Battle : Centenary College readies for transition from Division I to III

first_img Published on February 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Chris: cjiseman@syr.edu | @chris_iseman Comments On the court at the Bradley Center, the Centenary players stood as the definitive underdogs. Overmatched and with far less talent than the tough Marquette team it faced, Centenary had only three scholarship players on the floor.For the Gents, it was the beginning of the end of playing top-end Division I teams. The start of a new life in Division III was rapidly approaching.‘When we’re playing Big East or SEC-type teams, it’s just a tough thing to compete with,’ Centenary head coach Adam Walsh said. ‘You try to do whatever you can as a coach — slow the tempo, speed the tempo, whatever you think will work. But it always falls back a little bit to the talent level.’But for Walsh, those days of trying — unsuccessfully — to find what works are coming to a close. Beginning on July 1, 2011, Centenary College of Louisiana will officially leave Division I and descend to Division III. It ends a more than 100-year run at the D-I level after subpar results and long travel distances were too much to ignore.In its game against the Golden Eagles on Dec. 18, the Gents fought to try to stay close. An eight-point deficit quickly grew, and the chance at an upset faded away. Centenary suffered yet another loss in a season in which the prospects of a D-III future provide the only glimmer of hope.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAt 0-25, there hasn’t been much for Centenary to feel good about. This year seems not much more than a year of transition. One where players are trying to decide if they want to stay and compete in D-III or transfer somewhere else to remain a Division I athlete. Some will stay with Centenary, placing academics and their degree above their athletic future. For them, a move to Division III was welcome. But for those who expected to play in Division I, the move was not well received.‘It was mostly positive,’ interim athletic director Dave Voskuil said. ‘There was a lot of communication to the students. Of course, there were some that were really disgusted and discouraged.’But since Division III schools cannot give scholarships, the future for the current athletes becomes murky. The school can continue to honor the athletic scholarships of its players for the next two seasons as a part of the transition. That means when the current freshmen become seniors, they will have to choose between playing a season without a scholarship or trying to transfer somewhere else and play. If they choose to participate, Voskuil said the school would have to essentially ‘repackage’ them as a D-III athlete.Those freshmen, though, could be the foundation of Centenary’s future in Division III. They will be the ones who will carry with them the experience of playing teams like Marquette. And to Walsh, they’re the reason why a move to the American Southwest Conference will signal the turnaround of the program. Centenary could end up being one of the strongest teams in an already competitive conference.‘The addition of Centenary will strengthen the competitive profile of the ASC championship sports,’ conference commissioner Amy Carlton said at the press conference announcing the move on April 12, 2010. ‘In the broader picture, Centenary’s Division III membership benefits not only the ASC, but Division III institutions and conferences across the South and Southwest.’A move to a lower level would make it easier for winning seasons to be a part of Centenary’s future, especially with a more limited travel schedule. The American Southwest Conference consists of 16 teams that are spread throughout only four southern states. Less travel means less strain for the players.A drawback for Centenary, though, is that it won’t be eligible for the D-III tournament until the 2014-15 season. It won’t even qualify to win its division until 2013. For Walsh, it’s a drawback in terms of recruiting but not one big enough to dismiss hope for the future.Right now, it’s an obstacle that doesn’t minimize expectations. It doesn’t lessen the excitement of winning on a consistent basis and avoiding thousands of miles of travel.‘I don’t expect to have to deal with a .500 record or a losing record over the next two or three years,’ Walsh said. ‘My impression of the guys we have right now, and how recruiting is going so far, is that we’re going to be fine and that our expectations are to be a winning program next season.’No. 12 Syracuse vs. No. 16 LouisvilleAfter two much-needed victories, the Orange is back to its winning ways. Louisville has played fairly well against ranked teams, including a double overtime over Connecticut, but also lost by 14 to Villanova. Last season, an unranked Cardinals team beat the Orange at the Carrier Dome. This time, it’ll be close, but Syracuse wins.Prediction: Syracuse 65, Louisville 62No. 20 North Carolina vs. ClemsonThe Tar Heels have only one loss against ACC teams — a 20-point loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 16. North Carolina beat Clemson two days later by 10. Since then, the Tar Heels haven’t lost, and they won’t lose to the Tigers. North Carolina will take the season series.Prediction: North Carolina 72, Clemson 66No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 VillanovaPitt’s the best team in the Big East right now, with only two losses overall. Its lone conference loss was to Notre Dame, a hard-fought 56-51 defeat. Villanova has three Big East losses, one coming against Providence, but the Wildcats are coming off wins over Marquette and West Virginia. The Panthers, though, are the better team and will beat the Wildcats.Prediction: Pittsburgh 60, West Virginia 56No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 13 WisconsinWisconsin is good, but Ohio State has been great all year. Jared Sullinger has helped get the Buckeyes to 24-0, and there’s not much of a reason to think the Badgers can stop him. In a battle of the top two Big-10 teams, Ohio State gets the win.Prediction: Ohio State 72, Wisconsin 62Southern Mississippi vs. MemphisThis is a matchup of two very evenly matched Conference-USA teams. The Tigers are 17-6 overall but have lost its last two games to Marshall and Tulsa, two teams they should’ve beaten. Led by Gary Flowers, who is averaging 20.2 points per game, Southern Miss heads into the game on a four-game winning streak. Give this win to the Eagles.Prediction: Southern Mississippi 76, Memphis 64cjiseman@syr.educenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img