The DII men's basketball tournament is quickly approaching. It's time to keep an eye on some teams that may be ready to surprise a few people come March. Here are five squads currently outside the top 25 whose sleeper status is ready to wake up.
ICYMI - a wild finish gave #17/RV @DaemenMBB an 82-79 overtime win over #11/#12 St. Thomas Aquinas in a matchup of the top 2 ranked teams in the @NCAADII East Region. Here's the highlights... pic.twitter.com/9XThFO83Sq— Daemen Wildcats (@DaemenAthletics) January 26, 2019
The Wildcats were a 22-win team last season but missed the NCAA tournament after losing in the ECC semifinals. Now they are tied atop the conference with an 8-1 record. Daemen has done it with signature wins as well, defeating then-No. 4 Saint Anselm on Jan. 2 and No. 11 St. Thomas Aquinas on Jan. 25. The Wildcats have some significant losses as well, most notably to St. Edward’s and Molloy, but are trending in the right direction. Andrew Sischo is playing like the best center in DII men’s basketball, and if he continues to dominate the paint, the Wildcats are in good shape.
Francis Marion (13-3)
The Patriots made the NCAA tournament in 2018, bowing out in the first round to UNC Pembroke. This season, Francis Marion is led by the Peach Belt’s top scorer, Brandon Parker, and has a huge win against conference-leading USC Aiken. That 99-92 victory on Jan. 9 was when the Pacers were both in the top 5 and undefeated, showing the Patriots are ready to hang with anyone.
Missouri-St. Louis (15-4)
The Tritons are a 15-win team after winning 14 all of last season. So, what’s the difference? The emergence of Johnathan Matthews as a reliable scorer, especially from 3 where he is shooting 42 percent compared to 35 percent last season. UMSL has won five of its last six, including a big win over a Southern Indiana team it is tied with in the GLVC.
Northwest Nazarene (13-3)
The Nighthawks are winners of seven of their last eight, including a big win over a 14-5 Western Oregon team they were tied with in the GNAC standings. Perhaps, it’s one of NNU’s three losses that stands out, losing to No. 16 St. Martin’s by just two points, playing the Saints very tough right to the final whistle. This is a team that has already matched its win total from last season. With a pair of big-time scorers in Adonis Arms (21.4 points per game) and Obi Megwa (17.9 points per game), you can be sure the Feb. 28 rematch at home will be a good one.
Lincoln Memorial (14-4)
Is it possible that the team that finished No. 1 last season can be a sleeper heading into this year's tournament? The Railsplitters had a new-look starting five this season after losing three players that appeared on the Bevo Francis watchlist, including 2018 award-winner Emanuel Terry. They stumbled out of the gates, starting the season 1-2, with both losses coming against solid squads. An adjustment period had to be expected, and the Railsplitters have gone 13-2 since. Lincoln Memorial has to show it can beat their SAC rival Queens (NC) after an early season blowout loss, and they will have that opportunity Feb. 2.