College Basketball: Division II; Saving the Best for Last

Kyle JensenContributor IApril 11, 2008

Now not too many people pay attention to women's sports. Not many people pay attention to Division II College sports either. But there are certainly a lot of people that do not follow Division II College Women's sports.

I, on the other hand, am somewhat different. I do probably follow my college's men's team more than the women's team, but, I have followed women's sports to an extent every year. This year is very magical, particularly the University of South Dakota women's basketball team.

This is the last year that USD is competing in NCAA Division II athletics, they will then start their transition period (exile period is what I like to call it) to Division I classification, kind of following in the footsteps of the rival school down the interstate, South Dakota State. The men this year had a very promising start this season, Sporting News magazine had them preseason ranked as the No. 1 team in the country.

Then one of USD's starters gets injured for a couple of weeks, they lose their first conference game of the year. The men regroup, but then lose three games in a row nearing the end of the regular season. Come post-season play, the men (finished third in the conference) get upset in the first round of the conference tournament. The men still make the national tournament, and for the second year in a row, get beat out in the first round.

The women's first half of the season was very similar albeit one loss, after a month and a half into the season, there was no respect and the Lady Coyotes could not crack into the top 25 rankings.

Let's rewind a year, in the 2006-2007 college basketball season, the men won the regular season conference title as well as the conference tournament championship. The women lost in the conference championship and then went ahead and lost in the first round of the national tournament. The women finished second only to the number one team in the nation, the University of North Dakota.

This might give you an idea of how competitive the North Central Conference is in Division II athletics, it kind of makes me sad that this is the NCC's last year in existence after 86 years of dominance.

The only National Championship that USD has won (in any sport that most people follow) was the Men's Basketball team in 1958. The football team was national runner-ups in 1984, losing to North Dakota State (also an NCC school at the time). Out of the Dakota schools, USD is the only one yet to win a national championship for women's basketball, North Dakota and North Dakota State dominated in the 90's as either one of those schools won the national championship eight out of those ten years (The other school to win was Delta St., the team USD just beat to advance to the national championship).

The South Dakota State women won the 2003 National Championship, their second to last year of existence in Division II athletics.

Now it's USD's time, after 86 years of being an NCC affiliated school, in the conference's last year of existence, and USD's last year in Division II athletics, they are finally in the national championship. These women earned it too, an overall GPA of 3.7, All-American Jeana Hoffman, and National Coach of the Year Chad Lavin, in his last year of coaching basketball.

There is so much to this team that makes everything special, last year of a lot of things, and it really is great. I can't imagine ESPN 2 will be watched by many people on Saturday (apparently there's a Division I men's tourney going on), but those who do, will all be people affiliated with Northern Kentucky, USD alumni, current students and the rest of Vermillion, SD. Just think of this as USD's coming out party, as the whole athletic department will make noise in Division I.

U...S...D...COYOTES! ! WHO!! WHO!!

Writer's Note: This is an article I wrote the day of the Women's Division II National Championship.  Northern Kentucky defeated the Coyotes 63-58 as the Coyotes blew a 12 point lead with five minutes left in the game.