Monday, January 18, 2010

The 'P' must stand for Parity

Is the Presidents' Athletic Conference the best men's basketball league in NCAA Division III?

No. Not even close.

Will the national champion come from the PAC?

It's safe to say that it won't.

But what the PAC does have going for it is, it might be the most balanced league in the country.

For example, there were four games that counted in the standings last week (those involving Geneva and Saint Vincent do not count) and each was decided by four points or fewer.

If you throw in the Geneva and Saint Vincent games, nothing changes. Of the last 18 games matching PAC members, nine have been decided by four points or fewer, 10 by six points or less, and two went to overtime including W&J's triple-OT win over Westminster.

"This league is hard to figure out," Westminster coach Larry Ondako said recently.

Thomas More currently leads the PAC with a 5-1 record. Three of the Saints' last four wins have come by three points or less. W&J is in second place at 4-1, but the Presidents' last two games (both wins) were were by one point in triple overtime and by four points at last-place Waynesburg when the Yellow Jackets missed four shots in the final minute that would have given them the lead.

"It's a toss-up every night," W&J coach Glenn Gutierrez said. "You have to load up and be ready to go. Everyone in this league can beat everyone else. Home games are so critical. You have to protect your home court."

That's because each team wants to have home-court advantage when the PAC tournament begins. Nobody in the PAC can bank on getting an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament, so winning the PAC tournament will be the only route to the postseason for the conference.

"At one point, you would have said that Bethany is the best team in the conference," Gutierrez said. "They beat John Carroll by 22 on the road when John Carroll was ranked. But then Grove City beats Bethany by 11."

Thomas More's lone conference loss was to Grove City by five points in overtime, but the Wolverines lost to Thiel by 33.

"It's hard to tell who the best team in the conference is," Ondako said. "At this point in time, everyone is trying to figure out what they have until they get through the first half of the conference schedule and have played every team once. Then, in February, you want to be playing your best basketball."


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