Opponents' struggles, conference tourney woes cost BVU an at-large bid
STORM LAKE - The NCAA Division III men's tournament field was announced Monday morning with one glaring, local omission in the ninth-ranked Buena Vista men.
Ranked among the top 11 teams in the country the entire season, reaching as high as fifth, the back to back Iowa Conference champions were notably absent from the 60-team tournament field despite finishing the season with an impressive 23-3 record.
Of the 25 teams ranked in the most recent poll, only Buena Vista and #22 Randolph-Macon were left out of Division III's big dance.
"I was certainly disappointed," said Buena Vista head coach Brian VanHaaften on his team's absence from the tournament. " I feel like we belong in the tournament. Honestly, I don't have any doubts that we belong in the tournament, but the criteria that they use did not go in our favor. Some of our non-conference teams that we played had poor years. In the end, it has hurt us."
The NCAA lists the following as their primary criteria for selecting the schools to be invited to the tournament; win-loss percentage against regional opponents, strength-of-schedule (only contests versus regional competition), opponents' average winning percentage, opponents' opponents' average winning percentage, in-region head-to-head competition, in-region results vs. common regional opponents, and in-region results vs. regionally ranked teams.
Items listed as secondary criteria for selections were the following; out-of-region head-to-head competition, overall Division III won-loss percentage, results versus common non-Division III opponents, results versus all Division III ranked teams, overall win-loss percentage, results versus all common opponents, and overall Division III strength of schedule.
While the Beavers overall win percentage was among the nation's leaders, the tournament committee apparently felt that Buena Vista's strength of schedule wasn't difficult enough to garner an at-large berth.
In their nine non-conference games, the Beavers went 8-1, winning by an average of 16 points per game. The nine schools had a combined win-loss record of 107-139 (43%). BVU waltzed through the Iowa Conference with a 15-1 regular season mark.
Buena Vista lost their chance to clinch an automatic berth, falling to Wartburg 85-81 in the IIAC Tournament. The Knights would eventually fall to Cornell, the only Iowa college to make the tournament.
VanHaaften still felt that the Beavers would be tournament-bound and headed towards an at-large berth, even after the loss.
"I thought we had a good chance," he said. "But I knew after Saturday's games, we would be hanging in the balance. There were a lot of upsets."
BVU wasn't the only conference favorite to hit a rough patch come tournament time. #3 Puget Sound, #8 Ithaca, #19 Guilford, and #24 Worcester all fell in their conference tournaments, taking four at-large spots that may have otherwise been filled by the Beavers.
Returning seven seniors from a squad that fell to eventual DIII champion Washington U. (85-77 OT) in the sweet 16 last season, the senior-laden Beavers appeared poised to extend that tournament run in 2009.
Unfortunately, they won't get the chance.
"Certainly, they're disappointed," said VanHaaften. "Quite frankly, they're dismayed. You don't go 23-3 and not get in. That just doesn't happen, but it did happen to us. There's no doubt, I'm very proud of these guys. We had practice last night (Sunday) and it was one of our better practices all year. These guys have been a great group to work with and it's been one of the most fun years I've had. They all love each other, and its been a lot of fun. We'll miss all these guys."
Buena Vista will lose seven seniors to graduation this year, including all five starters. Those departing will be Kyle Stribe, Andre Wagner, Travis Person, Jon Millea, Brian Fogleman, Matt Cleveland, and KJ Gray.
The group has made a collective mark on the record books with five different seniors earning places in the BVU record books.
Point guard Wagner finishes his career among Buena Vista's all-time leaders in points (1092, 17th), three-pointers made (176, 4th), and steals (138, 3rd).
Fogleman, a forward, exits among the Beavers' all-time leaders in rebounds (465, 14th) and field goal percentage (53.7, 8th).
Cleveland, also a forward, left marks in both rebounding (281, 27th) and free throws (76.4%, 9th).
Leaving their marks on the three-point record books were Kyle Stribe (10th in %, 20th in 3pts made) and Travis Person (9th in %, 15th in 3pts made).