Northwest Missouri State opens the DII men's basketball season Nov. 1 in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. Point guard Trevor Hudgins will lead the Bearcats, along with several others that could be in the conversation for national player of the year come March.
Let's take a look at a few players — in alphabetical order — we consider preseason player of the year candidates.
Xzavier Barmore, USC Aiken
Barmore had a big season for the Pacers, shining on the biggest stage by setting the Peach Belt Conference tournament assist record. He will set the tone for USC Aiken, showing he's not afraid to shoot after scoring 18.5 points per game in 2019.
Dalton Bolon, West Liberty
Bolon has been on our radar since his MEC freshman of the year season and continues to impress every year. He is a sharpshooter with 199 3-pointers over his first two seasons. Last season, he scored 20.7 points per game while ripping down 6.4 boards as one of the most consistent players in DII basketball.
Daniel Carr, Queens (NC)
It seems the Royals always have a player-of-the-year contender. From Todd Withers to Shaun Willett, it's now Carr's turn to take the helm and lead Queens to the NCAA DII tournament, a place the Royals have become very familiar with in the Bart Lundy era. The senior guard has improved every season, coming off a career year in 2019 with 15.7 points, 4.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Chris Hansen, UC San Diego
The 6-7 senior center is already a Tritons legend, becoming the basketball program's first All-American last season. And deservedly so: Hansen had a career year with 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The Tritons are poised for a big season with plenty returning, and Hansen will be the force in the middle that takes them into March.
Brett Hanson, Florida Southern
Hanson was a leader for the Mocs in 2019, second on the team in scoring (17.9 points per game) while leading the team in rebounds (7.5) and steals (1.8). Hanson was the Sunshine State Conference tournament MVP, scoring 62 points in three games and leading the Mocs over Nova Southeastern in the championship game with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
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Josh Hawley, Tarleton State
Hawley jumped onto our radar in last year's SCB Hall of Fame Classic, when he turned in one of the most impressive performances of the weekend, putting up a double-double in both games. He never relented, earning Lone Star Conference defensive player-of-the-year honors while honing his offensive game with a career-high 17.3 points per game. We expect big things from Tarleton State in 2019-20, and Hawley is a big reason why.
Trevor Hudgins, Northwest Missouri State
If you weren't impressed by his DII men's basketball championship Most Outstanding Player performance in last year's Elite Eight, maybe his exhibition game against Duke wowed you. Hudgins led his Bearcats into Cameron Indoor Stadium, where they lost to the Blue Devils by a mere six points. Hudgins led all scorers in the game with 27 points.
Cam Martin, Missouri Southern
Martin is as strong an early pick for player of the year as any and the reason I ranked Missouri Southern No. 6 in my preseason rankings. Martin had a great campaign, averaging 22.5 points and 9.7 rebounds. His 46-point performance in the first round of the NCAA DII tournament showed he loves the big stage and could make the Lions the biggest threat to the Bearcats this season.
Mark Matthews, Nova Southeastern
Talk about some big shoes to fill. Matthews takes the reins from David Dennis as the leader of the Sharks. This is a program that has gone from an afterthought to a threat for the title in two years of the Jim Crutchfield era. Matthews led the team in both points (20.6) and rebounds (9.6) per game and will be the driving force if the Sharks find themselves back in the Elite Eight for the second year in a row.
Selom Mawugbe, Azusa Pacific
There's quite a bit of hype surrounding the Cougars in 2019 with the return of six starters. Mawugbe brought a solid all-around game to the court every night, averaging 11.8 points while leading the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Azusa Pacific won just 20 games last year, but if the Cougars take the next step forward, it will be because of Mawugbe.
Malik Miller, Indiana (Pa)
The Crimson Hawks lost a lot, but one of the big pieces returning is their senior guard. Miller has improved in each of his three years playing behind Jacobo Diaz and Dante Lombardi and now gets to shine as IUP's star. Miller scored 16.4 points per game last year while totaling 145 rebounds and 106 assists.
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Drew Noble, Ashland
There are big expectations in Ashland this year and the Eagles' big man will be a large part of that success. The 6-8, 230-pound center is a force inside for Ashland, coming off a career year in which he scored 17.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. The GLIAC took notice as well, naming Noble the preseason player of the year.
Andrew Sischo, Daemen
Sischo was a regular on our monthly All-Stats Starting 5 teams, consistently piling up big numbers on a weekly basis in 2019. The East Coast Conference player of the year remained on the Bevo Francis watchlist all season long. He averaged 20.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Wildcats in their run to their first-ever NCAA DII tournament appearance. If they want to return, it will be behind another big season from Sischo.
Ashton Spears, St. Edward's
Spears had a highly-decorated debut with the Hilltoppers, winning the Heartland Conference player and newcomer of the year while taking home tournament MVP honors. He led St. Edward's with 19 points per game and 84 steals while draining 98 3s. The Hilltoppers return quite a bit of firepower for their first run through the Lone Star Conference, but Spears will lead the way.
Ben Weyer, Bellarmine
The Knights may actually have two player-of-the-year candidates in Alex Cook and Weyer, but we're choosing the senior forward after starting in all 32 games for Bellarmine last year. With the departure of Adam Eberhard and Chivarsky Corbett, it's Weyer's turn to step into the spotlight. He finished with 11.5 points per game last year and 156 rebounds.
Who else we're watching:
- Kevin Buckingham, Southeastern Oklahoma State
- Jhonathan Dunn, Southern Nazarene
- Avery Hudson, Davenport