This is my final installment dealing with the schedules from the West Region. Please check out my first installment and my second installment if you haven’t done so already. This go-around I have only 7 teams to cover but Mills College hasn’t published their schedule so they miss this train. Schreiner also hasn’t published but I think I’ve tracked down most of their matches. In addition to Schreiner, I have the schedules for Belhaven, Whitman, St. Thomas (TX), TLU and Redlands. If you are looking for a different school then check out my previous installments. (Oh, for those wanting an update on Inga and Juris I’m saddened to report that I had to fire them. They just created too many distractions with the team although they were my two best Latvian hackers. In an unrelated note, my credit card numbers keep getting stolen and my credit score is now at 204. Just a weird coincidence, I guess.)
With just 6 teams to cover I’ll change my format up a bit and just talk a bit about each schedule starting with Belhaven. This will be the Blazers first year as a full DIII member so congratulations on that! They are the West Regions most eastern based school and are actually closer to the South Region so this presents all kind of scheduling difficulties. The first weekend they head to Emory to play schools out of the South Region – Piedmont, Emory & Henry and Oglethorpe. They also have JWU (FL) on the schedule but their schedule shows them in Tennessee so I’m thinking this match will not happen. This is a good group of schools for Belhaven to compare them with to start the year. The next week has the Blazers playing a couple of non-DIII schools in addition to Huntingdon out of the South and Dallas out of the SCAC. Again, this is a common sense schedule with a nice test going against Dallas at home. The next week starts ASC play but Belhaven will play additional non-conference matches throughout the season. They will get a match against Centenary and cross Pine Street rival Millsaps as well as a couple of non-DIII teams. (Seriously, Belhaven is like 4 blocks from Millsaps.) They end their regular season with matches against Hendrix and Rhodes before the ASC Tournament begins; a tournament that Belhaven is now eligible to participate in for the first time if they can qualify. Overall, it makes a lot of sense for Belhaven to play a number of South Region schools and as they improve I would expect to see them playing the tougher teams in that region. (Although Hendrix is always a really tough team out of the South and typically is regionally ranked.)
As I’ve mentioned in the previous installments, the NWC has three open weeks prior to conference play as opposed to their normal two but few schools seem to be making full use of them. Whitman follows this trend but they do end up playing one of the tougher schedules out of that conference. For the first weekend the Blues head to the Trinity Tournament where they will play the host school in addition to Saint Benedict, Neumann and Minnesota-Morris. That’s three NCAA teams from last year and quite a test for Whitman to start the year. The Trinity match in particular is a great chance to put a stamp on the West Region rankings. The second weekend is where the Blues take a breather staying at home and playing a non-DIII school and an in-conference opponent Whitworth although the match will not count towards the conference standings. Week three has the Blues travelling again to the DePauw Tournament where they play the host school in addition to Alma, Westminster and Aurora. Aurora was an Elite 8 school last year and DePauw also made the tournament. After that it’s all conference play but it’s safe to say that the Blues will be toughed up for those matches. Overall, I would have liked to see Whitman play different schools week two but you can never fault a school for making two trips and you have to remember that Whitman is a little isolated where they are located (Walla Walla, Washington). In the end, they are playing 5 NCAA Tournament teams from last year so their out-of-region results will help come selection time if they can win most of them. In-region will be a little tougher as they only play conference foes and Trinity. Again, a win against Trinity would be huge as it would tie their success with Trinity’s success in-region through common opponent.
We’ve got two SCAC schools to cover so let’s do them together. St. Thomas will be in their first DIII year and their first in the conference as they go through the NCAA certification process. TLU has been around the block but they are coming off a down year that saw them surprisingly miss the SCAC Tournament. First weekend has St. Thomas at the Austin College Tournament where they will play Nebraska Wesleyan, ETBU, LeTourneau and Concordia. Some good matchups for their initial DIII test that includes one out-of-region team. TLU will be hosting their own tournament and will play ASC teams in Howard Payne, Louisiana College, Sul Ross State and McMurry. If TLU is going to bounce back this season they really should take all four of these matches although the McMurry game should be their toughest. Week two has St. Thomas sitting it out but TLU travels to the Cal Lutheran Tournament where they get the host school, CMS, Chapman and a mystery fourth school. Any hopes of being regional ranked means they need to take three of these matches. Week three has St. Thomas playing Sul Ross State and Concordia before starting conference play against Centenary. Sul Ross State and Concordia are nice tests to see where the Celts will fall this year as Sul Ross will struggle to make the ASC Tournament while Concordia will challenge UMHB for their East Division title. TLU will travel over to Hendrix for their tournament where they also get to play Howard Payne (again) and Louisiana College (again). The Hendrix match is really the story for this week because as I mentioned before they are typically regionally ranked. For the rest of the season St. Thomas will sprinkle in some non-DIII teams in addition to LeTourneau (again), Louisiana College and ETBU (again). The Celts are not eligible for the SCAC Tournament but they have the USCAA National Tournament on their schedule but I assume they only play in that if they do well during the year. TLU will play Belhaven and LeTourneau in October and then play Hardin-Simmons, UMHB and Concordia in November prior to the SCAC Tournament. Overall, St. Thomas plays a schedule they need to play with this being their first year. Their matches will not count for their opponents as DIII matches for another two years so this is a tough hurdle to overcome initially when scheduling. TLU does a nice job playing some of the best ASC and SCIAC teams so their regional ranking and possible at-large bid will be in their hands.
Dang! I forgot I was also going to talk about Schreiner (also out of the SCAC). Their schedule isn’t published but I can see they will be at the TLU Tournament the first weekend and then play Sul Ross State for a second time later that week. They also get McMurry for a second time over the second weekend and then a third time at the University of Dallas Tournament on the third weekend. They’ll also get Howard Payne for a second time in October. In fairness, Schreiner hasn’t been too successful over recent years so scheduling is difficult. It makes sense to focus on the ASC schools and try to win the matches you can and then down the road hopefully build on that success. For the sake of the SCAC, they really need Schreiner to start winning more matches as they hurt the conference’s Strength of Schedule. There was improvement last season and they do have some good talent on the team so we’ll see if they can continue to improve this season.
We’ll finish this last installment off with the University of Redlands. Don’t tell anyone but I like what the Bulldogs are building and I had hopes that we’d see a stronger than usual schedule. For the first week the Bulldogs play in the Pacific Coast Classic and draw UW-Platteville, Benedictine, Carroll and Wentworth. Wentworth won their conference so they made the NCAA Tournament last year but they were not regionally ranked. What we have are four mid-tier out-of-region teams and I expect Redlands to take each of them down. (No pressure.) For the second week, the Bulldogs only have one mid-week non-DIII team scheduled, which is disappointing. Chalk this up to limited travel budgets, I guess, as they do travel during week 3 to the Swarthmore Tournament. The Bulldogs will play four more out-of-region teams in Arcadia, Cortland, Rowan and Swarthmore. Once again all of these teams are mid-tier level and the Bulldogs should have success. It’s quite possible that Redlands will be 9-0 to start the year and we’ll still have no clue how good they are before they start SCIAC play. Overall, with this schedule, the Bulldogs are going to have to have success in conference to have any hope at an NCAA at-large bid. I really don’t mind this schedule as Redlands are still building but I would have liked to see them play some in-region teams at the Cal Lutheran Tournament that second weekend.
That concludes this three-part series on the West Region schedules with apologies to Mills College. Looking back I guess I get the most critical when it comes to teams I think have a chance to take that next step and challenge for a West Region ranking. I want all of our teams to play tough schedules, have endless travel budgets and win every match against all out-of-region teams. I don’t think that’s asking too much? What we have are 41 teams in the West Region at various levels with different budgets with a number of schools hampered by their location. In the end, I think most schools did well operating within their constraints so I’m willing to settle for just winning all of our out-of-region matches. Go West!