“The expansion of the D-II tournament was obviously a success, but why? At its core, the growth of the game at the youth and prep levels has sent a higher amount of quality student-athletes to more and more schools, and the second division has certainly reaped the benefits of it. That’s looking at it more from a macro level, however.”
“It not only allowed D-II to send its best teams to the tournament in the first year of expansion, but still kept the door wide open for callow programs in the traditional south to progress toward the ultimate goal. When we look back in a decade about the impact of last year’s expansion, it might be less about the fantastic games themselves and more about what it did for the division as a whole.”
When the first-ever Division II quarterfinal games were winding down on May 11, the last question I had about the viability of the second division’s expansion to eight teams was being answered.
I was always for the expansion. That’s not exactly an edgy position – I don’t think I’ve met anyone who isn’t in favor of expanding NCAA lacrosse brackets, regardless of the division. Perhaps a better way to phrase it is I always felt D-II had earned expansion. While the number of sponsored programs didn’t necessarily mandate a larger draw by the NCAA’s math, lacrosse’s middle child deserved to have more than 10 percent of its members represented in a grand total of three postseason games.
My one concern was whether the eight teams would be on roughly the same level or would there be this clear and present gap between both the top and lower seeds. And would the talent divide between traditional powers and emerging programs remain uneven.
Fortunately, the postmortem of the first round showed my fears were unfounded. Two of the games were decided by three goals and two others – including No. 1 south seed Mercyhurst against No. 4 Lake Erie – needed overtime to be settled. Not only did these results, along with the fantastic semifinals and finals that were cumulatively decided by a total of five goals, confirm D-II’s ability to sustain a larger tourney, but even raised the specter of the “P” word.
“What you saw in Division II this year is what you kind of what you see in other divisions as far as the parity,” said Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan, who won his fourth crown in ’13. “We were three goals away from going undefeated and probably one goal away from missing the tournament. That shows you that it’s not only at the Division I level that the parity is happening.”