Monday night's game between the Seattle University Redhawks and NAIA Division II Evergreen State College Geoducks was an unremarkable, dull basketball game that went pretty much how you would expect it to go. In front of a very small crowd played 20 miles away from campus at the ShoWare Center in Kent because Key Arena wasn't available, the Redhawks dominated every aspect of the ShoWare College Showcase and the game wasn't nearly as close as the 77-54 final score indicates. The most remarkable things about the game was Evergreen's first half shooting woes (14.3% field goal percentage including 0-15 from behind the arc), the pregame meal at Chipotle that didn't feature any horchata, my daughter's love of the funhouse style mirrors outside the ShoWare Center and the horrific looking fall that a Redhawk cheerleader took (thankfully she was OK).
But this game between these two programs illustrates the dramatic changes to the Seattle U program in a very short time period. Fourteen years ago when Evergreen - a small college in Olympia, Washington that might very well be the most liberal school in the country - added basketball to their small athletic department, Seattle U was also an NAIA member and were still nicknamed the Chieftains. In their first meeting at a tournament in Tacoma, the program that was once put on the map by Elgin Baylor was knocked off by a team named after an ugly bivalve that was supposed to be the anti-mascot for a school that didn't believe in competitive athletics. In fact, in the first five years of Evergreen basketball's existence, the Geoducks beat Seattle U four out of five times including a 71-59 victory over the newly minted Redhawks in their first season and only season in the NCAA's Division III. In 2002 the Redhawks moved to Division II and ran off four straight wins over the Geoducks before a very good Evergreen team led by a talented yet undersized guard named Nate Menafee evened the series at five a piece by upsetting a Seattle U team in their first season transitioning to Division I in 2008.
So Evergreen has seen the changes in Seattle U firsthand and was still competitive as recently as three seasons ago. But the game on Monday exposed the differences between a waning NAIA Division II program and an NCAA Division I mid majority program on the rise. Despite their shared competitive history, Monday showed that things will never be the same between these two schools and once Seattle U's Aaron Broussard - the only player or coach left on either team involved in the 2008 game - graduates after this season, the ties to the recent past will completely be broken.
For Seattle U, the ties to their small time college basketball past can't be broken quickly enough. In 2009, in advance of their first DI home game, the school named the top 29 players in their DI history and in the process totally discounted the contributions of all their basketball players over the past 28 years. Look at any history of the Seattle U athletic department and you see a gaping hole from 1980 to 2001. The NAIA years are embarrassing to Seattle U, a dark time in the school's history, and every time they thrash one of their former NAIA equals, another nail is put into that time period's coffin.
Seattle U welcomes Stanford to Key Arena on Thursday night creating a two game series that perfectly illustrates where they have been and where they aspire to be. Meanwhile, Evergreen heads to Kirkland, Washington on Saturday to open Cascade Conference play against Northwest University. What a difference fourteen years makes.