Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Look at the 2012-13 Men's Basketball Schedule

The 2012-13 Men’s Basketball schedule has been posted to the Calvin website. Calvin SID Jeff Febus had given me a preview in advance (thanks!), so I was able to formulate some reaction ahead of time.

Calvin Tip-Off Tournament -- November 16, 17
North Park (CCIW) vs. Philadelphia Bible (CSAC)
Calvin vs. Grace Bible

Of the lot, only North Park would be an in-region game for the Knights, but Calvin will still elect to play the tradition first round game with the Grace Bible Tigers. The Bible Tigers have turned into a formidable program in recent years (taking two of the last three from Calvin), but I can't help feeling like this is the wrong move. Playing (and winning) in-region games is critical to Pool C selection come tournament time, and for as much trouble as Calvin seems to have getting these games, you'd think Coach Vande Streek would want to take advantage.

And I wouldn't hesitate in declaring Calvin and Grace the two best teams here, so it would make a better Championship game than opening round game. Still, you have to like Calvin's chances of beating Grace, and I like North Park to get past Philadelphia Bible without much of a hitch.

I don't happen to know the last time that Calvin played either of these teams. I know it's been a while for North Park, who had a successful program a number of years ago but has since fallen by the wayside. Philadelphia Bible came to the Calvin Tip-Off Tournament in the '04-05 season, but they lost to Eastern University (PA) in the opener (and then lost to Grace the next day) and didn't meet up with Calvin.

Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Classic at Hope -- November 23, 24
Calvin vs. Aquinas -- Friday
Calvin vs. Cornerstone -- Saturday

I can't say how glad I am that Calvin-Hope matchups are no longer a possibility over Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t necessarily love seeing NAIA teams on the schedule, but I support the annual games with Cornerstone and Aquinas. It’s a nice way to get games over the holiday weekend without lots of travel, and they’ve both proven to be quality programs.

MIAA-CCIW Classic at Wheaton -- November 30, December 1
Calvin at Wheaton -- Friday
Calvin vs. Carthage -- Saturday

This should be two quality in-region games for Calvin, seeing as Wheaton is the 9th closest non-conference Division III opponent and Carthage is the 16th closest, but the NCAA has deemed both games to be "out of region". Calvin’s meeting the intent of the rule (playing competition close to you to minimize travel and missed class time), but they’re not being rewarded by the letter of the rule. Boo on the NCAA.

Side note: Wheaton scored 71 points against Calvin last year. Only 15 of which belonged to non-seniors. Calvin had 62 points that were scored by non-seniors. Wheaton is always strong, but this could be an opportunity to steal the rare road conference win on Friday (it’s actually never happened in the history of the MIAA-CCIW Classic).

Elmhurst Tournament – December 28, 29
The Knights will be attending the Elmhurst Tournament; I think it's called the 'Bluejay Classic'. Calvin was at the same tournament two years ago and ended up with a loss to Benedictine and a win over DePauw. No word yet on who the other two teams are.

In a bit of bad news, it looks like the NCAA has updated their mileage database, and a potential matchup with the host Bluejays would now be considered out of region. A search of Calvin to Elmhurst now shows up as 202 miles (where it used to show 198 miles). Since Elmhurst is in the Midwest Region, and Illinois and Michigan are not in the same Administrative Region, the two schools would have had to be within 200 miles for a potential matchup to be considered in-region. Elmhurst is the 7th closest non-conference Division III School to Calvin, and yet it isn't a regional game. NCAA fail.

Other Non-Conference Games
In addition to the standard tournament games, Calvin will also be playing (probably) three single non-conference games.

Anderson will make the return trip to Calvin after the Knights opened the season at their place last year. Last year’s meeting was played on the Tuesday before the Calvin Tip-Off Tournament, but I think the official Division III season start date is always November 15, which takes that same Tuesday (November 13) out of play. So they’ll play this year’s game on November 20, which is the day before the day before Thanksgiving (or, two days before, if you prefer it said that way). I would love to see a team like Anderson become at least a semi-regular fixture on Calvin’s schedule. It’s not that far away, and they’ve built a pretty solid program that would be able to give Calvin a good battle most years (and hopefully not too many games like last season’s).

Calvin will be making the trek into the great white north that is the Keweenaw Peninsula. Hancock, MI can’t be a great December destination, but Calvin agreed to the home-and-home series so they will bus up to Yooper Land for a Saturday game in December (shudder).

And finally, please join me in giving three cheers for one game that is not on the schedule this year. The Knights will not meet up with Trinity Christian for the first time in, like, forever. (HIP HIP HOORAY!). I hated that game. It was rarely entertaining, it wasn’t against a Division III team, and it was a ‘fake’ rivalry. No one will miss it.

In place of the Trinity game, Calvin will travel to Indiana to face Manchester. Manchester is actually the closest non-conference Division III School to Calvin (at just 149 miles). The Manchester Spartans were 11-14 last year (9-9 in the HCAC). They shared four opponents with Calvin: a 30 point loss to Wheaton on the road, a four point home win over Kalamazoo, a 12 point road loss to Trine, a 16 point loss at Anderson, and a 10 point home win against Anderson.

Manchester is a team that Calvin should probably beat, but they could give the Knights a tough time in their home gym. We’ll need to see if we can cram a bunch of Calvin fans into their place.

Conference Games

Jan 2
Jan 5
at Albion
Jan 9
at Kalamazoo
Jan 12
Jan 16
Jan 19
at Trine
Jan 23
at Olivet
Jan 26
at Adrian
Jan 30
Feb 2
Feb 6
at Alma
Feb 9
at Hope
Feb 13
Feb 16

The MIAA Tournament Championship game is slated for Saturday, February 23, with the Semifinals scheduled for the Thursday before. I don’t mind seeing the top two teams each get a home game, but I would love a return to the Friday/Saturday one-site ‘final four’ format of years gone by. (Actually I’d love to see the old eight-team format return).

So it looks like seventeen guaranteed regional games (fourteen conference games plus Anderson, Manchester, and Finlandia), with the possibility of an eighteenth if Calvin and North Park meet in the Tip-Off Tournament. Two more if Calvin reaches the MIAA Tournament Semis and Final. The Elmhurst Tournament could possibly bring two more regional games (depending on which teams fill out the tournament), but we will have to wait and see.

In all, I’m very happy with this schedule. I would love to see Grace Bible relegated to the ‘other’ Tip-Off Tournament Game (or even remove them completely) to get the guaranteed in-region game. Still, you can tell that Coach Vande Streek has been making a concerted effort to ratchet up the number of in-region Division III games on the schedule. I don’t think any outsiders (Hoopsville’s Dave McHugh, mostly) could huff and puff about this schedule and the lack of regional games.

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