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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | November 10, 2021

Northwest Missouri State opens No. 1 in the 2021-22 DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings

DII men's basketball predictions for the 2021-22 season

It has been seven months since Northwest Missouri State won its second national championship in as many tries. As the Bearcats prepare to open their title defense at the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 6, they enter the preseason DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings at No. 1 for the second consecutive season.

Since that 80-54 victory over West Texas A&M on March 27, the landscape of DII men’s basketball has changed — and quite significantly at that. Just look at those two teams: Ryan Hawkins is now at Creighton and both Qua Grant and Joel Murray have transferred to Division I. This top 10 was no easy task.

2020 RECAP: Northwest Missouri State repeats as DII champions

Now remember, these are my rankings, and mine alone. As with all my Power 10 rankings, we pair insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders with what the selection committee tends to look at come tournament time — strength of schedule, win-loss percentage and stats of that nature — to come up with a fair version of the top 10. You can expect the new Power 10 every Monday throughout the season.

DII men's basketball rankings: 2021-22 preseason Power 10

No. 1 Northwest Missouri State
Head coach Ben McCollum is 159-8 over the past five seasons with three national championships. Honestly, the conversation for preseason No. 1 can stop there, but the Bearcats once again return a dynamic bunch. Trevor Hudgins should vie for player of the year while Diego Bernard, Wes Dreamer and Luke Waters are all back in the rotation. Last year’s role players like Daniel Abreu and Byron Alexander should do just fine filling the void — albeit an extremely large one — that Hawkins leaves behind. The MIAA will be tough as always, but these Bearcats fear no one. 

POWER 10 RANKINGS: How the 2021 season ended

No. 2 Flagler
It’s the preseason, so while you may be saying to yourself this seems rather nutty to have the Saints this high… well, you may be right. Jaizec Lottie — who finished seventh in DII with 24.4 points per game last year — is a large reason why, but Chris Metzger, Derrick Ellis Jr. and Jalen Barr are all back in the starting rotation. Then you throw in transfers Curtis Lewis — coming off a Second Team All-GLVC season — and Kohl Roberts — who had a First-Team All-PBC season himself — and suddenly this team is six deep with scorers and rebounders.

No. 3 West Texas A&M
We’ve seen head coach Tom Brown lose star players before, and we’ll see him lose star players again. That’s because he’s made Canyon, Texas a breeding ground for DII superstars and he has plenty returning to fill the holes left behind by Murray and Grant. Zach Toussaint (10.0 points per game in 2021) is the main starter from the national runners-up appearance, but six others who made starts throughout the season are also back. The Buffs have three DI transfers, but Julius Brown coming over from Lincoln Memorial could prove to be huge. Brown scored 10.3 points per game for the Railsplitters while starting every game on their run to the national semifinals… which they lost to West Texas A&M. Talk about leaving an impression.

No. 4 Colorado Mesa
The Mavericks were the top team in the country heading into the DII men’s basketball championship. Seven of the top eight scorers from the 21-2 team return, including the top two in Ethan Menzies (15.9 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) and Georgie Dancer (12.6 points per game). Two Colorado transfers provide depth as well. Now, the RMAC and South Central region are no joke — we really like the Colorado School of Mines squad — but there is too much returning from a very strong team to not give Mesa its preseason due.

No. 5 Hillsdale
The Chargers were 21-3 last season and return 12 players from that squad. TWELVE. One of those is Patrick Cartier who already has a G-MAC freshman of the year (2019-20) and player of the year (2020-21) award to his name. He and Austen Yarian, who is also back, combined for 32.9 points and 12.7 rebounds per game last season. A trio of intriguing freshmen — Walt Mattingly, Henry Raynor and Joe Reuter — provide more depth.

No. 6 Nova Southeastern
The Sharks are the first of two teams to enter the top 10 with a ton of question marks. Nova Southeastern never took the court last season and will have a new look. But head coach Jim Crutchfield is plenty used to new looks and rarely struggles to have an offense that can hang with anyone in DII men’s hoops. Though their top scorer from 2019 is gone, the Sharks return a slew of their starters, including Nick Smith, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds last time he played.

No. 7 Indiana (PA)
The Crimson Hawks played last season, but it was a mere three games which did not qualify them for tournament play. That said, head coach Joe Lombardi is too successful to leave IUP off the list. When Armoni Foster is at his best, he is a player of the year candidate and Ethan Porterfield should be exciting coming off his 2019-20 PSAC freshman of the year campaign. Keep an eye on Tomiwa Sulaiman, who could challenge for the conference freshman of the year this season.

No. 8 Queens (NC)
The Royals return a ton of big-time talent, but perhaps none is larger than Kenny Dye. Dye is the motor that makes the Queens’ engine rev and when he’s at his best, the Royals are a force. Leading scorer Jamari Smith is back in Charlotte as is Gavin Rains, who put up averages of 11.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season. One transfer of interest that could prove to be a game changer: BJ McLaurin. Last time we saw McLaurin on the DII basketball court (2019-2020) he put up 16.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for Chowan.

No. 9 Truman
Last year the Bulldogs had five starters averaging more than 10 points per game. This year, four of them are back. Dylan Peeters was an absolute beast last year, averaging 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. GLVC player of the year Cade McKnight, GLVC freshman of the year Masen Miller and Elijah Hazekamp — who combined to chip in 52.1 of Truman’s 77.5 points per game last season — will join Peeters as they try to capture another GLVC regular-season crown and run to the DII Men’s Elite Eight.

No. 10 St. Thomas Aquinas
The Spartans had six players play regular minutes and average at least 6 points per game last season. Five of them are back, including both top scorers in Grant Singleton (17.2 points per game) and Osbel Caraballo (16.6 per game). But this team wasn’t all offense and was very good at stealing the ball while not turning it over in creating even more points. It’s simply not an NCAA DII men’s basketball tournament without STAC, and it once again looks postseason bound.

HISTORY: Every DII men's basketball champion

First five out (in alphabetical order)

Colorado School of Mines
The Orediggers and Mavericks should make the RMAC race fun to watch. Brendan Sullivan and Kobi Betts alone make this team a contender, but this Mines team returns 11 players from last year’s 18-3 squad.

Lincoln Memorial
The Railsplitters are just outside because there are so many question marks. Jeremiah Samarrippas takes over for legendary head coach Josh Schertz and three of the five top scorers — Devin Whitfield, Cam Henry and Julius Brown — are gone.  Still, there is quite a bit of experience in Jordan Guest and Alex Dahling, as well as incoming freshman Matthew Sells to remain hopeful for another strong Railsplitter season.

Northern State
The Wolves were decimated by transfers, but head coach Saul Phillips has created a powerhouse in Aberdeen, South Dakota. While like the Railsplitters the Wolves have a ton of questions to be answered, we have enough faith in Phillips to have a team ready to roll waiting in the wings.

Washburn
Tyler Geiman. Tyler Geiman. Tyler Geiman. The Ichabods' heart and soul is back in Topeka, Kansas for one more run. So are four starters from a team that beat Northwest Missouri State twice last season.

West Liberty
We thought Dalton Bolon would find a way to play forever, but alas, the sharpshooter is gone. Still, the Hilltoppers return their other four starters and Patrick Robinson and Will Yoakum play at an All-American level.

NEWS AND UPDATES: DII basketball central | The D2 Hub

Also considered (in alphabetical order)

  • Alabama Huntsville: Some pieces are gone, but Max Shulman returns to lead the charge in what should be a wild Gulf South Conference.
  • Belmont Abbey: The top six scorers return from last season's 18-5 Conference Carolinas champions. 
  • Charleston (WV): Eight of the Golden Eagles’ nine top scorers are back from a 14-3 season.
  • Daemen: Andrew Sischo has been the best big man in DII men's basketball for three seasons, and he will be again this season. 
  • DBU: Do not be surprised when this team cracks the top 10. With 10 returning starters, the Patriots are loaded.
  • Fairmont State: We were big fans of Dale Bonner, who is gone, but the Falcons return three of their top scorers and transfers Briggs Parris and Myles Monroe provide enough intrigue to have our attention.
  • Findlay: The Oilers return nine players and are a proven DII men’s basketball powerhouse. With all that experience, expect to see them contend.
  • Lubbock Christian: The Chaps are the third Lone Star Conference team on our list. There’s something brewing in the Texas basketball waters, but LCU is a contender in a fun conference.
  • Mercyhurst: The Lakers return three starters and three of their key reserves that fueled one of the best defenses in the nation last year.
  • Point Loma: Seven returners and a big transfer keep the Sea Lions in the mix as always.
  • Saint Anselm: The Hawks return to the court after a one-year hiatus. They had the best record in the NE10 last time they played.
  • Valdosta State: The Blazers return six key cogs for a program that has won five-consecutive GSC regular season championships and hold a 119-27 record over that span.
  • West Georgia: One of last year’s fun surprise stories returns their three top scorers and a slew of key role players for another run.

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