The Transitive Property

This season is absolutely flying by. We have cruised through the Pre-Party Party Period and moved right on into the Family Reunion. As a matter of fact, this season is becoming history faster than Bill Belichek’s relevance and Tom Cruise’s sanity. At Gordon College this has been a particularly good period for us. We began the Pre-Party Party Period by winning the Union College Sig Makofski Tournament. First let me tell you a little about Mr. Makofski. He was a first-team All-American in basketball and was also named an honorable mention All-American in football at Union before there were NCAA divisions. He then went on to coach Schenectady High School and Mont Pleasant High School in Schenectady to a record of 461-35 in basketball and coached the Mont Pleasant football teams to a 418-3 record. On top of that he held fourteen local golf course records. He just couldn’t settle on being better than everyone at the major sports. He had to beat everyone in retirement too. Are you kidding me? Look at those coaching records. That is a 93% winning percentage in basketball. That that is not even close to his record as a football coach. He won a laughable 99.3% of their games. I can’t even do that on my PlayStation and I quit games before I lose to the computer. You know the phrases that any team can beat anyone “on any given day” or “that’s why you play the games” when an upset occurs? Well, those don’t apply to Sig Makofski.  But here’s the real question. What happened in those three football games? Poor coaching? I’m guessing not. They either must have been playing Notre Dame or they only had 8 players. Even then I wouldn’t count out a Sig Makofski coached team. (Thanks to the Union College website for this information)

Knowing a little about the tournament’s namesake gives a little more meaning to the trophy given out. For the second time in three years we won the Sig Makofski Tournament. In the opener we beat the host Union College 69-47. This shows the quality of the teams in the tournament. The host team normally schedules the team they feel they had the best chance to beat in the first game so they can play in the championship. Obviously that did not work out so well for Union. However, they went on to win the consolation game against Elms who finished last year 26-2 and ranked 12th in the country. We on the other hand advanced to the championship to play Montclair State. To say Montclair and Gordon play differing styles would be just the tip of the iceberg. They have an enrollment over 5x larger than Gordon’s private Christian school enrollment. Their team roster contains more outstanding athletes than we have at our entire school and they play a style that reflects that. It was truly a battle of contrasts that in the end resulted in a 61-53 Gordon victory. We had three players named to the All-Tournament team including the MVP. This tournament has just been the tip of the iceberg. Crap, I already used that cliché? Umm… how about that just got the ball rolling? Let’s go with that one. After starting the season 4-3. We felt we had some real momentum after the tournament but everyone knows conference play is a completely different animal. (See Huskies, Connecticut) we began the family reunion with a 57-49 win against Wentworth Institute of Technology. They start 6’11”, 6’6″, 6’5″ in their front court, a rarity in our conference and it was a matchup between two of the top 10 rebounding teams in the country.  We followed that win up with a hard fought win against a scrappy and much improved Anna Maria team on the road and an 81-58 rivalry win in a “holy war” game against one of the only other Christian Schools in New England, Eastern Nazarene. With that victory we have run our record to 10-3. Those three losses, while still losses, are by a combined 8 points to the #9 team in the country in overtime, MIT,  a quality Westfield State team, and a loss to our biggest rival Endicott College. A couple of different bounces and we could be looking at couple of more wins.

We could play the “what if” game all day and every team in the country has a reason why their record should be better. However, what I want to talk about is the extreme parity I have seen throughout the country this year, especially New England, as evidenced by 4 of the top 5 teams in the country losing last week. No one seems to want to take a stand as the best team in the country. To prove that point, I will use the famed transitive property of basketball to prove who should be dangerous come tournament time.

Bard (1-13) beat Polytechnic (3-9) , who beat Medgar Evers (8-8), who beat Castleton State (7-5), who beat Colby-Sawyer (9-6), who beat Middlebury (14-1 #10 in Top 25). Therefore Bard (1-13) is better than #10 Middlebury (14-1)

Oh that is just the Northeast and it doesn’t work for the rest of the country you say?

MacMurray  (3-10) beat Webster (8-7), who beat Spalding (6-9), who beat Mt. St. Joseph (8-7) , who beat Thomas More (12-4), who beat Transylvania (9-7), who beat Wash U (12-2 #4 in the Top 25). Therefore MacMurray (3-10 ) is better than #4 Wash U (12-2).

Encore? Ok, just this once.

Salve Regina (1-13) beat Connecticut College (6-8), who beat Coast Guard (5-9), who beat Babson (7-8) , who beat Emerson (9-5) , who beat Pomona-Pitzer (6-8) , who beat Whitworth ( 13-2), who beat UW-Whitewater (14-2 #6 in Top 25), who beat UW-Stevens Point (13-1 #1 in Top 25). Therefore Salve Regina (1-13) is better than #1 UW-Stevens Point (13-1)

There are plenty more where these came from. What do they all mean? Absolutely nothing. Except that parity is everywhere in DIII basketball this year.  Everyone knows that the transitive property does not work in sports and the only way to find out if a team is better than anyone else is to play head to head (except in college football where everyone knows computers do a much better job of determining champions.) If a team does not show up ready to play anyone could beat them on any given night. Except maybe if Sig Makofski was coaching.

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