Welcome to the DII college basketball end-of-year extravaganza. We finally have two new national champions, which just so happen to be the old national champions.
In a year of so much weirdness, at least the Northwest Missouri State men's team and Lubbock Christian Lady Chaps gave us a little normalcy.
I will take a look back at nine impressive takeaways from the championship runs, as well as run down the final DII men's and women's Power 10 rankings. But first, be sure to recap the thrilling moments from the men's tournament right here and women's tournament right here.
And don't worry, you DII fanatics. We'll take a super quick look around the DII baseball diamond and some crazy numbers from the DII football field as well. It's all right here in this week's DII Report.
Final DII college basketball Power 10 rankings
We made it, fans. A season like no other, but we were able to get through a condensed tournament and crown some national champions. Let's take a look at the final top 10 rankings for both the men's and women's teams.
As a reminder, these are my rankings. And please note, making the Elite Eight does not necessarily get a team ranked higher than others, but we'll get to that in a bit... and I'm sure you'll yell at me.
Final men's Power 10:
1. Northwest Missouri State: Really? You need an explanation here? Okay, how's this: three losses the past three years and two national championships. As of this writing, the entire starting five will be back.
2. West Texas A&M: The Buffs won a thriller in the semifinals, and lost to Northwest Missouri State in the finals by 26. Those Bearcats were a steamroller though, and that loss doesn't take a single thing away from this team's ranking. Qua Grant and Joel Murray are two of the very best in the game.
3. Northern State: See my note above. I don't care one iota that the Wolves weren't in the Elite Eight. That game against the Bearcats was one of the best of the past decade and that squad was as good as any in the nation. They proved it time and again.
4. Lincoln Memorial: Things will be different next year, but I'm glad the Railsplitters got to put on a show this season one last time under head coach Josh Schertz, who is now heading to Indiana State. They had a real chance to go the distance in last year's early ending season and showed this year that it was no fluke.
5. Flagler: I'm impressed. I was admittedly the low man on Flagler all year, keeping them out of the Power 10 too often, and for that I was wrong. This team didn't relent from opening tip to the Elite Eight. Not only did the Saints make the first Elite Eight in program history, they picked up a win there over a very strong Truman team. Jaizec Lottie was one of — if not the — breakout star of 2021.
6. West Liberty: Yep, I was super high on the Hilltoppers in the preseason, and I still am in March. This team took down No. 15 Charleston (WV) and then No. 9 Hillsdale by a combined 34 points (that's 17 points a game, folks) to advance to the Elite Eight. Sure, they got beat pretty big by Northwest Missouri State to end the season, but who didn't?
7. Truman: A one-point loss to our No. 5 team in the Elite Eight tells you all you need to know about the Bulldogs. This team was deep, as all five starters finished the season averaging double-digits in scoring. It was Truman's first trip to the Elite Eight this millennium, another testament to its strong season.
8. Colorado School of Mines: That defense was so good all year until it ran into Lincoln Memorial in the Elite Eight. But to be fair, the Railsplitters offense was one of the best in the nation. Mines had three losses all year and they were to top-five nationally ranked teams. That's not too shabby.
9. Daemen: The Wildcats finally overcame St. Thomas Aquinas in a thriller and Andrew Sischo finally got a chance to play in the Elite Eight. Despite a 16-point loss to West Texas A&M in the Elite Eight, the elite big man put an exclamation point on an outstanding career with a 29-point, 16-rebound performance.
10. Hillsdale: I was very high on Mercyhurst all season long, and the Chargers broke down one of the nation's best defenses in an impressive 19-point, second-round victory. This team was deep and played very well on both ends of the floor. Their season fell just short of the Elite Eight, but are worthy of the top-10 ranking.
Final women's Power 10:
1. Lubbock Christian: The Lady Chaps are simply remarkable. They just keep rolling along, posting an undefeated run to another national title. It doesn't matter who's back next year, Steve Gomez has created the DII benchmark program and the Lady Chaps will be a threat once again.
2. Drury: What can you say about the Lady Panthers? New coach, new star player, same results. Can a team be a dynasty without winning a national title? That's a tough answer, but Drury has certainly made a case with just three losses and two trips to at least the national semifinals in the past three seasons.
3. Central Missouri: I had the Jennies in and out of the Power 10 all season, and they showed us why when it mattered most. I've said it a bunch of times, MIAA women's basketball is incredibly deep with some of the best teams in the nation beating up on each other regularly. You need to throw out the record and look at the end result: Ranked No. 20 by the WBCA, the Jennies took down the No. 9, No. 10 and No. 14-ranked team to get to the semifinals.
4. Lander: This team was impressive from start to finish. Having to play North Georgia three times in a season speaks to that. The Bearcats avenged the PBC championship game loss with a 67-48 victory in the South Region final against their conference rival. Zamiya Passmore and Makaila Cange played at an elite level all season.
5. Charleston (WV): The Golden Eagles were sure fun to watch this year. Brooklyn Pannell and Erykah Russell put on a show every night. They opened the season with a program-record 13-game winning streak and became the first Mountain East team in its history, albeit brief, to represent the conference in the Elite Eight. That's a heck of a season right there.
6. Daemen: On the DII women's basketball selection show, I said that despite being seeded No. 2 in the region, it was the Wildcats' to lose. Since they came through, it merits them the No. 6 ranking in the final Power 10. The Wildcats were the first ECC team since 2017 and just fourth ever to make the Elite Eight and like their male counterparts, it was the first appearance in program history.
7. North Georgia: Like Northern State, the Nighthawks were victims of circumstance. Not making the Elite Eight was not any indication on their team, it just so happened that two of the very best teams in DII played in the same region. PBC freshman of the year Caroline Martin has North Georgia poised for a possible redemption tour in 2022.
8. Fort Hays State: The Tigers won the MIAA, and you already know my thoughts on that conference in women's basketball. Only one of four outstanding teams and two very good ones were going to make it to the Elite Eight in its region, so Fort Hays State's ultimate success cannot be judged by how far it went. Jaden Hobbs led a solid squad all season that was a tough out every time it stepped on the court.
9. Belmont Abbey: The Crusaders finally captured that Conference Carolina's title after falling just short the past few seasons and locked up a bid to the tournament. From there, they rolled to the Elite Eight on the heels of two double-digit victories. Maria Kuhlman, Brittany Autry and Allie Downing were a sensational "Big Three" all season long.
10. Azusa Pacific: This was a tough one, as Nebraska-Kearney and Minnesota Duluth were very deserving and I flip-flopped both in and out. But the Cougars took out undefeated Hawaii Pacific in the first round before dispatching Westminster (UT) in the West Region final. That earned them their second straight trip to the Elite Eight despite having a very different team. To me, that's just a sign of a powerhouse and earns them the final spot in 2021.
9 takeaways from the DII college basketball tournaments
1. A year like no other ends the same in DII men's basketball. The Northwest Missouri State Bearcats rolled to their second straight title. If you want to know how impressive that is, it is the first program to do so since Cal State Bakersfield in 1993-94. This current run has been duplicated by few at ay level, with three titles in the past four tries.
2. The same can be said for Lubbock Christian, which won its second straight title on the women's side. Where do we start with the list of impressiveness by the Lady Chaps?
- Since becoming a DII-eligible institution in 2016, LCU has won three of the last five tournaments played.
- There have been five undefeated champions in the entire history of DII women's basketball, and Lubbock Christian is now two of them... again, in five years of existence at the DII level.
- Th Lady Chaps were Lone Star Conference champions last year and the No. 1 seed in the South Central when play was cancelled. We can only wonder what was missed there.
3. The Daemen Wildcats were the only program represented on both the men's and women's side of the Elite Eight bracket. It was the first appearance for each. That is the feel-good story we needed in a year like this. Lubbock Christian fell just short as the men's team lost in the South Central final to West Texas A&M.
4. West Texas A&M made its third straight trip to the Elite Eight and if Qua Grant and Joel Murray are back next year, there's little reason the Buffs won't contend for a fourth. Zach Toussaint provided the most memorable moment of the Elite Eight with his first made basket of the semifinals win.
5. Trevor Hudgins gets a lot of love for the Bearcats and rightfully so, but this is a Ryan Hawkins appreciation post. The big man averaged 27.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in the Elite Eight, including posting a double-double in the first half of the championship game. It's safe to say the Bearcats were thrilled to hear he has decided to return for another season.
6. Due to the one-year regional realignment, we were treated to a rematch of the 2019 championship game in the South Central regional final. That's a feat unique in itself, and with things hopefully back to a normal world next March, likely won't ever happen again. As it was in '19, Lubbock Christian defeated Southwestern Oklahoma State, except this time, it didn't need two overtimes to do so.
7. This was a lesson that should have been learned long ago — never count Ashland out in March. A very new-look women's Eagles team that dominated DII women's hoops for a few years was a seven-loss squad that naturally found their way to the GLIAC finals. Despite losing, the Eagles earned an at-large bid and then upset No. 4 Grand Valley State and then No. 1 Michigan Tech before falling to Drury in the regional finals, falling one game short of yet another Elite Eight appearance.
8. It was a tough year to be a No. 1 seed, but wasn't that kind of expected in a year of so much uncertainty? Just three made it to the Elite Eight on both the men's (West Texas A&M, Flagler and Truman) and women's (Lubbock Christian, Charleston (WV) and Belmont Abbey) side. Seven No. 2 seeds advanced to the Elite Eight on the men's and women's brackets. On the flip side, nary a No. 5 or 6 seed made the Elite Eight, with not a single six seed appearing in a regional final.
9. There were 48 teams in each bracket for a total of 96 teams. I think I am joined by many in saying that we hope to never see such a small field again, but are grateful to every one of them for following protocols and making this thing a reality. It sure was a long time coming.
Around the horn — DII baseball style
This is going to be a very brief week, but the big news is with the DII men's and women's basketball season in the books, we can officially welcome the first DII baseball Power 10 of the season next week. NCAA.com's own Brenden Welper will be taking on the DII softball Power 10 this season, so get ready for those as well.
As a refresher course, you can check out our full preseason top 25 by clicking here, or watching the breakdown with NCAA.com's Michella Chester below.
Now, a few quick highlights:
- Missouri Southern's Tommy Stevenson set a program record with six hits in Game 2 of a double-header on Saturday. Two were doubles, one was a home run and the catcher drove in six.
- Augustana (SD)'s Tanner Brown tossed a perfect game on Saturday. Brown struck out 11 in recording the Vikings second perfect game in program history, the first coming back in 2000.
- West Georgia's Dan Oberst joined the three-home run club on March 24, now the eighth player in DII to do so in 2021. He drove in six on the day.
- How about Joshua Goldstein's Opening Day for Southern New Hampshire? The Penmen finally returned to the diamond and Goldstein swiped five stolen bases in the victory. That ties the highest single-game total of the season.
DII football by the numbers
Hooray for another week of DII football. Let's breakdown the weekend with some of the most impressive stats.
2 — Receiving touchdowns by Findlay's Marlin Richardson. The receiver had a big day, reeling in 129 yards on five receptions as the Oilers scoring machine continues to roll. Fort Valley State's Shemar Bridges only had one touchdown, but put up an impressive 158 yards in a victory over Shorter.
4 — Rushing touchdowns by Tiffin's Marcus Davis as the Dragons improved to 2-0 on the season.
5 — Wins Texas-Permian Basin recorded to conclude its spring football slate. More impressively, the Falcons had no losses, their first perfect run ever. How did they do it? How about by going for two in overtime to seal the deal?
Relive the excitement of the touchdown in overtime and the 2-point conversion to seal an undefeated spring for @UTPBFootball. The Falcons finished the spring 5-0 in their fifth season and now won 6 straight overall! pic.twitter.com/4JOXOFN42J— UTPB Athletics (@utpbfalcons) March 28, 2021
43.5 — Charleston (WV)'s average points per game. The Golden Knights improved to 2-0 with a 42-24 victory on Saturday.
417 — Yards put up by Rogan Wells as Tusculum rolled to its second-straight W. He also threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another. He was one of a few quarterbacks to have monster days on Saturday:
- Tim Heltzel, Glenville State — 352 yards, 3 touchdowns
- Jack Mangel, Concord — 310 yards, 5 touchdowns
- Josh Jones, Charleston — 316 yards, 2 touchdowns