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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | November 29, 2018

11 DII men's basketball games we're excited about in December

Bellarmine Athletics DII men's basketball's top team, Bellarmine, has tough back-to-back tests.

One month is already in the books for the DII men's basketball season. That means conference play is set to open while the last winter tournaments tipoff before the holiday break. 

We looked at the schedule for some of the best games headed our way and these are the 11 contests we have circled on the calendar in December:

Ferris State at Ashland, Dec. 1:

Neither of these teams is currently nationally ranked, but that doesn't change the importance of this big Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup. Both Ferris State — the defending national champs — and Ashland are receiving votes and could use a big conference victory to help their cause. Ashland opens its conference slate against four teams without a losing record, so taking down Ferris State will be a good start to the GLIAC season. 

Saint Anselm vs Merrimack, Dec. 1:

Saint Anselm is off to a 5-0 start and in the top 5 thanks to one of the most dynamic scorers in DII hoops. Tim Guers is putting up big numbers again, leading the Hawks with 20.4 points per game and already logging a 28 and 30-point output this season. But this is an offense dropping 90.5 points per game, and he has plenty of help with Chris Paul, Cody Ball, and Gustav Suhr-Jessen all averaging over 13 points per game. Opposite the Hawks will be Merrimack’s Jarvis Hayes, one of the most exciting players in DII. He’s an unstoppable force anywhere on the court, as all 6-foot of him is amongst the conference’s best in scoring, rebounds, assists, and steals.

Queens (N.C.) vs. Lincoln Memorial, Dec. 8

These two teams played four times last year, each game more intense than the one before. The Railsplitters took the first three, including a memorable 77-75 victory in the South Atlantic Conference finals, but it was the Royals who prevailed in the NCAA tournament, ousting Lincoln Memorial from the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Elite Eight behind a 69-57 victory. Queens, who got off to a 1-1 start after an impressive showing in the SCB Hall of Fame Classic, are fresh off a 76-69 victory over No. 23 Lenoir-Rhyne to open South Atlantic Conference play. They head to December behind the strong play of Shaun Willett who has six double-doubles in his first eight games. Lincoln Memorial is still trying to get its feet underneath them with a new-look rotation, but Cornelius Taylor and company will always be a tricky challenge when they visit Charlotte.

MORE: DII NCAA basketball rankings

Indiana (Pa) vs. Shippensburg, Dec. 8:

A fun PSAC showdown between nationally-ranked and undefeated teams is always good basketball. IUP has been near the top of the ranking all season, currently No. 3, while Shippensburg vaulted all the way to No. 20 from the unranked after an impressive 6-0 start. Jacobo Diaz is one of the most exciting players in DII basketball, leading the Crimson Hawks in points (21.2 per game) and rebounds (9.0 per game), but he doesn't go at it alone with Malik Miller, Dante Lombardi, and Willem Brandwijk all able scorers. The Raiders have benefited from mainly playing at home to start things off, so this will be a strong road test early in the season.

Bellarmine’s back-to-back out of conference showdowns, Dec. 10 and 18:

Well, you have to hand it to the Knights. They came into the season as the No. 1 ranked team, and they have certainly put themselves to the test right out of the gates. In a span of ten days, Bellarmine will square off against a Christian Brothers team that has been in the top 25 this season and then No. 12 Barry. The Christian Brothers matchup pits two of the best players DII men’s basketball has to offer against each other. Bellarmine’s Adam Eberhard is one of the most well-rounded players on the court, leading the Knights in points (18.8 per game) while chipping in 5.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. The Bucs have a daunting road ahead of them, opening Gulf South Conference play against West Florida and Valdosta State, before jumping out of conference to face Lane and then the No. 1 Knights. Adam Dieball is versatile, leading the way for the Bucs scoring 19.2 points per game, leading the team with 7.0 rebounds per game while dishing out a Gulf South Conference-best 8.8 assists per game. This showdown of superstars is worth the price of admission alone.

MORE: These are the 10 highest scoring seasons in DII history

The Hoops in Hawaii D2 Power Invitational first round, Dec. 16:

What’s better than basketball in Hawaii in the cold, winter months? How about a tournament that features five of the top teams in DII basketball?

The first round tips off on Dec. 16 and sees No. 5 Southern Nazarene and a Dallas Baptist team that has already received votes this season. No. 15 Western Washington has to take on an undefeated Chaminade team that also received votes and has a serious homecourt advantage. No. 16 UC San Diego takes on the other Honolulu hometown school in Hawaii Pacific. The final first-round game pits Western Oregon against Emmanuel. That’s a loaded mid-winter tournament that the fans and teams will be more than happy to watch.

Florida Southern vs, Nova Southeastern, Dec. 29

NCAA.com put Nova Southeastern in our preseason top 10 after a modest 17-win season and missing out on the 2017 tournament for two big reasons: head coach Jim Crutchfield and point guard David Dennis. Now four games in this Sharks offense is the amongst the best in the land, averaging 109 points per game. Both Mark Matthews and Dennis are averaging more than 20 points per game through the first four games, as the Sharks lead a high-energy attack on both ends of the floor, leading DII with 15.3 steals per game as well. The Mocs were voted to win the Sunshine State Conference and thus far, they are performing as the front-runners. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more balanced starting five, as four of the Mocs starters — Jonathan Lawton, Brett Hanson, Slinky Jones, and Ben Marello — are all averaging more than 10 points while Jack Rauch adds 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per night. This is a huge battle in the SSC and a big chance for the Sharks to officially announce they have arrived.

What else we'll be watching:

No. 11 Morehouse vs. West Florida (Dec. 8), The Las Vegas Hoopla - No. 8 West Texas A&M, No. 19 Indianapolis, Washburn, St. Edward's, Pittsburg State, and Embry-Riddle (Dec. 17-18), No. 14 Barton vs. Virginia State (Dec. 31)

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