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Evers: Upon further review, Coach Graupe is no smoke blower

Dickinson State women's basketball coach Mark Graupe is handing out free sodas, but only to those who can debunk his theory. All season long -- the beginning, the quarter mark, and now, past the halfway point -- it's been his go-to talking point....

Dickinson State junior Ashley Bentz-Laub looks to pass against Dakota State on Dec. 14 at Scott Gymnasium. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson State junior Ashley Bentz-Laub looks to pass against Dakota State on Dec. 14 at Scott Gymnasium. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson State women's basketball coach Mark Graupe is handing out free sodas, but only to those who can debunk his theory.

All season long - the beginning, the quarter mark, and now, past the halfway point - it's been his go-to talking point. He's held onto a staunch conclusion that no other team at the NAIA Division II level has played a tougher schedule than his 24th-ranked Blue Hawks.

On Wednesday, fresh off an 80-point victory (yes, eight-zero) over Oglala Lakota - 26 points less than when the Bravehearts came to town last year - Graupe defended his team's breezy two-game stretch, which started Tuesday against Trinity Bible College.

"People say, 'Oh, you've had a couple of easy ones.' But we deserve it. Like I said, 'You show me' - I swear - anybody out there - and I hope you put this in the paper - anybody, find somebody that's had a tougher schedule than we have," he said, by 'you,' meaning me, who had just asked a semi-related question.

Here's where the soda part comes in.

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"I'd like to find anybody out there," he continued. "That's my challenge. I'll buy you a Mountain Dew, to anybody out there that can find a tougher schedule than playing 10 teams at a higher level than us."

Those 10 games the coach refers to are matchups with NAIA Division I schools Rocky Mountain College (twice), Montana Tech (twice), Montana Western, Vanguard - which Graupe insists is the best team they've seen all year - NCAA Division II Minot State (twice) and lastly, North Dakota State, which the Blue Hawks held a lead on until the fourth quarter started.

Though the second go around against Minot State, plus the game against the Bison in Fargo, were both technically exhibitions, DSU emerged from that murderer's row with a 6-4 record.

It's also worth noting that Graupe's schedule includes two contests with conference opponent and 13th-ranked Jamestown, which plays on the same level as DSU.

"I'm not talking about Jamestown," Graupe reminded me, "and they're rated in the nation."

Out of curiosity, I took Graupe up on his claim, though, heading into such a task, I doubted he would be so confident without being able to back it up.

So, in my probably-not-foolproof system, I went through each team in the current top 25 poll (I didn't have time to go through the schedule of all 135 teams, nor did The Press' non-existent sports intern) to compare the number of games each team had with opponents on a higher level of competition:

The no-shows

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Four of the top 25 - two in the top 10 - as far as I could tell, had not yet ventured outside of NAIA Division II (as of Friday).

The NAIA loyalists

Ten teams have played NAIA Division I schools, some a lot (No. 10 College of Ozarks, seven times), and some not a whole lot (No. 15 Purdue Northwest, once).

The NCAA dabblers

Five teams played either one or two NCAA teams. A special shoutout to No. 21 Indiana East, which played NCAA Division I Northern Kentucky in a technical exhibition. They're the only team in this subsection that to venture outside of NCAA Division II.

The heavyweights

Six teams, Dickinson State included, have had a steady diet of either several NCAA Division II opponents or a mix of those and NCAA Division I schools.

No. 1 ranked St. Francis, for example, tried its hand against Florida State and DePaul (both exhibition losses), then beat NCAA Division II Lewis University.

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Fourth-ranked Southern Oregon has played five games against higher-level teams - three in the NAIA, one in NCAA Division II, and one in Division I (Boise State). Eleventh-ranked Morningside makes a case, too, with four opponents on the NCAA Division II level.

But, funnily enough, perhaps the best case against Graupe is in a town about three hours east, leaders of the North Star and gifters of one of DSU's five losses this year: Jamestown.

The Jimmies have faced five from Division II with a 3-2 tally, and also dropped a game to the University of Winnipeg.

But, alas, that is the best I can do. The Jimmies have played six teams at a higher level; College of the Ozarks has played seven; but all have been at the NAIA Division I level, none at the NCAA level.

None made it to Graupe's magic number of 10.

I guess Coach is correct.

That's OK, I tried; I'm more of a cola guy anyway. Mountain Dew is more the nectar of the sugar-deprived 13-year-old.

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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