The 2019 DII men’s basketball championship is ready to roll. The selection committee filled the 64-team bracket Sunday night and the NCAA DII tournament awaits.
Let’s take a region-by-region look at what to watch.
Team to beat: Indiana (Pa) | Team to watch: West Liberty
The Crimson Hawks are rolling, winners of ten in a row and fresh off a PSAC tournament title in which they handed their NCAA tournament first-round opponent West Chester a 31-point loss. While this team has plenty of solid ballplayers, Jacobo Diaz is a special talent that can make his presence felt deep into March.
While Dalton Bolon’s story has been both inspirational and simply amazing to watch, West Liberty’s offense is just plain old fun. Any team scoring over 102 points per game is certainly a threat in the tournament. That also makes Notre Dame (OH) a sleeper in this region. Big man Will Voorhees led the Falcons to the MEC title in an upset over West Liberty. If they can outscore the Hilltoppers, they can hang with anyone.
When @WLUHoops’ Dalton Bolon suffered nerve damage to his left eye last summer, he was told he could either play this season with a patch or medically redshirt.— NCAA (@NCAA) February 16, 2019
After choosing to play, the sophomore currently leads the top-scoring team in @NCAADII: https://t.co/K0WZ45ykmG pic.twitter.com/RIZEKT54pW
Team to beat: Northwest Missouri State | Team to watch: Northern State
Northwest Missouri State is chasing history. The Bearcats are looking to become just the fifth undefeated team in DII history, and the first in 10 years. Northwest Missouri State had a stacked team when it went 35-1 to capture the 2017 national championship and this team may be even better than that. Interestingly enough, the Bearcats play the same No. 8-seeded Minnesota State team that upset them last year in Round 1.
While the Bearcats were upset as the 1-seed last year, Northern State took the No. 2 seed all the way to the championship game. The Wolves started out a little slow but are rolling now and with all that tournament experience have to be on everyone’s radar. They play a Southeastern Oklahoma team returning to the tournament for the first time in over a decade, so the Wolves best not look ahead to the next round playing a team with nothing to lose.
Team to beat: Merrimack | Daemen
Saint Anselm and Tim Guers are a formidable threat as the host No. 1 seed, but we’re going with Merrimack as the team to beat. Not only are the Warriors red hot after winning their first NE10 title since 2000, but Juvaris Hayes is a unique talent that can take over a game all by himself and propel this team to a win.
Speaking of St. Anselm, should they be worried about its No. 8-seed first round opponent? Molloy wasn't even in the top 10 of the final East Region rankings but played its way to its first-ever ECC title, earning the Lions their first NCAA postseason appearance. Molloy is hoping it's not quite midnight on its dream run and the dance continues a few more weeks.
Daemen has been another feel-good story all season and enter its first-ever DII tournament as the No. 5 seed against New Haven. We’ve documented Andrew Sischo’s rise as one of DII’s premier big-men and he’ll have to be at his best if the Wildcats run is to continue.
CAREER WINS MARK(S): Daemen's Mike MacDonald reaches 100 wins at each division
Team to beat: Bellarmine | Team to watch: Ashland
Let’s give it up for Lewis having a remarkable season and earning the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. But as we saw in the GLVC tournament this past weekend, Bellarmine is still the team to beat come March. The Knights look like they are over their early February lull in which they lost three in a row, having won nine of their last ten including a third-straight GLVC tournament title.
Ashland makes for an interesting sleeper team. The No. 5 seed Eagles have a tough test against another quality sleeper in Southern Indiana who will be attempting to reach the Elite Eight on its home turf. Whoever comes out of that opening round matchup may have the grit to pull off some surprises.
No. 3 Findlay is also an intriguing team to watch. The Oilers find themselves in the field once again, this time as a No. 3 seed after hanging around the top 25 all season. With Northwest Missouri State chasing its undefeated season, are the Oilers ready to make a charge and prevent it?
Ten years ago, Findlay's Tyler Evans nailed a last second-shot to propel the Oilers to their first #D2Hoops title and finish at a record of 36-0.https://t.co/LnUHsbapeb caught up with Evans to recap Findlay's incredible run and his unforgettable shot: https://t.co/irigiLO0qx. pic.twitter.com/s4WgdbsnPI— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) March 1, 2019
Team to beat: West Texas A&M | Team to watch: St. Edward’s
If you caught the DII women’s basketball selection show, you noticed both the men’s and women’s West Texas A&M squads earned No. 1 seeds. That makes for an unusual hosting circumstance and gives St. Edward’s a few (possible) extra home games, where it hasn’t lost since November. That’s a big advantage come March.
West Texas A&M lost the Lone Star Conference’s all-time leading scorer this season, one year removed from an Elite Eight appearance. That didn’t seem to faze the Buffs one bit as they recorded a 31-win season and LSC tournament title. With veteran leadership paired with exciting freshmen, this team looks poised for another deep run.
Team to beat: Nova Southeastern | Team to watch: Valdosta State
The Sharks have gone from a 6-win team in 2017 to the No. 1 seed just two years later. We saw it coming right here at NCAA.com this preseason, and despite slipping to a very good Florida Southern team in the SSC finals, Nova Southeastern has a potent scoring offense and an up-tempo style that can cause havoc in the postseason. That said, keep your eyes on the Mocs. Florida Southern went through a late-season slump that saw it drop from the top 25 but sure got it together quickly in the SSC tournament.
The Blazers are a team to watch as well. There were high expectations around Valdosta State this season, especially with Beau Justice leading the charge. The Blazers were really rolling before falling to Delta State in the GSC tournament. If they can get that momentum back they will be tough.
ALL STATS TEAM: Players to watch
Team to beat: Queens (NC) | Team to watch: Augusta
It seems like Queens is always the team to beat in this region, especially in recent history. The Royals posted another 28-win season and Shaun Willett became a DII superstar with seemingly an automatic double-double every night of the week. That’s what made their upset in the SAC tournament so peculiar, especially in the way Lenoir-Rhyne dominated them.
That certainly makes the Bears a sleeper, even with a tough matchup against USC Aiken in the first round. The Pacers eventually fell to Augusta in the PBC championship, and that makes the Jaguars a dangerous team. Augusta has won 13 in a row and took down a top 20 team to earn its automatic bid. That’s the kind of momentum you want entering the DII tournament.
Team to beat: Seattle Pacific| Team to watch: Concordia (CA)
Point Loma certainly earned its No. 1 seed as PacWest champions and winners of 26 of 30 games this season, but Seattle Pacific is cruising right now. The Falcons won the GNAC tournament and are on a 12-game winning streak and return to the NCAA postseason for the first time since 2016. Those Seattle Pacific teams were a tournament staple, and these Falcons may be looking to set a new standard in Seattle.
The Falcons face an intriguing Chaminade team, however, that could play spoiler and end their March aspirations early. But we’re going with the Concordia Eagles as the team to watch. Concordia (CA) is playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament and it draws a very tough St. Martin’s team that has yet to lose to a PacWest school this season. With impressive wins over both Chaminade and Point Loma on their resume, the Eagles may be ready to play Cinderella.