COLUMN: Cinderella stories in MIAA usual

Josh Rouse

Those who watched the Ichabods basketball team this season had to be dumbfounded.

A team that went 14-13 during the regular season, lost four of its last six games and just barely snuck into the MIAA tournament as the eighth and final seed, did the unthinkable.

It went into Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., took on the fourth-ranked No. 1 seed Central Missouri (25-2) and won by 19 points. From that point on, the Ichabods were something special.

The next day, Washburn faced another daunting task against No. 4 seed Missouri Western (18-11). Washburn again surprised the Division II basketball world, defeating the Griffons 56-43 and bringing head coach Bob Chipman his 29th tournament win, the most in MIAA history, and vaulting the Bods into the finals.

At this point, it seemed as though the Ichabods were a team of destiny. Being one win away from a berth in the NCAA Division II tournament, a match-up against No. 3 seed Nebraska-Omaha seemed like a walk in the park for the giant killers. However, the Ichabods were unable to beat the Mavericks, faltering by two points and ending their season with a 16-14 record.

While the run may have seemed extraordinary to Washburn fans, in actuality it was part of a pattern. Prior to Washburn’s trip to the MIAA tournament finals, the last two tournament finals featured eighth-seeded teams.

Perhaps the reason for this phenomenon is the MIAA’s all-around strength. Routinely, the conference features some of the top teams in the nation. However, the MIAA doesn’t traditionally have a dynasty program in men’s basketball. While other sports, such as football and women’s basketball, have a few teams that have been at the top of the conference year in and year out, men’s basketball fluctuates. This fluctuation causes parity, which causes upsets.

The most recent men’s basketball “dynasty,” however, could be Washburn. The Ichabods were regular season champions four times between 2000 and 2005, and tournament champions during the 2000-01 season.

In the end, it’s easy to connect the “team of destiny” term to any underdog with an intriguing story. However, there is nothing supernatural about an eight seed beating a one seed. Hard work, good recruiting and teamwork are the final factors in determining which team will walk away victorious.

Happy March, folks!