The 2021 DII men’s basketball season is well underway. As we enter December with conference play in action across the country, let’s jump back into the Power 10 rankings.
2021 PRESEASON RANKINGS: Northwest Missouri State topped the first Power 10
It has been just about a month since Northwest Missouri State topped our preseason Power 10 rankings. A bit of a surprising loss by the Bearcats sees them fall in our first rankings of the regular season… but not very far.
EARLY SEASON STORYLINES: 7 things to watch in 2021
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. Losses, especially this early in the season, are not necessarily a rankings killer in these Power 10.
The DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings
No. 1 Lubbock Christian | Previous: “Also considered”
The Chaps are off to a perfect 7-0 start, and it’s been impressive at that. They have signature wins over top-10 West Texas A&M as well as ranked Hawaii Hilo and Colorado School of Mines. Teams have a tough time scoring on Lubbock Christian and its lockdown defense helps propel a deep starting five. Parker Hicks highlights the bunch, averaging nearly a double-double so far in 2021.
No. 2 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 1
The Bearcats lost a stunner to Sioux Falls, but at 6-1 this team is just fine. Trevor Hudgins is already doing Trevor Hudgins things, but Diego Bernard is playing some of his best basketball of his career… which says something. The Bearcats have rebounded, winning four in a row by double digits since that loss, including a 10-point victory over then-No. 2 Truman State.
No. 3 West Texas A&M | Previous: 3
The Buffs have that one loss to their name, but that’s it, currently sitting at 8-1 on the season. They have a pair of victories against Colorado Mesa and Daemen, both of which I expect to right the ship and be tournament teams come March. Julius Brown has been a big addition, putting up 14.2 points per game this season as has Larry Wise from North Texas, who leads the team with 16 points per game.
No. 4 Queens (NC) | Previous: 8
The Royals are a really deep squad. All nine players that are playing significant minutes are scoring more than 6.5 points per game. Now, while the offense has been playing well, it is important to note, the Royals have played in some tightly contested ball games to get to 6-0. Whether this catches up to them in SAC play is to be seen but finding that way to eke out tough victories so far is equally impressive.
No. 5 Indiana (PA) | Previous: 7
I had the Crimson Hawks much higher than most entering the season. Lo and behold, IUP is one of the best scoring offenses in DII, scoring 95.6 points per game. I mentioned in the preseason that Armoni Foster should be on your Bevo Francis Award watchlist and thus far, he’s delivered, with averages of 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game — and threw down a triple double his last time out. Shawndale Jones has been an absolute beast scoring more than 25 points per game, but this starting five is deep with scorers that can go off on any given night.
No. 6 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 6
Much like IUP, I had the Sharks higher than most entering the season, and while they haven’t played the stiffest of competition just yet, they are doing what the Sharks do best: score a ton of points, especially off the fast break. Nova Southeastern is putting up 97 points per game, so it will be a tough matchup for any defense. It will be an equally tough job for an offense to keep up with the Sharks forcing a DII-best 25 turnovers per game through three games. Sekou Sylla is in the perfect landing spot and could very well be in the player of the year conversation come March. He’s averaging 21 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the early going.
No. 7 Mercyhurst | Previous: “Also considered”
If the familiar adage defense wins championships is true, then the Lakers are without a doubt a top-10 team. This defense has been one of the best three years running and this year is no different. A top-5 field goal percentage defense paired with the No. 3 scoring defense in DII (the Lakers were No. 6 in 2019 and No. 2 last year, so this is no outlier) and Mercyhurst is off to yet another undefeated start.
No. 8 Fairmont State | Previous: “Also considered”
The Fighting Falcons are named well as this team can fly. They’ve won games by a lot of points and have shown they can win the tight ones as well. It’s hard to imagine Isaiah Sanders playing better than last season, but thus far he is, dropping 23.6 points per game. We said in the preseason that transfers Briggs Parris and Myles Monroe could be big sparks off the bench, and so far, they have — Parris is the fourth-leading scorer on the team and Monroe contributes 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
No. 9 Embry-Riddle | Previous: NR
Look at the Eagles' schedule to start 2021 and this becomes pretty clear. They opened in the Small College Basketball Classic, where Elijah Jenkins won MVP honors in leading the Eagles to two victories over two opponents in the preseason poll. They then swept through the GSC/SSC Classic over two more teams that were in the national poll. Sure, the Eagles have a loss, but it was in the final seconds to a Flagler team that is now hitting its stride. With Jenkins and Romeo Crouch, this team is dangerous and fun to watch.
No. 10 (tie) Cal State San Bernardino and Chico State | Previous: NR
After a year away from basketball, the CCAA is sporting some impressive teams in the early going of the 2021-22 season. Both Cal State San Bernardino and Chico State are undefeated… but that won’t last. The two play each other this week, so by the next Power 10, this tie will be broken.
The Coyotes already have two signature wins this season, one against Cal Poly Pomona and the other against Point Loma. Brandon Knapper has become a real player to watch, averaging 23.6 points per game through five games, but the Yotes have four players scoring in double figures that help them win games by a 15-point margin.
Chico State is rolling behind one of the best defenses in the land, allowing a paltry 56.4 points per game. The Wildcats also have a go-to scorer in Kevin Warren. This showdown on Dec. 4 should be an exciting chess match of the CCAA’s best defense vs. best offense.
First five out (in alphabetical order)
I debated between the Bulldogs and their GLIAC rival Grand Valley State for a spot here, but Ferris State has the edge. Despite a loss to Findlay, who is always a dangerous team, the Bulldogs have wins against a very good Ashland team as well as a Hillsdale team that started in the preseason Power 10.
HISTORY: Every DII men's basketball champion
The Saints are 4-2 with somewhat surprising losses to Anderson (SC) and Rollins. However, they did pull off that tremendous last-second victory over Embry-Riddle. Flagler plays Fort Lauderdale and Spring Hill — two teams it has already defeated quite easily — over the next two weeks, so it should be cruising when the Saints open PBC play on Dec. 17.
Patrick Cartier. Yes, the Chargers have a loss, but this team is very good and as long as Cartier is off to a hot start, the rest of this experienced bunch will have time to catch up and get into midseason form. He’s averaging 25 points per game behind a ridiculous 61% field-goal shooting.
For a team that went through a major overhaul nearly everywhere, a 5-1 start is very impressive. Jordan Guest looks like the next Railsplitters' superstar, averaging a double-double early on, but he has five players alongside of him that can flat out score.
The Hilltoppers won a basketball game by scoring 63 points against a solid Daemen team. Talk about a sentence I thought I’d never write. In fact, since I started covering the sport in 2017, it’s the fewest number of points a West Liberty team has scored in victory or defeat. The point is that West Liberty won the game. It feels like this offense, which is notorious as being the most explosive in the land, hasn’t even gotten started yet, and that’s dangerous moving forward.
Also considered: Barry, Dominican (NY), Grand Valley State, Truman, Upper Iowa
Player to watch: Frank Webb Jr., Saint Leo
Each Power 10, I am going to highlight a player OUTSIDE of the rankings that may get overlooked. There are many of these players, so narrowing it down to one is no easy task.
Webb gets the first nod of the year. The Lions’ guard opened the season with a near quadruple-double… in back-to-back games. While he’s not a big-time scorer, he has continued to fill every inch of the stat sheet each week. Through six games, Webb has nightly averages of 13.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 5.2 steals.