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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | November 12, 2021

7 storylines to watch as the DII college basketball regular season opens

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

While we have been teased with some very good DII college basketball preseason tournaments the past few weeks, the official start to the season is upon us. The weekend of Nov. 12-13 will see crossover challenges and regional mini tournaments 

So, what are some storylines we will be watching as the season opens?

PRESEASON RANKINGS: DII men's Power 10 | DII women's Power 10 

7 storylines as the DII college basketball season opens

1. Lubbock Christian women’s basketball’s 91-game home winning streak
Lubbock Christian won’t return home until Friday, Nov. 19. The Chaparrals will host the Lady Chaps Invitational in which they face off against Lander — which came in at No. 4 on the DII women’s basketball preseason Power 10 — and Daemen, which came it at No. 10. That’s some hefty competition with a 91-game winning streak at the Rip Griffin Center. That leaves the Chaps eight short of tying the legendary UConn women’s team's 99-game home winning streak that was snapped in January 2020. The Chaps' last loss at home was on Jan. 1, 2015, to Oklahoma City University by a mere four points. 

2. Bearcats open undefeated in quest for “three-peat”
The Northwest Missouri State Bearcats opened the 2021-22 season the same way they closed last year: winners of a tournament. Northwest went into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic and came out 2-0 for the third time in a row. The last two times the Bearcats opened the season 2-0 at the event… they won a national championship.

Ryan Hawkins leaves a void in the middle, but Northwest Missouri State returns everyone else. Trevor Hudgins, who scored 49 points in the two-game tourney, and Wes Dreamer, who had a double-double in Game 2, both made the All-Tournament Team while Diego Bernard provided his spark with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five steals over the weekend. Next up is some Central Region foe in the opening weekend tipoff challenge. 

3. Paige Robinson leading Drury's quest for the DII women's basketball title
Drury has been one of the most dominant DII women's basketball programs over the past five seasons. The Panthers have gone 152-10 over that span but are missing just one thing: the elusive national championship.

Lubbock Christian has served as their nemesis in each of the past two seasons. But once again, the Panthers are off to an undefeated start, going 3-0 in the D2CCA Tipoff Classic. All three wins came against teams mentioned in the WBCA preseason poll and reigning player of the year Paige Robinson put on a show, scoring 79 points in the three-game sweep. Drury has two undefeated regular seasons in the past three years and continues its quest in the Pops Duncan Classic on opening weekend. 

"There's for sure a chip on our shoulders," Robinson said, "We see how far we got last year, and we know what it's going to take to win that national championship. It was good to see good competition early on and now learn from those games."

4. Taking down DI is just more fun

Point Loma Athletics Point Loma dominated DI Pepperdine in college basketball. Point Loma dominated DI Pepperdine in a college basketball exhibition.

Several Division I teams squared off against DII college basketball teams for one last tune up before the season officially tipped off. For some of those DI foes, the results did not end in their favor. Can the DII programs that won use it as a spark for the regular season?

By no means is this a definitive list of these preseason upsets, but let’s highlight a few that stood out.

  • Point Loma’s men’s team, one of our contenders out West, beat up on Pepperdine 77-50. Three players scored in double-digits with Luke Haupt’s double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) leading the way.
  • Ashland is one of our sleepers on the men’s side, entering a new conference with a slew of returners. The Eagles showed why that veteran depth is so scary — all five starters scored in double figures in an 87-78 victory over Valparaiso.
  • Valpo didn’t have much luck on its DII tour, also losing to Flagler by three. That is what DI teams do, though. If you remember, Flagler downed two DI opponents in a two-week span last season. Jaizec Lottie paced our preseason No. 2 team with 19 points in the 70-67 victory. 
  • The Quincy men’s hoops team had a mere six wins last season but are certainly off on the right foot in 2021-22. The Hawks downed SIUE 62-61. Adam Moore hit the go-ahead free throw with just 14 seconds left on the clock. 
  • Michigan Tech men’s and women’s teams are both poised for big seasons. While the women’s team held off DIII UW Oshkosh in its preseason tune up, the men’s team held off a furious comeback by Ball State to win 70-69. Owen White hit the game-sealing free throw while Trent Bell led the way with 17 points. 

5. There’s a new team in town for Conference Carolinas men’s basketball
While schools change conferences frequently, Conference Carolinas has quite the unique story this season. Not only do UNC Pembroke and Francis Marion join the party, coming over from the Peach Belt Conference, but Converse debuts a new team. For the first time in school history, there will be a men’s basketball team.

That’s just a small part of the picture. For more than a century, Converse was an all-women’s institution. In the Fall of 2020, the school went co-ed. The men’s soccer team showed well in its 2021 debut, sitting at 4-6-1 at the time of this writing with three players — Fabio Pasini, Hayden Gensler and Gero Wolters — all in the top 10 for goals scored in conference play.

Now it is the men’s basketball team's turn. It certainly has experience in their head coach. Ryan Saunders played his DII basketball at Barry where he left as the program’s all-time assists leader. He then coached the Bucs before moving on to conference foe, Belmont Abbey. Saunders now heads down the road and will lead the Valkyries into battle and program history. The squad opens in the CC/SAC Tipoff Classic and will open Conference Carolinas play on Nov. 20. Circle your calendars: Saunders goes against his old Crusaders on Jan. 12.

TOP ARENAS: Check out the best venues in DII basketball, according to the fans

6. A return to action
For some schools, a return to the DII basketball court has been a long time coming. Some conferences — like the NE10 and CCAA — never took the court in 2021, while some — like the PSAC and SSC — had a few teams play minimal games.

On the men's side, that means both Indiana (PA) and Nova Southeastern are back in action. Both teams found their way into the DII preseason Power 10, but there are plenty more that should be on your radar. Chico State out in the CCAA is one to keep on your radar. While Seattle Pacific and the exciting Divant'e Moffitt saw some brief DII action last year, the Alaska teams didn't play at all in the GNAC. Player of the year contender Shadeed Shabazz is one to watch on Alaska Fairbanks as Alaska Anchorage also returns to the court. And you can't forget a team like St. Anselm in the NE10 that was a DII Men's Elite Eight team last time it took the court. 

When you look at the women's side, there are teams like Jefferson (CACC) and Bentley (NE10) back at it, and those two teams felt like near guarantees for the bracket come March the past few seasons. The Alaska Anchorage women's team is a powerhouse, averaging more than 30 wins a season for the past five years, so its return to the court will mix things up. Cal State San Marcos should be the team to beat in the CCAA and be tournament bound as well. 

Basically, now is the time to remember not to forget about those teams you may have forgotten about (got all that?)

7. Jefferson's Herb Magee rides off into a Hall of Fame sunset
The legendary career of Jefferson Rams' men's head coach Herb Magee will come to a conclusion this March. Magee — already a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame — has been a fixture in Philadelphia for 63 years. He began as a student-athlete and 54 coaching years later, he will leave the game amongst the greats.

Magee has 1,123 career wins. That is best in DII men's basketball history and second all-time in all levels to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. The Rams have been to 31 DII men's basketball tournaments under Magee's leadership, with 37 20-plus-win seasons during his tenure. You'll have to go back 23 years to find the last Magee-coached team to finish below .500. 

The last time Magee and the Rams played was the 2019-20 season as the CACC canceled the winter season last year. That team finished 27-4 and earned a spot in the DII men's basketball bracket, which was eventually canceled due to COVID-19. That was a senior-laden team so there will be a lot of new faces this season. That's never seemed to hurt Magee's chances of a tournament run before, and we don't expect it to this year either. 

His illustrious career begins its farewell tour Saturday, Nov. 13 in the East Region Challenge. 

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