NESCAC Fratricide and How We Can Fix the Division III Tournament

The New England Small College Athletic Conference, or NESCAC, is a collection of small liberal arts colleges in New England that spend the majority of their winter preparing quality lacrosse squads so that when the calendar flips to March they can begin pummeling each other into submission until, ultimately, only the conference's postseason tournament winner will earn a bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. This conference has proven to be the North's only non-Cortland answer to the southern schools' dominance, but they have placed fewer and fewer teams in the NCAA Tournament each year because their records simply don't hold up in front of the committee -- regardless of how strong their schedules are.

Full Disclosure: I am a 2013 graduate of Springfield College; a Division III school that plays several NESCACs every year before pummeling a weak conference schedule en route to an NCAA bid. Last year, Springfield went 0-3 against the NESCAC and all three teams that beat us were left home. Springfield won its conference and was knocked out in the first around against another beneficiary of a weak conference, Cabrini.

While both of these teams spent varying amounts of time ranked, and both currently rank in the top 13 in the USILA Coaches Poll, they spent much of the tail end of their season running their freshmen around in the fourth quarter instead of playing meaningful games against good teams. Cabrini would bow out in the next round to eventual national runner up RIT, 22-11.

This year appears to be headed for the same fate as last - one bid coming from one of the strongest conferences in the North while lesser teams celebrate postseason bids. This is not dissimilar to what could potentially happen down the line with the ACC in Division I, with the teams beating up on each other to the point that their records do not justify inclusion in the tournament as an at-large bid. But there will always be at-large spots for the Division I teams while in Division III the oft-malinged Pool B hands bids to teams that are almost always lambs being led to slaughter.

This isn't limited to just teams North of the arbitrary line of designation somewhere between Delaware and New Jersey. The ultra-competitive Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) features teams that play tough conference and non-conference schedules, but still find themselves checking rankings and box scores every day because they have to be sure they're numbers will keep them in the at-large conversation. With just five of the 30 spots in the tournament available to non-Pool B, non-conference champion teams, that conversation is one of the most heated come mid May.

Cutting down the Pool B berths so that there is more opportunity for at-large teams, like these NESCAC and CAC teams mentioned above, would ensure seventeen-goal blowouts like the one Centre (Pool B) received at the hands of Roanoke last year become worthy opening-round matchups like the 13-11 contest we saw between Stevens Tech (at-large) and Montclair State.

Does this solve the problem entirely? No, but just as we have seen in college basketball the more good teams allowed to compete, the better the games will be.

Click here to read more on the Division III selection criteria on
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