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NCAA Division II: Midwest Report

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For most of the 2014 calendar year, teams from the Great Lakes Valley Conference have been found all over the list of the top 25 teams in the NABC/Division II rankings.  Six different schools have occupied spots in the poll, all the way from No. 2 through No. 25 and at least five have been among the top 25 for ten consecutive weeks.
But is there danger lurking?

Based on the latest NCAA Division II regional rankings, GLVC schools hold five of the top eight spots and six of the top 10.  It is a league that is home to two of the last three national champions – Bellarmine in 2011 and Drury last season – but nothing comes guaranteed in March.  Bellarmine learned this two years ago, when it went into the Elite Eight with a reasonably good chance to repeat as national champions, only to lose starter Keisten Jones to an injury in the quarterfinals and saw its season end the next night at the hands of Montevallo.

Drury has been performing a high-wire act for the better part of the month of February, winning tight games nearly every night and eventually losing one Feb. 20 at William Jewell.  Following an overtime victory two days later at Rockhurst, the Panthers may have righted their course a bit with a 21-point victory at Missouri S&T last week and currently holds the top spot in the Midwest regional rankings to put themselves in a position to host the regional for the second year in a row.

The second-ranked team, Indianapolis, was rolling along with a 10-game winning streak – winning those games by an average of 18.3 points per game – before getting derailed by Bellarmine at home in the next-to-last GLVC contest.  The Greyhounds, who are ranked eighth nationally, have to face that same Bellarmine squad in the GLVC quarterfinals Friday and will be going up against a Knight team that needs wins to make the regional as it sits tenth in the rankings.

Southern Indiana, at fourth in the region, appears to be in good shape after beating Lewis in their GLVC quarterfinal matchup Friday and put the Flyers – the eighth-ranked team – squarely on the bubble, especially with Walsh (ranked ninth in the region) already in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.  If the Cavaliers knock off Findlay, the region’s fifth-ranked team, Walsh could jump very well jump into the top eight.

Therefore, Wisconsin-Parkside (ranked seventh in the region) faces a huge quarterfinal matchup with Missouri-St. Louis Friday night and with a win, will face the Indianapolis-Bellarmine winner in the late game Saturday.  If Bellarmine takes down UIndy and then UW-Parkside, the Knights may also be in a position to leapfrog into the top eight as well.

The top team in the GLIAC, Lake Superior State, was upset in the opening round of their conference tournament but will likely still be among the eight heading to the regional.  As a result, Findlay will host the final two rounds of the GLIAC’s tournament and would likely secure its spot with a win over Walsh in the semifinals.

Michigan Tech – ranked sixth in the region – is also in the semifinals where it will face the Malone team that eliminated Lake Superior State in the quarterfinals.  The Huskies will likely need to win that game and would then get a boost on its resume with a championship game matchup with Findlay or Walsh.

Findlay and Michigan Tech both faced Drury last season on the Panthers’ home floor at the Midwest regional, with Drury beating Findlay by 10 and MTU by 14.

The newest conference in the Midwest region, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference – does not have an automatic bid this season and will likely not have a regional entry this season, despite having a pair of teams, regular season champion Alderson-Broaddus and Kentucky Wesleyan, with more than 20 wins.

 

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