By Roy & Harv Schmidt
When Grand Valley State and Findlay, a couple of Division 2 schools, recently emerged victorious in exhibition contests against Big Ten powers Michigan State and Ohio State respectively, it confirmed something that we have suspected for quite some time. Simply put, the talent level between Division 1 and Division 2 schools is closing rapidly. This could have a most positive impact on the future of basketball at the small college level and could pay huge dividends in terms of exposure and recruiting success.
First of all, while some D1 coaches might disagree, we think that preseason exhibition games between D1 and D2 schools are a win-win for everyone involved. It means that there are no more gimmes for D1 schools even in the preseason. At the same time, coaches from the small college ranks can't lose, as it gives them and their school added visibility and in some cases an opportunity to put themselves on the map nationally should they spring an upset, as both Grand Valley State and Findlay did this past week.
In addition to the increased exposure, we can't emphasize enough how a D2 school can benefit recruiting-wise whenever they play a D1 program. In most instances, simply proving that they can compete against a D1 school can be enough, but just imagine what a huge recruiting tool it can be for a small college at either the D2 or D3 level to be able to say that they defeated a Michigan State or Ohio State? It also can't look too bad on the resume of any coach in the small college ranks who is aspiring to move up to the D1 level.
Perhaps the biggest reason why we like the current way that the college exhibition season is set up is that it offers an increased opportunity for small college coaches to receive the recognition that they deserve and reap the benefits of their hard work. There is no question that coaches at the D2 and D3 levels do not enjoy the same advantages that D1 coaches do when it comes to recruiting. Unlike the bigtime D1 programs, small college coaches are usually not recruiting future pros.
Not only that, but the mindset of players who are being recruited by D2 and D3 schools is completely different from those who are playing D1 basketball. While most players at the high D1 level are already thinking about the NBA even before they set foot on campus, a D2 or D3 player more often than not realizes that his basketball career will not extend beyond college and is choosing a college based on factors that usually involve far more than just basketball. While in today's day and age most of the premier players in the D1 ranks only play one or two years of college basketball, small college coaches know that in most cases they are recruiting a player who will be there for four years.
Therefore, when a D2 school beats a D1 in basketball, it should also send a loud and clear message to recruits who feel slighted by not receiving any D1 scholarship offers. In our opinion, it provides a further example of how a D2 school can provide a recruit with an opportunity to play college basketball as well as receive a quality education. Hopefully this is something that more high school basketball players who may not be suited for the D1 level will take into consideration in the future when it comes to choosing a college.
There is no question that there are many outstanding college basketball coaches in the D1 ranks. However, there are several outstanding ones at the small college levels as well. Every time one of them defeats a D1 school, it only reinforces this point further.