Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bulldogs in a precarious position

The bad news for the Barton College men's basketball team is that it fell out of the No. 8 spot in the NCAA Division II East Region rankings Wednesday.

The good news is the Bulldogs only dropped to the ninth spot, despite losing twice since the last poll came out Wednesday, Feb. 21.

What this means for Barton is that it is still in the running to claim one of the eight regional berths and have at least a fighting chance to defend its national title. The problem, as I see it, is that Barton is the fourth Conference Carolinas team in the East top 10. With the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference and the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference each with an automatic bid for the respective champions and five teams combined in the top eight of the East poll, you can see it's sort of crowded. An at-large bid for the Bulldogs seems like a very, very long shot right now.

Of course, the Bulldogs could win the Conference Carolinas Tournament, which begins Monday, and get the automatic bid to the NCAA Div. II tournament.

But the 81-78 overtime loss Tuesday night at lowly St. Andrews did two things. First, it reinforced the commonly held belief by long-time league observers that no game should be considered a gimme. Front-running Mount Olive, the No. 2 East team and No. 17 Div. II squad, lost at Limestone on Saturday. Now, the Trojans have to win at Barton on Saturday to assure themselves of the regular-season championship — but more on that in a second.

The second thing the loss to the ninth-place Knights did for the Bulldogs — coupled with Belmont Abbey's defeat of Pfeiffer on Tuesday — was put them in the fifth spot in the standings. That means Barton's only chance of hosting a conference tournament game would be to beat Mount Olive on Saturday in front of a national television audience and win the coin flip for fourth.

(Update: Barton SID John Hackney has advised me that Barton will get the No. 4 seed if it beats MOC.)

If they beat Abbey in the opener, either in Wilson or Belmont, the Bulldogs would most likely go to Mount Olive for the semifinals. That's assuming, of course, MOC is the No. 1 seed and doesn't lose its first-round game.

There are a lot of variables to the equation right now and the Bulldogs could end up back in the regional, where anything can happen. But this team has had chance after chance to separate itself from the pack and it has not capitalized. Based on the history it's shown this season, I can't see Barton making a third straight regional trip, much less going to the Elite Eight for third year in a row.

No comments:

Post a Comment