Friday, August 17, 2012

On Second Thought, Regional Realignment Likely Won’t Help Calvin (and the MIAA) Find Regional Games

Tuesday, in my post about the Elmhurst Bluejay Classic tournament pairings, I linked to the latest Hoopsville Podcast in which Dave McHugh alludes to impending regional alignment (which could go into effect as soon as 2013-14) (25:45 mark of the video/podcast). The apparent goals of the realignment process (as far as basketball goes) are (1) to even up the number of teams across the regions and (2) to have consistent regions between the Men’s and Women’s game.

I’m not overly concerned with goal number two (although I find it funny and mildly annoying that the ‘Midwest’ region is called ‘Central’ region in the Women’s game), but the first goal really piqued my interest: evening out the number of teams in each region.

The geography of the MIAA Schools (particularly Hope and Calvin) and the Division III regions make it difficult for to find close in-region games during the non-conference season (I’ve grumbled about this before). For Calvin, only six of the closest 12 non-conference schools would be considered in-region. The big reasons being that Michigan (and West Michigan in particular) is on the far western edge of both the Great Lakes geographic region and the NCAA Administrative region, and Lake Michigan makes it nearly impossible to travel any sort of distance to the West while staying within 200 (road) miles.

So when I first heard word of the (potential) upcoming realignment I got very excited. Maybe the NCAA’s new grouping of schools would allow Calvin to play in-region games against some nearby leagues such as the CCIW (of which annual Calvin opponents Wheaton and Carthage are members). If this were the case, it would be fairly easy for Calvin to meet the upcoming 75% in-region requirement without making any drastic changes to their typical schedule.

But then I actually took a quick look at the logistics of realignment, and my hopes quickly fell. I quickly counted all of the schools that currently sponsor Division III Men’s Basketball and came up with the number 411 (I included third and fourth year NCAA provisional schools, but the numbers don’t change much if you didn’t want to include them or if you wanted to include the entire provisional pipeline). Assuming the NCAA would stay with eight regions for basketball, the target number of teams per region would be 51. Then I counted the number of teams currently residing in each region:

Northeast: 75
East: 38
Atlantic: 31
Mid-Atlantic: 61
South: 53
Great Lakes: 42
Midwest: 52
West: 59

Just looking at the semi-geographically based list above, it’s easy to see how one might go about re-aligning teams in the West/Midwest/Great Lakes area. The obvious move seems to be an eight (or so) team move from the West to the Midwest, and an accompanying eight-to-ten (or so) team move from the Midwest to the Great Lakes. To me the solution was immediately apparent: the WIAC (an eight team league residing entirely in Wisconsin) would move from the West region to the Midwest region (where they are already in the Women’s game), and the HCAC (a ten team league with teams from the states of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky) would move to the Great Lakes (where they are already in the Women’s game).

This is obviously just speculation but, if the current eight region format stays, I don’t see any other logical changes that would be made to this half of the country. And if this is how realignment manifests itself, the end result for the MIAA would be (drum roll): absolutely nothing. The HCAC schools are all currently in-region for all Michigan schools (Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky share an administrative region with Michigan).

So realignment would come and balance out the number of teams in each region (as well as the number of regionally ranked teams in each region), but it doesn’t look like it’s going to increase the pool of available in-region games for the MIAA schools; an expansion of the regional criteria would be needed for that.

So I’ll be sticking to my current campaign. Because there's no way a team like Calvin should be discouraged from playing a team like Wheaton. That matchup is everything Division III is about.


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