DII men's basketball championship: What to expect from the Elite Eight
The DII men's basketball quarterfinals are set to begin Wednesday, March 22 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and by Saturday, a new champion will be crowned.
Here is a quick look at what to expect during Wednesday's quarterfinal action:
No. 1 Fairmont State vs. No. 8 Rollins | Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET
Coach: Jerrod Calhoun, 122-37 in fifth season
Key win: An 84-68 victory over No. 8 Indiana (Pa.) in the semifinals of the Atlantic Regional. On paper, it was probably the toughest regional semifinal game for a top seed. In the victory, the Falcons showed they can play at a high level against a quality program.
Players to watch: Senior forward Matt Bingaya made Basketball Times first team All-American. Bingaya is averaging 19.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. Senior Thomas Wimbush is averaging 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. Despite starting just four games, senior Shamgod Wells leads the team with 195 assists.
Notes: This is the Falcons ninth trip to the NCAA tournament. They are 9-8. This is their second Elite Eight appearance. Fairmont also made the Elite Eight in the 1997-98 season. The 32 victories ties a program record for most wins in a season. This is their fourth 30-win season. Won their first regular-season conference title in 21 years.
Coach: Tom Klusman, 677-392 in 37th season
Key win: An 86-67 victory over Nova Southeastern on Feb. 8. The Tars entered that game 13-10 and were a long shot to make the NCAA tournament. But that win started an 11-game winning streak.
Players to watch: Junior Sam Philpott is averaging 15.1 points and 4.1 rebounds. Connor Mckim was selected Sunshine State Conference freshman of the year, averaging 10.2 points. Jeff Merton was select MVP in the South Region Tournament. He is averaging 14.8 points.
Notes: Klusman is one of 16 Division II head coaches to compile 600 career wins. Rollins is making its second appearance at the Elite Eight. The Tars also made the Elite Eight in 2004.
No. 4 Bellarmine vs. No. 5 Colorado Mines | Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET
Coach: Scott Davenport, 286-92 in 12th season
Key win: A 78-70 victory at No. 10 Southern Indiana. The Knights went into that game coming off a loss at Truman State. Beating a highly-ranked team on the road must have given the Knights plenty of confidence. The win started an 18-game winning streak, the longest current streak in Division II.
Players to watch: Sophomore forward Adam Eberhard is averaging 16.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. Senior guard Rusty Troutman is averaging 15.4 points and 4.3 rebounds and senior guard Al Davis is averaging 11.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. All three players have over 100 assists.
Notes: The Knights are making their fourth appearance in the Elite Eight. Bellarmine was the national champions in 2011 and made it to the semifinals in 2012 and 2015.
Colorado School of Mines
Coach: Pryor Orser, 292-172 in 16th season
Key win: A 102-98 overtime win over Fort Lewis in the RMAC Tournament championship game on March 4. A seed was planted. The Orediggers faced Fort Lewis eight days later in the semifinals of the South Central region and they won by double digits.
Players to watch: Senior guard Gokul Natesan is averaging 18.6 points and 4.1 assists. Junior guard Luke Schroepfer is averaging 14.5 points and senior forward Caleb Waitsman is averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Notes: The Orediggers are making their first appearance in the Elite Eight. They are 7-6 in seven appearances in the NCAA Tournament. They made the Sweet 16 in 2011-2012. Mines ranks fourth in Division II in assists with 593. Bellarmine is first with 648. Mines has won its last 12 games.
No. 2 Northwest Missouri State vs. No. 7 St. Thomas Aquinas | Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET
Coach: Ben McCollum, 173-71 in eighth season
Key win: A 68-52 win over Lindenwood on Feb. 23. The victory came after the Bearcats’ only loss of the season. It was important to see how they would respond to a loss. Northwest has won eight straight.
Players to watch: Junior guard Justin Pitts selected Basketball Times player of the year. He is averaging 20.5 points and has scored in double figures in 31 of 33 games. Junior forward Chris-Ebou Ndow is averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Notes: This is the Bearcats’ third trip to the Elite Eight. Pitts is the all-time leading scorer at Northwest. The Bearcats have reached the Sweet 16 four straight years. In two of the previous three years, Northwest lost to the eventual national champion in the third-round game.
Coach: Tobin Anderson, 91-35 in fourth season
Key win: An 85-69 victory at Queens (N.Y.) on Feb. 11. The Spartans were coming off a tough 90-89 loss at Bridgeport. Sometime a heartbreaking loss can put a team in a tailspin. The Spartans used it to win nine straight entering the Elite Eight.
Players to watch: Junior guard Justin Reyes made Basketball Times first team All-American. He is averaging 20.4 points. Senior guard Chaz Watler is averaging 14.7 points and sophomore guard Jonathan Lawton is averaging 13.7 points.
Notes: This is Aquinas first appearance in the Elite Eight. Aquinas is 4-1 in two NCAA tournament appearances. The Spartans have five players averaging double figures. The 28 wins is the most by an Aquinas team in the Division II era. The Spartans had three winning streaks of nine games or better this season.
No. 3 Lincoln Memorial vs. No. 6 Chico State | Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET
Coach: Josh Schertz, 233-52 in ninth season
Key win: An 82-68 win over Queens (N.C.) in the Southeast Regional championship game. The two teams traded victories in four matchups this season. Queens won the first in overtime. Lincoln Memorial won the second. Queens won the third in the SAC Tournament championship game.
Players to watch: Senior guard Luquon Choice, senior forward Chris Perry and junior forward Dorian Pinson are all averaging in double figures in the scoring department. All three players saw significant playing time in last year’s Elite Eight.
Notes: Lincoln Memorial is 12-6 in its seventh NCAA appearance. The Railsplitters are making their second straight trip to the Elite Eight. Last year they lost in the championship game to Augustana.
Coach: Greg Clink, 177-94 in ninth season
Key win: A 95-67 victory over Stanislaus State on Feb. 16. The Wildcats needed a win. They entered the game on a three-game losing streak. Since the losing streak, Chico State has won eight of its last nine games.
Players to watch: Junior forward Isaiah Ellis is averaging 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. Junior guard Corey Silverstrom is averaging 13.0 points and 3.3 rebounds. Senior guard Robert Duncan leads the team in assists with 105.
Notes: This is Chico State’s second Elite Eight appearance. Ellis had a career game against No. 1 seed UC San Diego in the West Regional championship game. He scored a career-high 34 points and pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds.