This weekend I was watching a men’s collegiate basketball game between Marquette and Lindenwood. Lindenwood is a NCAA Division II University located in Missouri. Without knowing what happened or checking a score, I would guess that many would assume that Marquette probably handled them by 30+ points.
What actually happened?
Marquette won 81-79 with Lindenwood having a decent look from three to win the game as time expired. Would Marquette win by a larger margin if they played again? Probably. What Marquette fans and players found out was that Lindenwood is a really good basketball team, and there is really good basketball played at other levels.
In other action over the weekend, my alma mater, Carroll University, a NCAA Division 3 school, fell to Division I opponent, IUPUI, by 9 and were in a position to win the entire game. Auburn and Toledo, both Division 1 schools, were beat by Division 2 opponents. Within the state of Wisconsin, UW-Eau Claire & UW-River Falls, both Division 3 schools, knocked off Division 2 opponents. Furthermore, if you look around the country at other exhibition scores, you’d see other close margins as well as other lower division schools knocking off higher division schools.
Before I go any further, I am not here to say that NCAA Division 1 basketball is not the highest collegiate level & doesn’t feature the most talent night in and night out. If you looked at those same exhibition scores across the country, you would find that many Division I schools also won by large margins over Division II & III schools. Generally speaking, the best players and teams reside at the Division 1 level, but there are so many that write-off and disregard basketball at the lower levels because of a number. Many don’t grasp how many good players and teams there are outside of the Division 1 level.
I could point to several instances where the only separation between a player at a higher level and a lower level is a few inches of height and measurable athletic qualities. There are also multiple teams at the Division 1 level who would be exponentially better if they played with the same type of ball and player movement as some teams do at the Division 3 level. In many instances, schools at higher levels are more focused on recruiting talent as opposed to developing & coaching it. Over an extended period of time, this can catch up to programs; very few kids are finished products when they reach the collegiate level- they all need continued development. When considering these things, it doesn’t come as a surprise that every year a few Division 1 teams are given all they can handle by high quality Division 2 and 3 teams.
Why am I writing this?
Being heavily involved in player development and collegiate recruiting, the majority of high school players and parents have little idea of what it takes to excel at the collegiate level, let alone at a scholarship level. I truly believe it would be an eye-opening, humbling experience for all players and parents to go watch a game or practice at every collegiate level. I’m all for people setting their sights high, but I also think it’s crucial to understand that there is high quality basketball teams and players at all levels. Such quality that when the ball is tipped, often times teams at lower levels are able to hang around and at times knock off teams that many would think they don’t belong in the same gym with.