Go Through Furman? Of Course
Go Through Furman? Of Course
Furman University is hoping to the home of a champion, and it certainly could be that in the Men’s DII College Playoffs.
Furman, of course, is hosting a bracket in the Round of 16/quarterfinals, and Furman is also playing in that self-same bracket. And whichever team wins that bracket will play in a final four at … yes you saw where we were going with this … Furman University.
So the road to the championship will most certainly go through Greenville, SC, and the Paladins hope it goes through and comes from Greenville. Is Furman good enough to win it? Well the Paladins did win the Southern Conference, beating a very good UNC-Charlotte (twice) and hammering a tough Coastal Carolina team in the semis.
Coach John Roberts says his defense has been very strong, especially when it really needs to be, and with the halfback combination of Austin Willis and Jeff Rein playing well together, the Paladins are scoring, too - witness 13 points in their first game against UNC-Charlotte, and 44 points in the second.
Furman is ranked #3 by Goff Rugby Report, and they take on #12 Sacred Heart. While the Tri-State Conference has struggled of late to make a splash nationally, Sacred Heart has played consistently well against all the best teams in the region. Head Coach Ray Peterson has Pat Walpole playing strong at No. 8 and a pretty snappy scrumhalf of his own in Matt Calton. They can punish you up front, and that may be where Sacred Heart can win the matchup.
Opposite those two is Southern Connecticut v NC State. SoConn got into the playoffs thanks to a somewhat confusing tiebreaker in the Rugby Northeast. While some might have said that Providence College should have won that tiebreaker (there were some interpretation issues), SoConn made a statement with a comeback win over York to make it through the 1st round. Led by No. 8 Mike Sullivan, SoConn is a young team that will be back.
But can they get through NC State? Obviously there are questions about whether NC State should even be in this playoff. A school that plays DI in other sports, and has an undergraduate enrollment of over 33,000, seems like they are not a DII team. NC State could not find a conference to play in, and grasped at the lifeline that was the Cardinals Conference (back when there was talk that the conference would move up to DI). All of that is understandable, but there have been whispers that NC State should have been kept out of the playoffs because Wolf Pack teams are normally DII.
Well, in College Rugby, sometimes you are what you say you are. NC State is here, and the Cardinals Conference champs, and a very good rugby team. They won that conference, but didn’t dominate, and it remains to be seen if they can win outside of their conference.
The Wolf Pack (ranked #5) has to be favored against Southern Connecticut (#17), but then, who knows what will happen?