Spring is in the air. The ping of the bat on the DII baseball diamond and angry screams as brackets are busted on the DII college basketball court are some of the familiar sounds. It's tournament time in DII, but with the added bonus of spring football, soccer and volleyball, this 2021 spring season has been anything but familiar.
Don't forget, we had some national champions crowned as well. Ashland won the men's indoor track and field title while Grand Valley State took home the women's. St. Cloud State won its third-straight wrestling team title.
Oh yeah, and Tiffin happened.
Let's take a look around the men's and women's brackets, as well as our regularly scheduled trip around the horn to check in on DII baseball. Oh, and Rogan Wells was very Rogan Wells this past weekend on the DII football field.
Buckle up, DII fans. This week's DII Report is coming at you.
10 early thoughts from the DII men's and women's basketball championships
The mayhem of March began last weekend in some wild conference tournaments. Thrilling finishes opened the door for some unexpected teams which took that momentum and didn't slow down one bit. As the women head to the regional finals and men begin Round 2, let's take a look at 10 things that stood out so far in both tourneys.
1. How about the Tiffin women's basketball team? Talk about a March run. The Dragons swept through the G-MAC tournament, winning three-straight upsets to clinch their first-ever trip to the tournament. They have yet to relent, posting back-to-back upsets on their way to the Atlantic region finals. The Dragons upset Kentucky Wesleyan in the first round before an unbelievable fourth-quarter, 18-point comeback against No. 2 Glenville State ended with the game-winner from Aarion Nichols as time expired. Tiffin will play Charleston (WV) for a chance to go to the Elite Eight next.
2. Speaking of the unbelievable, have you seen Roberts Wesleyan women's team? The Redhawks first beat a very good Daemen team to win their first-ever ECC title and advance to the tournament for the first time in program history. The Redhawks continue to roll, first upsetting American International and its No. 2-ranked scoring defense and then the unthinkable: a dramatic come-from-behind, double-overtime victory over No. 1 seeded Dominican (NY). That sets up a rematch of the ECC title game in the East region finals.
3. Only one No. 1 seed has played thus far in the men's bracket, and that No. 1 is no more. Northwest Nazarene, who thumped a very good Point Loma team by 12 points on Friday, rolled No. 1 Colorado Mesa by 20 on Saturday, 74-54. This one was never in doubt as the Nighthawks led the whole way. Ezekiel Alley has been scorching hot, scoring 20 and 30 points, respectively.
4. Ashland's women's team is in March form, despite entering the tourney in not-so-Ashland-March fashion. The Eagles were a five seed and first upset rival Grand Valley State before taking down No. 1 Michigan Tech 74-65. Trailing 17-14 after the first, Ashland erupted for a 23-9 second quarter and really never looked back. Annie Roshak has 44 points in the two victories.
5. Not to be outdone, the Ashland men's team upset No. 4 Wayne State (MI), 76-61. The Eagles made a miracle run from the last-ranked team in the final regional rankings to GLIAC tournament champs to earn the automatic bid. They stayed hot, as did GLIAC tourney MVP Brandon Haraway who had 13 points, six assists and four boards.
6. No. 5 West Georgia held off a ferocious comeback from No. 4 Valdosta State to move on the the second round of the men's tourney. A quick reminder: The Wolves were 3-6 at the end of January. They have lost once since Jan. 30 and that was to Valdosta State a week ago in the Gulf South tournament. Next up is a very solid Flagler team which also seems like it refuses to lose.
7. Cameron's women's team had some very impressive wins this season against ranked competition. That wasn't the case Saturday, where Lubbock Christian looked very much like the defending champs. The Lady Chaps rolled to a 96-66 victory behind Ashton Duncan's 22 points and Allie Schulte's 21.
8. While Central Missouri was the four seed, its win over No. 1 Fort Hays State was hardly an upset. These two teams know each other very well and are two of the very best in DII women's basketball. That said, it was a very impressive victory for the Jennies as four players reached double figures in the 72-68 win.
9. The Daemen women's basketball team made their very-long-awaited tournament debut. And it couldn't have gone better. After earning a bid and missing their chance to debut last year, the Wildcats pounced Georgian Court 73-54. Caroline White scored 20 points with nine rebounds, seven off the offensive glass, to lead the way.
10. Following Tiffin's lead, six seeds had a good weekend. Oklahoma Baptist men upset No. 3 Arkansas-Monticello in dominant fashion, winning 76-57. Nigel Wilcox led the way with a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Tusculum men upset No. 3 Carson-Newman, led by Trenton Gibson and his 22 points. Though they didn't advance to the regional finals in Round 2, No. 6 Catawba earned a first-round upset on the women's side as well.
And one last note. While we can't confirm it's happened before, we have a very unique rematch in the South Central. Due to the one-year conference realignment in the regions, we will have a rematch of the 2019 DII women's basketball championship game between No. 1-seeded Lubbock Christian and No. 2-seeded Southwestern Oklahoma State. Both teams looked very impressive in their victories and this should be another great finish as it was in 2019.
DII baseball round up: What impressed us this week
- Colorado Mesa's bats are in midseason form. Haydn McGeary, Matt Turner and Spencer Bramwell have combined for 15 home runs and 60 RBIs through nine games. I tried to calculate their combined OPS, but my calculator just said, 'WOW'. Andrew Morris has been impressive on the bump as well, striking out 29 in 14 innings so far. The Mavs are 8-1 heading into Sunday's matchup against Colorado School of Mines.
- The Mules are back on track, winners of their last seven after a bumpy start to the season. Central Missouri scored 33 runs in its three-game sweep of Fort Hays State. Ace Mason Green improved to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.49 in a Game 1 victory. First base/DH Garrett Pennington had a steady weekend: he had two RBI in each of the Mules' three wins.
- Okay, Barton, we see you. The Bulldogs took the first two games against a red-hot No. 2 Mount Olive, allowing just one run in each win. Alex Hart went the distance in Game 1, striking out nine while four pitchers combined for a one-hitter in Game 2.
- Lander baseball's Roury Glanton doubled his season home run total in one game. The left fielder slugged three home runs in a midweek victory, driving in four. The very next day, Northeastern State's catcher, Brayden Rodden bashed three home runs in a victory over Newman.
- Lee started out red-hot this season, going 11-1 before dropping a slugfest 16-13 last Sunday. The Flames bounced back with a doubleheader sweep of Delta State on Saturday. Both victories were tightly-contested, with one run separating the two in each game. Logan Workman and Seth Konkel, who both pitched well on Saturday, have been very impressive thus far atop the rotation.
- Kyle Hentis is now 2-0 as Lindenwood improved to 8-0 on the season this past weekend. The Lions' ace has been very impressive thus far, allowing one run and striking out 17 in his first 15.2 innings. In fact, you have to go all the way back to May of 2019 for the last time Hentis picked up a loss for the Lions after finishing a perfect 4-0 when play stopped last year.
- Minnesota Crookston is scoring runs. A lot of runs as a matter of fact. The Golden Eagles moved to 4-0 this past week, cranking six home runs and scoring 17 runs in a midweek victory. On the season, they have crushed 16 home runs and scored 65 runs. Brock Reller is very hot right now, homering in every game, including a pair of two-home run performances.
- If Shorter's Tony Boisclair isn't on your radar, he should be. The senior, right-handed pitcher now has an ERA of 2.50 and a 0.81 WHIP, but it's his strikeout rate that leaves you in awe. After nine strikeouts in his most recent start this weekend, he now has 58 strikeouts in 39.1 innings. Fueled by a pair of 15-strikeout performances, Boisclair is striking out 13.4 batters per nine, while walking just seven this year.
DII football by the numbers: Stats that stood out
2 — Overtimes it took for Mike Jacobs to earn the win in his debut as Lenoir-Rhyne's head coach. The Bears downed Newberry 27-20. Two is also the number of defensive touchdowns scored, one on a blocked punt and the other on a pick-six. Bears' freshman running back Dwayne McGee was also impressive in his DII debut, rushing for 160 yards.
3-0 — Texas-Permian Basin is off to a perfect start this spring season. The Falcons took down Western New Mexico this past weekend 31-6 to grab their third win and best start in program history.
4 — Number of players who had four touchdowns this weekend. Rogan Wells' Tusculum debut was spoiled by Newberry last week, holding the star quarterback in check. Mars Hill wasn't as successful this past weekend: Wells threw for 308 yards, those four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 58-20 victory. West Virginia State's Dant'e Jones did it in the Jackets 38-13 win. Jones ran three in and caught another on the day. Quarterback Josh Jones was impressive in UNC Pembroke's opening day, 30-7 victory over Glenville State. Jones had a huge day, completing 26 of 32 passes for 350 yards and those four touchdowns. And let's not forget Findlay's Matt Winzeler, who threw for 259 yards and four touchdowns in the Oilers impressive 45-24 victory over Hillsdale.
4 (Part II) — Overtimes needed for Carson-Newman to defeat Virginia-Wise 40-37 on Saturday. Freshman kicker Christian Erwin was the hero for the Eagles, scoring the last 12 points of the game, connecting on four huge field goals including the 43-yard game-winner.
7 — Receptions that Mars Hill's receiving duo turned into 241 yards. Marquis Williams had a 63-yard catch and a 75-yard touchdown reception, while CJ Thompson pulled in 103 yards and tossed the aforementioned 63-yard completion to Williams.
70 — Points Notre Dame (OH) put up in securing rookie head coach Mickey Mental's first victory. Former Virginia Union star running back Tabyus Taylor erupted for 107 yards and three touchdowns in his Falcons debut, while Chris Brimm threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
217 — Yards receiving by Erskine's Senika McKie on 14 receptions in a loss to Shorter on Saturday. The Hawks running back, Jaiden Dollard, had an impressive day himself in the 24-13 victory, totaling 219 yards and three touchdowns. It was Shorter's first win since 2015.
373 — Total yards by Tiffin quarterback Nick Watson in his 2021 debut. The star QB threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns while running for 71 yards and another touchdown to account for all the scoring in the Dragons 21-14 victory over Walsh.