USI didn’t get to the championship game of the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional, but the team that won the championship certainly deserved it. Drury University, which beat Bellarmine 67-61 on Tuesday night to win the title, has won its last 20 games. Think about that for a moment. Winning 10 games in a row is plenty amazing, but 20? Even more incredible, most of those wins were over GLVC schools, which has to be the best conference in NCAA Division II.
Too bad only one team from the GLVC can ever reach the Elite Eight. I know Division II is all about saving money, but come on. This is the ONLY postseason tournament a D-II school can get into, so why not spend some of the billions of dollars the NCAA rakes in and send teams to, say, different but nearby regionals? The way it works now, teams from the same conference often wind up playing each other for the third and sometimes even the fourth time in one season (which is what happened to USI back in the late ’90s when it faced Kentucky Wesleyan twice in the regular season, once in the GLVC tourney and again in the NCAA tourney). Worse, of course, is that some of the best teams cannot possibly get to the Elite Eight, and that’s a failure of fairness.
USI was inconsistent this season and played poorly in its semfinal loss to Bellarmine. But the Eagles were the No. 2 seed and, because of that, should have been playing somebody different in the semis than a team it had already played twice. Now in my second stint covering USI, I have come to the conclusion that playing one team over and over and over again is not good. Past and recent history overwhelm what should be a test of how well a team plays. That’s not good for the game.