After an extended break, Division II basketball is back with the return of the NABC Coaches poll. Did you miss us? The wait for the return of basketball has been long enough, so I won’t keep you from the preseason rankings any longer. Let’s get into it.
Bearcats on top
Northwest Missouri State will start the new season right where it finished the previous one: In the driver’s seat of DII men’s basketball. The Bearcats were unanimously named No. 1. The pandemic halted NWMSU's 23-game 2019-20 winning streak and kept it from potentially winning back-to-back NCAA championships, but head coach Ben McCollum’s team has Trevor Hudgins, Diego Bernard and Ryan Hawkins back for another run at a title. They've lost only one game total the last two seasons.
The rest of the best (Nos. 2-10)
Lincoln Memorial and West Texas A&M each had a case for the top three as the Buffs and Railsplitters were two of three DII teams not named NWMSU with only one loss at the end of last season. The Railsplitters check in at No. 2 with Cameron Henry and Devin Whitfield back and the team on a 32-game winning streak, the longest active stretch in DII. West Texas A&M is only a point behind at No. 3 and was the only team to beat Lincoln Memorial last year, getting a combined 50 points from Qua Grant and Joel Murray in an opening night win.
Indiana (Pa.) and Florida Southern close out the top 5. The Crimson Hawks were 28-2 a year ago and return four starters, led by potential PSAC Player of the Year candidate Armoni Foster. The Mocs got the nod at five over fellow Sunshine State Conference team Nova Southeastern. SSC Defensive Player of the Year Jalyn Hinton will lead FSC after averaging close to a double-double in 2019.
Nova Southeastern will start the year sixth, bringing back four starters, though head coach Jim Crutchfield will need to find a new go-to scorer with Mark Matthews gone. West Liberty, Northern State, Missouri-St.Louis and Queens (N.C.) close out the top 10. Of this year's preseason top 10, Nova and Queens took the biggest jumps, rising 14 and 13 spots from their final ranking in 2019.
There are six teams ranked today who did not crack the final top 25 last season. Here’s who they are and who just missed the cut to kick off 2020:
Colorado School of Mines, Augustana (SD), Fairmont State, Charleston (WV), Sioux Falls and Southern Indiana are your 2020 newcomers to the poll. Only Charleston received votes in the final poll of 2019. The Orediggers took the biggest jump of the six, going from unranked a year ago to starting at No. 13 this season.
Here's who dropped out from last year's final poll:
- UC San Diego – No. 4 (Moved to DI)
- Jefferson (Pa.) – No. 14
- UIndy – No. 15
- Rogers State (S.D.) – No. 18
- UNC Pembroke – No. 22
- Cal Poly Pomona – No. 25