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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | November 23, 2020

The DII Report: 11 players to watch as DII college basketball returns

Washburn sinks Fort Hays State at the buzzer on DII college basketball opening night

As one season begins, another ends. The DII football fall season came to an end Saturday with a Pittsburg State victory over West Texas A&M, but the DII college basketball season is alive and well. DII men's and women's basketball teams tipped off in both the MIAA and South Atlantic Conference, and the consensus No. 1, Northwest Missouri Bearcats are off to a perfect start.

RANKINGS: NCAA.com Preseason Power 10 | NABC reaction

Are you ready, DII sports fans? The GLVC is among a few new conferences that begin their DII college basketball seasons this week. It's time for another look back and peek ahead, in this week's DII Report. 

11 players to watch in DII men's basketball

Last week, I presented my preseason Power 10 and those teams that just missed. This week, let's take a look at some of the names you should expect to see on the Bevo Francis watchlist and contend for player of the year.

Let's keep in mind, things are quickly evolving during this odd year of 2020. Since last week's Power 10, several GNAC teams have opted out of the 2020-21 season, while the PSAC has officially canceled its season. Some of these players won't get started until January, which of course, could also change. So this list comes with two stipulations:

  • As of this writing (November 22), these are only players that are scheduled to play this season, or in the MIAA and SAC's case, already have. As a shoutout, Indiana (Pa)'s Armoni Foster was on my original list.
  • I only picked one student-athlete per team. Some of these players have some stiff competition from their own teammates, in which case, I've noted those also in consideration.

Dalton Bolon, West Liberty: West Liberty has averaged 102.8 points per game over the past three seasons, and Bolon has led the charge, scoring 1,757 points over that span. Ben Howlett's teams simply score points, and if Bolon is healthy, he's a surefire All-American. He's not a one-trick pony either, putting up 12 double-doubles last season.
Other Hilltoppers considered: Pat Robinson III, Will Yoakum

Dale Bonner, Fairmont State: The Falcons have some nice sleeper appeal this season and Bonner should lead the way. He led the team in scoring and assists as a freshman and finished second in rebounds. The Falcons return all four leading scorers, so Bonner should be even more comfortable in his sophomore campaign.

Parker Fox, Northern State: Fox redshirted his freshman season, the last time Northern State found its way to the national championship game. He excelled off the bench in his second year and shined as a starter last year. Now the junior is poised to lead a slew of returners to the top of the NSIC and has the talent to average a double-double nightly.

Qua Grant, West Texas A&M: This was tough because he and Joel Murray are a coin flip. Grant gets the nod after leading the team in scoring, rebounding and steals last season. Grant has been electric since he was a freshman and the Buffs in the Elite Eight have been about as sure a thing as paying taxes. Expect more great things in his junior season.
Other Buff considered: Joel Murray

Cameron Henry, Lincoln Memorial: Henry had to shoulder the load as the only returning starter in the lineup in the Railsplitters' season opener Saturday. He answered the call scoring 21 points (he only scored 20-plus points three times last season), five rebounds, two assists and four steals. Henry has gotten better in each of his first two seasons and is poised to explode as one of the leaders of this team.
Other Railsplitter considered: Devin Whitfield

Jalyn Hinton, Florida Southern: Hinton's numbers last year were dazzling, with 15.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 3.4 blocks per game totals. He should be among the best defenders in the Sunshine State Conference and could be an even bigger scorer with Brett Hanson no longer in Lakeland. 

Trevor Hudgins, Northwest Missouri State: The Bearcats have lost one game since Hudgins took over at point guard in Maryville. He's been the MIAA player of the year, the MIAA freshman of the year and the DII Men's Elite Eight Most Outstanding Player. He's a great shooter from the floor, beyond the arc and at the line and drives the Bearcats engine. He should add more hardware to the trophy case this year.
Other Bearcats considered: Diego Bernard, Ryan Hawkins

Emmanuel Little, Southern Indiana: I am super high on Southern Indiana this year and Little is a big reason why. Little led the Screaming Eagles in both points and rebounds last year and should be able to pace the squad again. Having the top three scorers return to the lineup makes it hard for defenses to take Little out of the game and it wouldn't be surprising to see him average a double-double this season.

Cam Martin, Missouri Southern: Martin has played in two games this season and has two double-doubles. He scored his 1,500th career point on Saturday. Simply put, Martin is and has been one of the best in DII for the past couple of years and it doesn't seem like he's close to slowing down. Expect to see Martin near the top of both the scoring and rebounding leaders this year. 

Shadeed Shabazz, Alaska Fairbanks: The GNAC is going to have an odd look to it this year with only four teams playing, but the Nanooks and their star scorer are among those that are. Check this out: not only is Shabazz the top returning scorer in DII basketball, but he was also his conference's defensive player of the year as well, leading DII in steals. He averaged 26.6 points last year in setting the GNAC scoring record. He has a real chance to lead the entire division this year.

Andrew Sischo, Daemen: Sischo sometimes flies under the radar playing for Daemen, but make no mistake: He's been the best center in DII men's basketball for two years running. He's a two-time conference player of the year and has averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the past two seasons. If he can lead Daemen on a deep run, there could easily be a player of the year award in his future.

I'm also watching: Miles Belyeu, Saginaw Valley State; Adam Dworsky, Southeastern State; RJ Gunn, Lenoir-Rhyne; Brendan Sullivan, Colorado School of Mines; Sekou Sylla, Nova Southeastern; Jake Van Tubbergen, Grand Valley State.

DII basketball hits the hardwood: The week that was and what's ahead

Preseason Power 10 teams impress
Three teams from the men's preseason Power 10 took the floor on opening weekend and all three remained perfect. No. 1 Northwest Missouri State got a scare from Rogers State, trailing at the half before pulling away for the 86-78 victory. No. 4 Lincoln Memorial cruised to an 18-point victory over Newberry while No. 9 Missouri Southern won a pair of tight matchups to start off 2-0 on the season.

MIAA and SAC women's basketball underway
Two games in and Central Oklahoma's Kelsey Johnson has two double-doubles. The senior forward averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds over her first week and put herself on the radar for MIAA player of the year honors right out of the gate. The Bronchos are one of three women's teams to open the year 2-0 in the MIAA. Nebraska-Kearney and Northeastern State join Central Oklahoma at a perfect 2-0. 

The SAC opened with just three games played amid a few cancellations on Saturday, but there were some good games played. Tusculum took down Wingate 63-52 in a game that saw a pair of double-doubles on each side. Wingate's Harleigh Hatfield went for 13 points and 15 boards while the Pioneers Maddie Sutton scored 15 points with 11 rebounds. Aliyah Miller chipped in 23 points in the victory. Those three certainly have my attention in top players of the conference conversation.

A pair of other players stood out as well. Courtney Virgo posted a double-double in Newberry's loss to Lincoln Memorial. Anderson (SC)'s center Taylor Hair scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

There were more interesting numbers from opening weekend on both the DII men's and women's basketball courts. Our own Zach Pekale took a look at seven that caught his attention.

What we're excited to watch: GLVC set to tip-off this week
Last week in the preseason Power 10, I mentioned the Great Lakes Valley Conference may be the most fun to watch. We'll find out this week as the conference joins the 2020-21 season with its opening tip. 

Missouri-St. Louis was the first out of the Power 10 coming off a record-setting season. The Tritons improved by seven games for a program-best 27-win season in 2020, earning a bid to the DII men's basketball tournament for the first time in 32 years. They will open against a Drury team that could be under the radar. The last time these two met was in the GLVC tournament where the Tritons ended the Panthers' season in a tightly-contested 53-51 battle.

Southern Indiana was also in the top 25 and I've already spoken of its sleeper appeal. Indianapolis and Truman also both earned votes in the NABC preseason poll. Both of these teams are real contenders. We'll be treated to a huge game right out of the gates as the two heavyweights meet Sunday, November 27. 

There is a new era beginning in Drury women's basketball. Gone is Molly Miller, one of the winningest coaches across all levels of college basketball, along with several players that helped lead the Panthers to a 128-8 record over the last four seasons. That said, this team is very talented and new head coach Amy Eagan was Miller's assistant. Expect the Panthers to contend for the conference crown once again. 

But wait, there's more
Several teams from the RMAC get underway this week. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait just a little longer for the Colorado School of Mines men's team to tip-off next week. The Orediggers have a slew of returners and could make a lot of noise this season. 

Kentucky Wesleyan and Limestone are among a few DII teams challenging DI this coming week. Limestone has a swing through the CAA against James Madison and College of Charleston, while Kentucky Wesleyan heads to Murray State.

You can follow all the week's action on our scoreboard

The DII football fall season ends with a Pittsburg State victory

While the DII football season had an odd look to it, at least there was something familiar in the final game of the season. Pittsburg State — which has more wins than any other DII football program — ended with another win.

The Gorillas added to their DII football record win total in the DII football fall finale on Saturday. It was a shootout in Canyon, Texas as Pittsburg State jumped out to a 28-21 lead in the first half and held on for the 42-28 win over West Texas A&M. 

There were plenty of yards gained on Saturday as both teams combined for 1019 yards. Both quarterbacks had strong days. The Gorillas' Mak Sexton threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns and the Buffs' Nick Gerber put up 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns of his own.

Here are how the 10 DII football teams which played fall ball fared in 2020:

Team Conference* Record
Angelo State LSC 2-2
West Texas A&M LSC 3-3
Missouri Western MIAA 0-2
Nebraska-Kearney MIAA 2-0
Pittsburg State MIAA 2-2
Black Hills State RMAC 0-2
Chadron State  RMAC 2-2
Colorado Mesa RMAC 2-1
South Dakota Mines RMAC 2-2
Western Colorado RMAC 0-1

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