The DII men’s basketball tournament is inching closer every day. The first regional rankings were released this past week and conference tournaments are just days away from tipoff.
We’ve seen it before. It’s not always the best team that goes deep into March, but the one with the most momentum who busts the brackets in the tournament. We know No. 1 — and undefeated — Northwest Missouri State is on everyone’s stay-clear list, but let’s take a look at some of the hottest teams in DII basketball that you won’t want to see in March.
The Panthers won 13 games last season in their DII basketball debut. Year 2 has been much kinder. Davenport is on fire, winners of their last 10 in a row and already a 10-win improvement on last season. Two of those 10 wins came against Grand Valley State and nationally-ranked Ashland on consecutive nights, boosting the Panthers into first place in the GLIAC South Division. Though still transitioning to DII and not eligible for the NCAA tournament, the Panthers can roll to their first GLIAC title in just their second full DII season. They don’t have the benefit of tournament experience, but they are red-hot right now.
Colorado School of Mines
Flashback to Nov. 18. The Orediggers sat 1-3 after a not-so-hot start. They haven’t lost since.
Mines has reeled off 21-straight wins. It has done it behind balance with the second-best scoring offense (84.5 points per game) and scoring defense (69.4 points per game) in the RMAC. The Orediggers have two tough tests in UC Colorado Springs and Black Hills State left on the schedule before the RMAC tournament starts, but if they make it through unscathed, they will be dangerous come March.
Remember the Blazers? They began the season a top-5 team with guard Beau Justice many a person’s pick for the player of the year. After losing their undefeated season on Dec. 15 (surprisingly the same day the national champion football team completed its undefeated season), Valdosta State struggled through a late December, early January swing.
A 113-point explosion on Jan. 26 — a night in which Justice went for 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists — and the Blazers have been back on track, winners of seven in a row. The problem for them is that West Alabama awaits in a battle that could very well decide the GSC regular season. The Tigers have ripped off 11 wins in a row themselves and will be the test the Blazers need to pass to be considered real contenders this March.
PRINT YOUR BRACKET: Schedule, info, and what to know about the DII tournament
West Texas A&M
The Buffs last lost on Jan. 10 and have won 11 in a row. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is that only one of those wins — a 90-89 overtime thriller against Texas A&M-Kingsville on Feb. 16 — was really even close. All five starters score in double-digits and Ryan Quaid and Gach Gach have that national semifinals experience, making West Texas A&M as dangerous as any team heading into the tournament.
FINAL— Thunder the Buffalo (@WestTXD2Hoops) February 22, 2019
Buffs win consecutive games in Wisdom Gym for the first time since 1999-2001 behind 23 points from Ryan Quaid.
The senior also became the program's second all-time leading scorer with a 3-pointer in the 2nd half.#BuffNation #LSCmbb pic.twitter.com/e6mYhUaoHM
Cal Poly Pomona
On. Jan. 18, the Broncos were 7-5, a postseason appearance looking grim. Cal Poly Pomona has responded with 10-straight wins, including consecutive wins against ranked Cal State East Bay and UC San Diego to open February. It is the hottest team in the CCAA, and arguably the entire West Region and are proving it’s not how you start, but how you finish that’s important.
Five more to watch:
West Chester: The Golden Rams have won 15 in a row. Unfortunately, they have East Stroudsburg (17-6) and Shippensburg (19-6) remaining in the regular season before a stacked PSAC tournament even begins.
Findlay: The Oilers were the last DII program to complete an undefeated season. Perhaps they see the Bearcats coming for them, as Findlay has gotten hot at the right time, winners of eight in a row.
Lewis: The Flyers already have five more wins than they had last season. Lewis is red-hot and winners of eight in a row, including downing the former No. 1 team in DII basketball Bellarmine on Feb. 7.
West Alabama: We already mentioned the huge showdown with Valdosta State this weekend. The Tigers extend their winning streak to 12, and the South region should watch out.
Washburn: The Ichabods have won six in a row and have a big matchup with Northwest Missouri State looming Feb. 28. They win that, we’re talking sleeper team come March.