But it isn’t an ideal way to determine a champion. At this point in a normal season, the Division III kids would be on to the rest of their spring semester, which for some involves participation in spring sports.
“I think it was a concern among the Division III membership,” Gavitt said. “There’s mixed feelings about this opportunity. We had to find some compromise.”
And that’s the primary reason why this may be a one-off for the Division II and III games. Gavitt said no determinations have been made about whether the NCAA will do this again, but officials could only consider another host city similar to Atlanta, which has a smaller venue, Philips Arena, located near the Division I site at the Georgia Dome. The NCAA is making the games free for fans, so it hopes to attract basketball junkies already in town for the Division I games.
Amherst (29-2) and Mary Hardin-Baylor (27-5), meanwhile, will use the opportunity to tell their stories. The Lord Jeffs went undefeated in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which also sent Middlebury and Williams to the NCAA quarterfinals. They’re led by junior guard Aaron Toomey, who was named the Division III player of the year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. They won the 2007 national championship under Hixon
The Crusaders went into the season thinking they’d be anchored inside, but their center suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury in a preseason scrimmage, another forward tore knee ligaments and another forward left school because he received a job offer in Houston — an offer that included tuition payments to complete his degree at the University of Houston.
“I couldn’t say no to that,” DeWeese said. “We went from being a very large team to being a very small team. Around Thanksgiving, I was probably clinically depressed.”
Now, he is one of just eight men’s coaches — at all levels — still going to the gym each day to prepare for the sport’s biggest stage. And when his team walks into the Georgia Dome to watch Saturday’s Division I games, they’ll do so with a sense of anticipation knowing they, too, have one more game.
“Very few teams are practicing right now in college basketball,” DeWeese said. “I think they’re excited. I think the only thing that would bother this team is if they really stopped and thought there’s not going to be a practice or a game the next day.”