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The Varied Paths to the DII Semis

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The Varied Paths to the DII Semis

Northern Iowa didn't win the Great Midwest, but they aren't too worried. Alex Goff photo.

The final four men's D2 college teams got to Houston in several different ways.

Norwich lost an early game to Brown in preseason action, a message that perhaps they were vulnerable. As it turned out, it was actually a harbinger of a really good season for Brown. After that, the Cadets were unbeaten in what has become a very competitive New England Wide Conference. Vermont tested them a little, but as we pointed out a few weeks ago, Norwich is the only team to be in GRR's D2 Top 10 every single week.

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The team that almost made it every week was Adrian, a new program bolstered by Head Coach Benny Mateialona's excellent recruiting skills and rugby knowledge. Adrian was an unknown quantity and in many ways remained so even as they started beating DI opposition. Their biggest problem was finding D2 opponents, or opponents of any level, as after starting 5-0 they were on the winning end of four forfeits in October.

It was frustrating, to say the least, but the Bulldogs played a club team and a Michigan select side, and then pushed aside UNC-Charlotte and Illinois State to make it to the semis.

Thomas More wasn't thought to be a national semifinalist by many for a while, but as they picked up massive win after massive win, the only question was whether their opposition was strong enough. Yes, yes it was. Like Adrian, a victim of cancelations, the Saints nonetheless stayed sharp, beat Marian quite convincingly, and rode a defense that has given up about five points per game in their victories (they lost to DIAA Kentucky) to Houston. (See video of Thomas More over Marquette).

Northern Iowa is the only non-varsity program in the final four and they just barely edged Marian to get there. Also the only team to not win their conference in the semis, UNI finished a close second to Illinois State in the Great Midwest.

They did that despite missing their most dynamic player, so they weren't too worried about it. Confident, hard-hitting, and skilled with the ball, they have their work cut out for them against a polished Thomas More team, but they also don't care.