Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Previewing The MIAA For Opening Weekend

Thursday, November 15 marks the official start for Division III basketball, but none of the MIAA teams will tip off their respective seasons until Friday. Everyone is in action on Friday except Kalamazoo who doesn’t begin their season until Friday the 24th for whatever reason.

Here’s a (brief) look at this weekend’s games:

Friday, November 16

Hope vs. College of Faith (at North Central (IL)), 3:30 PM

We (sports fans in general, not you, the reader, and me specifically) often make jokes with cupcake teams being referred to as “The Little Sisters of the Poor” (or whathaveyou), but this may really be one of those instances:
College of Faith is a Bible based, Christ-centered, online religious institution of higher education.
So, yeah, I guess it’s not a Catholic school for women, but it is an ONLINE Bible college that is, apparently, just beginning an athletics program. None of that sounds like “good at basketball” to me. They played a five-game football schedule this fall and were outscored 241-12 in four losses (I can’t find a score for their game against the Chattahoochee Tech club team, however).

Hope wins – the only question is by more or less than 100 – but I’m not sure the NCAA even “counts” this as a game because College of Faith will play most of their games against NJCAA teams (Junior College).

Adrian vs. Otterbein (at Wooster), 6:00 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Otterbein wasn’t very good last year (9-17, 6-12 in the OAC), and I would like to call this game for Adrian, but after seeing their attrition-riddled roster that was posted this week, I’m not so sure. The MIAA coaches voted Adrian #2 in the preseason poll, but we’ve since found out their roster doesn’t include four would-be seniors, three would-be juniors (including All-MIAA Richaud Pack), and three would-be sophomores. They instead have 10 freshmen on their varsity roster which is a lot considering they had ZERO seniors a year ago and didn’t need to replace anyone (necessarily).

With Sean Gallant, Eric Lewis, Adam Meier, and Cody Barnes returning they can put together a pretty good starting lineup, but any sort of depth might not exist at this point. Everyone else on the roster is either (1) new or (2) was a non-scoring role player last seaon. They probably (hopefully) have one or two freshmen that can play pretty well, but not 10 of them.

Olivet at Central Michigan, 7:00 PM

LOL


Grace Bible at Calvin, 7:30 PM

The Bible Tigers have beaten Calvin twice in the last three years – with their only loss being last year’s double-overtime affair – so I don’t want to dismiss them in the least, but they haven’t started the year out particularly well. They’re 1-4 with losses to Davenport (not a bad loss), UM-Dearborn (who was 3-27 a year ago), Ohio Christian (probably not bad for an NCCAA II team), and now Andrews. The lone win was (in overtime) against Crossroads who appears to have been a very poor team a year ago. Grace will have five games under their belt, which is to their advantage, but they might only be a shell of the team they’ve been the past few years.

I’ll preview this game further on Thursday or Friday.

Alma vs. Capital (at Wheaton (IL)), 7:30 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Capital tied for the OAC regular season crown a year ago. Alma graduated their best player. I don’t think the Crusaders struggle to win this one.

Manchester at Albion, 7:30 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

This is a game that Albion should win more often than not (being at home in (historic) Kresge Gymnasium against a somewhat inferior opponent), but it sounds like they’ll be without All-MIAA Kolin Kazen for a little while (he’s not listed on their roster, but I’ve heard he’ll be there at some point). There have also been rumblings that Chris Hutton suffered a (minor) injury and won’t be available for a couple of weeks perhaps. A win would be great for the league, but it may not happen if they really are missing two of their better players.

Trine at Heidelberg, 7:30 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

This is the MIAA’s best chance for a Friday regional win and, quite frankly, should be an easy one for Trine. The Thunder won this exact matchup by 10 a year ago, and should win by at least that margin again if they’re the type of team that could challenge for a top-four spot in the MIAA again this year.

Saturday, November 17

North Park or Cairn at Calvin, 1:00 PM or 3:00 PM

THIS COULD BE A REGIONAL GAME SO IT COULD BE VERY IMPORTANT!

The game time is subject to championship game/consolation game, but the opponent should matter little. North Park would be a regional game – and likely the better team – so that’s the hopeful matchup. According to Massey, Cairn (Philadelphia Bible was the old name) was the 15th worst Division III team last year. North Park, who rated slightly worse than Alma a year ago, should coast past Cairn in game one, but should also be a fairly easy win for Calvin. Should be. Calvin would destroy Cairn.

Adrian at Wooster or vs. Carnegie Mellon (at Wooster), 6 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Adrian is guaranteed two regional games this weekend as everyone at the Wooster Tournament is defined as a Great Lakes team. They would have no shot against host Wooster here on day two, but their likely second opponent is Carnegie Mellon. Mellon was 9-16 last season, but they play in the very tough UAA. Their roster doesn’t contain any seniors and has eight underclassmen, and it appears as though they graduated two very good starters, so they may also be dealing with rebuilding/depth issues. I’ll call this a toss-up, just because I’m really nervous about Adrian’s roster, but I’d love to see the Bulldogs win it.

Alma at Wheaton (IL), 7:30 PM

Wheaton won’t be as good as they were last year after graduating a couple of top players (Tim McCrary specifically), but they’ll still be better than Alma, especially on their home floor. The crazy regional rules will help the MIAA here as this one is considered out-of-region (but shouldn’t be).

Trine vs. Akron-Wayne or Miami-Middletown (at Heidelberg), 7:30 p.m.

University of Akron Wayne and Miami University Middletown are apparently affiliated with the Ohio Regional Campus Conference. That doesn’t sound all that impressive, but Middletown appears to have been a possibly good team last year. Mostly they just spent the year destroying bad teams though, so it’s hard to say.

Olivet at Mount St. Joseph, 8:00 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

These were two pretty bad teams a year ago, and I figure them to be pretty bad this year as well. It would be a good win for the league (because it’s regional and on the road), but I wouldn’t pick Olivet to go out there and do it necessarily. Should be a good game though.

Hope at North Central (IL), 8:30 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

North Central was a Sweet Sixteen team last year, and was voted #6 in the D3hoops pre-season poll. Hope was voted #7, so this game looks good on paper, but I think the Dutchmen lost too much to justify that ranking. And now there’s also word that breakout candidate (and likely starter) Stephen Wittenbach will miss a few weeks with a foot injury. I don’t see Hope winning this game (or keeping it close, quite frankly), though it would be a signature win for them and the league.

Sunday, November 18

Wabash at Albion, TBA

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Wabash looks like they’ll take a step back after fading down the stretch and just missing out on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season. Still, they should be considered favorites against the Britons, especially if the previously mentioned players are missing for the game.

Olivet vs. Thomas More (at Mount St. Joseph), 4:00 PM

THIS IS A REGIONAL GAME SO IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Thomas More was fairly good last year (Massey rated them just above Calvin), so Olivet probably loses this game. Olivet probably loses a lot of games.

The Tally

If I give-and-take the toss-up games, it looks like I’m predicting something like an 8-9 overall record for the league over this first weekend. Unfortunately, it looks like it could be a 3-7 or 4-6 weekend for the all-important regional games. That wouldn’t be a great way to start off the year. The swing teams are probably Albion and Adrian as both play two regional games, and I’m not sure what to make of either of them right now. Adrian’s probably 1-1 either way (though 0-2 is possible), but I could see Albion going either 2-0 or 0-2.

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