In a meeting of church and state, the state gave the hammer last night.
Portland State is a member of the Big Sky Conference. The Vikings men’s basketball team is just 4-4 this season, but has already beaten Oregon State twice. Last night the Vikings faced Portland Bible College, a member of Division II of the National Christian College Athletic Association. The school is run by the non-denominational Christian megachurch Mannahouse and only awards religious degrees. The most recent enrollment figure I can find is from a decade ago, when the school had 415 students. The basketball team had only six players last night.
The game was even worse than expected. Portland State scored the game’s first 38 points, led 63-9 at halftime and outscored the Arrows 114-31. “The margin of victory was not the highest in school history, nor was the opponent’s point total the lowest,” notes Portland State’s team website. Portland State did fall six points short of the most consecutive points to start a game; Southern scored the first 44 points in a 116-12 victory over 2013 Champion Christian College.
There will always be basketball mismatches and irregular scores. But this was a pretty one-sided affair even by those standards. These types of games are happening a bit more as NCAA Division I basketball teams realize that scheduling non-Division I opponents can benefit them in many ways. Ken Pomeroy, basketball stats guru and friend of Defector, was kind enough to share this chart.
|season||Games not DI||All the games||percentage|
There’s a reason for that bump the past two years: When a game was canceled due to covid, a non-Division I team was usually there to step in as a fill-in opponent. But that total hasn’t gone down this year, despite the lack of covid cancellations so far. In 2004, according to Pomeroy’s numbers, 297 of 4,634 games featured a Division I team versus a non-Division I team (6.4%). This year there are 497 of 5,805 games (8.6%). That’s 200 more games per season!
It makes sense for an NCAA Division I team to schedule games against lower tier schools. If a top conference program plays an average school, that game usually hurts the top school even if it wins by 100. Hurting the strength of schedule hurts the PC numbers, which can hurt the chances of making the NCAA tournament or getting a favorable result. seed
But a game against a school that it is not one of 363 Division I programs doesn’t really count, in essence. Schools can even exempt certain games against non-Division I teams from their maximum allowed games. Unlike when a good team plays a bad team within Division I, this type of game doesn’t really hurt the perception of the good team. The games do not count toward any of the numbers used by the NCAA tournament selection committee. But the school gets to beat a low-level opponent, its players can complete their personal stats, and the team isn’t really punished with anything other than shame if they lose. (Games normally they are not counted for the non-Division I school in its ranking or statistic. “I suspect that wrinkle also has statistical justification,” Pomeroy wrote in 2016. “Illinois Tech would be less likely to play Chicago State if the Scarlet Hawks knew the 137 points they gave up would be included in … statistical rankings” ).
There are some NCAA and conference rules about this. The West Coast Conference, for example, says schools can only play two games against non-Division I opponents. The NCAA has specific guidelines for what constitutes a “countable opponent” — it has to be a state-grant institution. four years, must have a university team and must be accredited by one of several academic governing bodies. The NCAA even publishes a list of schools that no count if a team played them. For example, NCAA teams currently cannot count games against Holy Patriot University (Beaumont, Texas), Justice College (Chandler, Arizona), Forest Trail Sports University (Concord, NC) or University of God’s Chosen (Fayetteville, NC) , because the NCAA says they don’t meet accreditation or membership requirements.
The experience is not too bad for the lower category team either. Your kids get beat up, sure, but they also get to play in a Division I gym. Sometimes lower tier teams get better too! Southern played Champion Christian College again earlier this week and only won 112-52.
In 2017, Penn played Penn State Brandywine, a school that competes in a league made up entirely of Penn State extension campuses. I wrote about it for a certain website because there was a game subplot related to the cheesesteak. That article led my father, who played for Penn State Brandywine in the 1970s when it was called Penn State Delco, to throw out an “honorary first tip” at a Penn State Brandywine game the following year. I spoke with Brandywine’s coach at that game, who talked about what a great experience it was for his kids to play at a Division I school, and presumably write about the old version of that website.
That game ended in a 99-40 Penn victory. It was the biggest win in school history. Penn had a 44-3 run at one point. It was a smash. But it was no the Portland State/Portland Bible matchup. Brandywine had a full lineup. Portland Bible had six players. There’s a limit to all of this, and the Portland Bible Arrows can represent that.
The Arrows have lost five games by more than 70 points this year; their closest loss was an 85-41 loss to NCAA Division III Willamette. The AP says they are now 0-11. (I would you update your team’s official website after this start of the season?) Kenneth Massey’s computer ratings are very bad. “Massey only has community colleges ranked below them,” Pomeroy wrote to me in an email.
There may be bigger things on the way for Portland Bible, but not in basketball. It is right in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 25: “Everyone who competes in the games enters into strict training. They do it to get a crown that won’t last, but we do it to get a crown that lasts forever.”