It’s a scenario that anyone can relate to on a human level. Imagine being at the very top of your sport, craft or discipline for a couple of years, but not being able to prove that you’re among the cream of the crop. Everyone who has watched you perform can clearly see the talent, but there is no official means to recognize or award such a distinction. This is the type of frustration that the Randolph Macon men’s basketball team has had to deal with for the past two seasons during the pandemic.
The Yellow Jackets were running circles around their competition in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference during the 2019-2020 campaign. They had won 16 out of their last 17 games, and were well on their way to making a deep run in the Division III NCAA Tournament. Randolph Macon made it to the Sweet 16 of the 2020 DIII big dance, before the tournament was ultimately cancelled due to the increasing concern over COVID-19.
Although their momentum from the prior spring was short-circuited, the team came into the next season with the same level of energy. The Yellow Jackets coasted their way through ODAC play once more. Unfortunately for the program, the NCAA once again elected not to conduct a DIII championship tournament in 2021, due to the lack of teams participating as a whole.
While this was an ill-fated result for a team that deserved to showcase their talents in the postseason, Randolph Macon made the best of a tough situation. In conjunction with other programs who played well last season, they scheduled March games that simulated what an Elite 8 or Final 4 matchup could’ve been. The program proactively contacted Trine and Yeshiva University to play some additional games after their respective conference tournaments had ended.
“We just wanted to play national quality opponents,” said Jeff Burns, Randolph Macon athletic director. Via Richmond.com
The Yellow Jackets are hoping that the third time, or in this case, the third consecutive year, will be the charm with regards to realizing their postseason dreams. They brought a 10-1 record into 2022, with their only loss coming by one point to Christopher Newport University. They won’t be the only team looking to capture hardware after missed opportunities, but their desire to compete against the best will hopefully pay dividends as this season progresses.