|N. Illinois (with ball) and Loyola represent CARFU this weekend. |
The Midwest DII college round of 16 kicks off Saturday in four different locations, with the round of eight to follow on Sunday. The winner of each regional site advances to the Midwest semifinals Nov. 11.
The heaviest favorite to reach the semifinals is UW-Whitewater, defending DII national champion. The Warhawks face Loyola, the second seed out of the Chicago Area RFU, in the round of 16 in Urbana, Ill.
“They’re a good solid team,” said Whitewater coach Pat O’Connor of Loyola, “but I think we’ve got the tools to control the game, at least that’s what we’re going in with.”
How does this year’s Whitewater squad stack up next to the 2011 national championship team?
“I think they compare favorably with last year’s team,” said O’Connor, despite losing six starters to graduation. “Even though we’ve made the changes, the folks who came in are playing at the same level, and we were just talking about it, we feel that we’re a little bit ahead of last year as far as our capabilities.”
Squaring off in the other Urbana game Saturday are Southern Illinois, top seed out of Illinois, and St. Cloud, the second seed out of Minnesota.
In Trafford, Pa., Ohio is one of four teams trying to advance past this weekend. The Bobcats are the top seed out of the Ohio union. They’ve not lost a league game all season, as they sit 4-0-1 after a tie with Xavier. Ohio draws Pitt (Allegheny 1) Saturday, and with a win, the Bobcats will play either Michigan (Michigan 2) or West Virginia (Allegheny 2) Sunday.
Ohio hasn’t played any of these teams in recent memory, but Bobcat coach Willie Griffes isn’t worrying about the unknown.
“I’m much more concerned about my own team,” he said. “We know we’re going to have to play a complete 80 minutes to come out on top against (Pitt)."
Ninth-ranked Northern Illinois headlines the Allendale, Mich. region, in which the Huskies play Grand Valley State (Michigan 3) and Xavier (Ohio 2) plays Central Michigan (Michigan 1) Saturday.
Northern Illinois hasn’t had much in the way of tight games, scoring 106, 87, 85, 72 and 63 points in league play this fall. If the Huskies are going to advance to nationals, they’ll have to do something they haven’t done all season – win a close game late in the second half.
“What makes our team a quality team is the young guys know there’s going to be tougher opponents to face in the playoffs,” said NIU player/coach Ryan Dertinger.
“We’ve been preaching over the last solid month that a good team doesn’t have to win by 100 points, 50 points. A good team will win those one-point games, and that’s the difference. Look at the World Cup. It was a one point game.”
In Rochester, Minn., North Dakota State is the only undefeated team, having won the Minnesota union with a 4-0-1 record. NDSU draws UW-Platteville (Wisconsin 3) Saturday. Also in Rochester are UW-Milwaukee, who pushed Whitewater to a 10-7 halftime score earlier this season, and Illinois State (Illinois 2).