that next year's game would be equally as exciting.

Saturday, Dec. 11 at Trinity Christian (NAIA II)

It's a yearly matchup, but a very ho-hum one for me. The two teams have met for the past seven years, with Calvin holding a 6-1 advantage in those games.

The Knights won last year's matchup by 27 points.

Saturday, Dec. 18 vs. Aquinas (NAIA II)

This could be the second matchup between the Knights and the Saints, depending on how the GRSHOF Tournament pans out. Either way, though, it will be at least the third, and maybe the fourth, WHAC opponent on the Calvin schedule. I'm all for playing quality local competition, but I don't think the Knights need to play all the quality local competition.

Wednesday, Dec. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 30 at Elmhurst Classic

Again, we're still waiting on the announcement of the matchups, but the participants are host Elmhurst of the CCIW, Benedictine of the NATHCon, and DePauw of the SCAC.

Elmhurst is coming off their worst season in recent memory, Benedictine never found consistency and despite some good play ended up with a losing record in the weak Northern Athletics Conference.

DePauw was the most consistent of the three teams a year ago. The Tigers won 20 games and missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid with a narrow four point loss in the SCAC Tournament Championship game.

Games against Elmhurst and DePauw would be counted as in-region games for Calvin.

I'll preview each game in more depth as they come up (isn't it November yet?) and preview the MIAA when the basketball season gets underway (if I can wait that long).

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