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Favorites emerging in most divisional races

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 4, 2016

Refuse to lose.

That seems to be the mantra for a lot of DODDS-Europe boys and girls basketball teams this winter. Five of the six divisional races, excepting only the Division III boys, feature at least one team with an undefeated divisional record. That level of parity suggests a set of highly competitive brackets when the European tournament arrives later this month.

Division I boys

Undefeated defending champion Ramstein would be the runaway favorites for a repeat if it weren’t for a persistent group of Wildcats.

While the reigning Royals have cruised to a 9-0 record against an all-Division I schedule, Naples has compiled a shorter but equally unblemished list of large-school victims. The Wildcats handled both Stuttgart and Vilseck in last week’s divisional gathering in Italy; improving their Division I record to 4-0 when coupled with their early-season sweep of Vicenza.

That’s the divisional mark Naples will take into the tournament, as its remaining schedules calls only for matchups with Division II Aviano and Division III Sigonella. Ramstein, meanwhile, tangles with Division I rivals Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern before the playoffs.

Division I girls

The seemingly inevitable showdown between the Ramstein Royals and Vicenza Cougars looms as one of the marquee matchups in any bracket of the upcoming European tournament.

Neither team has been significantly challenged so far this season, though the Royals still have a formidable schedule ahead of them.

Stuttgart has given each team the most trouble, falling to Ramstein 47-34 on Jan. 16 and to Vicenza 38-25 on Jan. 30.

Every other team in the division has at least two losses.

Division II boys

In a classic quirk of DODDS-Europe sports, the three remaining unbeaten teams in Division II hail from three different countries and won’t play each other until the postseason.

From Germany, Black Forest Academy has turned in another solid season featuring a split with Division I Wiesbaden and a pair of double-digit wins against Bitburg, its only Division II opponent to date.

From Italy, revitalized Marymount has swept Aviano and Florence for a 4-0 Division II mark and has done the same to Division I Vicenza.

From Spain, returning runner-up Rota ducked into AFNORTH for its only regular-season DODDS-Europe action and came away with a pair of lopsided wins.

Division II girls

Another DODDS-Europe national geographic special has the Bitburg Barons and Rota Admirals engaged in a long-distance proxy struggle for divisional supremacy.

Defending European champion Bitburg has steamrolled to a 10-0 overall record and 4-0 divisional mark, including a sweep of 2015 runner-up and annual nemesis Black Forest Academy. Rota’s pair of wins over AFNORTH last weekend represent its entire DODDS-Europe regular season.

This weekend’s games against AFNORTH will round out Bitburg’s Division II slate and give it a common opponent with the Admirals for purposes of evaluation.

Division III

The disparate ranks of small-school DODDS-Europe hoops have left Sigonella and Ansbach without any Division III opponents so far this winter, in both boys and girls hoops. That won’t change for Sigonella, but Ansbach will get its shot soon with a Friday-Saturday visit to Baumholder.

On the boys side, Alconbury, Baumholder and Brussels have distributed losses amongst themselves this winter. And the list of unbeaten girls squads is about to contract as reigning champion Baumholder and perennial contender Brussels each take 2-0 divisional records into their doubleheader clash this weekend.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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