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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | December 15, 2021

Chico State climbs, West Liberty joins the DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings

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

Conference play is cooking in DII men’s basketball, and we are seeing some incredible basketball being played in every corner of the country. Lubbock Christian, which took the top spot in the last Power 10 rankings, remains undefeated and atop the list, but we have a few newcomers in this week’s rendition of the DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Lubbock Christian claims first-ever No. 1 spot in the Power 10

It is important to note that the beginning of this DII men’s basketball season has seen 30-40 teams playing at a top 25 level, so one loss in between rankings can move the needle quite a bit. That was the case for Cal State San Bernardino, Fairmont State and Queens (NC), all of which fell from their top-10 perch, but by no means out of the conversation. 

You also have to consider that there are 10 undefeated teams remaining and only five made this week’s Power 10. In fact, to make things murkier, of the 10 remaining undefeated teams, two hail from the Lone Star Conference, but it is one-loss West Texas A&M which joins LCU over undefeated UT Tyler. 

EARLY SEASON STORYLINES: 7 things to watch in 2021

Bananas, right?

As always, here is your weekly reminder: These are my rankings, and mine alone. I pair insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders with what the selection committee tends to look at come tournament time — strength of schedule, in-region win-loss percentage and stats of that nature — to come up with a fair version of the top 10. 

The DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings

No. 1 Lubbock Christian | Previous: 1
The Chaps are just rolling the competition right now, with a scoring margin more than 22 points per game. That’s in large part thanks to a smothering defense that holds opponents to 36% shooting — best in DII — and just 57.3 points per game, a top-5 mark in the division. Parker Hicks is en route to another All-American season, averaging nearly a double-double per game while shooting a solid 56% from the floor.

No. 2 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 2

Northwest Missouri State Athletics Northwest Missouri State is rolling in DII men's basketball.

Since the Bearcats lost to Sioux Falls on Nov. 13, they have won eight in a row. The narrowest margin of victory was 10 points. This team does not like to lose and right now they are showing DII men’s basketball the ramifications of beating them: utter domination. Trevor Hudgins remains the best player in DII and is setting career highs and breaking Bearcat records just 11 games into the season. He and Diego Bernard are arguably the best backcourt in DII as well.

2020 RECAP: Northwest Missouri State repeats as DII champions

No. 3 West Texas A&M | Previous: 3
This team continues its impressive run as it retools on the fly. Zach Toussaint, one of the lone holdovers from last year’s rotation, has emerged as one of the leaders for a team that can win tight games as well as run away in blowouts. Tom Brown has developed a power house in Canyon and the winning mentality shows.

No. 4 Indiana (Pa) | Previous: 7
The Crimson Hawks passed their early season test, returning to the court in dominant fashion and winning both their opening PSAC games by double digits. However, the true test began with Monday’s news that Shawndale Jones will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Jones was leading the PSAC in scoring, but this team has plenty of firepower remaining, especially in Armoni Foster who is already putting up player of the year type numbers. While Jones is a big loss, every starter was averaging double figures in scoring this season and as they showed Tuesday, the Crimson Hawks can still win big. 

No. 5 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 6

Nova Southeastern Athletics Sekou Sylla is averaging a double-double in DII men's basketball.

The Sharks are back where they belong — leading DII in scoring, averaging more than 100 points per game eight games into the season. This team is full of star power: Nick Smith is the current DII leader in assists, Sekou Sylla is a double-double machine and RJ Sunahara is dropping 18 points per game at a 58% rate. This team just dismantled a Florida Tech team that was off to a hot start by 36 points showing that the Jim Crutchfield high-paced, run-and-gun style is once again alive and well in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

No. 6 Mercyhurst | Previous: 7
The Lakers are allowing 59.1 points per game, which is actually a lot for this electric defense that brings a ton of pressure and intensity to every matchup. Offensively, they have been performing very well and winning games by a large 27-point margin thus far in 2021. MiyKah McIntosh had a breakout 2020-21 season and is outperforming those numbers early in the season.

No. 7 Chico State | Previous: 10 (tied)
Last time we talked about the Wildcats, they were undefeated and tied with Cal State San Bernardino in the No. 10 spot. Not only has Chico State defeated the Coyotes since then, but it has also defeated nationally ranked Cal Poly Pomona by 10 points. So, in short, Chico State is 8-0 against a schedule that has a combined .607 winning percentage, and if you ask me, that’s pretty good. Kevin Warren is leading the charge thus far, pacing the team in points and steals. 

No. 8 Embry-Riddle | Previous: 9

The Eagles are still rolling since the last rankings. This team has challenged itself early with a bevy of ranked opponents and pulled off an overtime win against a very good Saint Leo team that has taken just about every opponent to the wire. Romeo Crouch and Elijah Jenkins are about as dominating a 1-2 punch as you're going to find, contributing 35.9 of the Eagles 87.4 points per game. 

No. 9 West Liberty | Previous: First five out 

West Liberty Athletics West Liberty is cruising in DII men's basketball.

The Hilltoppers are 9-1 and they are doing it in different ways. Their most recent victory came by two points, the second such in the past two weeks. But West Liberty opened the month in true Hilltopper fashion, hitting the century mark in back-to-back games. This time of year, a win is a win, especially without Will Yoakum in action. That said, this team is still scoring 94.1 points per game and Pat Robinson III and Bryce Butler are quite the 1-2 combo to try and contain. 

No. 10 (tie) Hillsdale and Lincoln Memorial | Previous: First five out 

I tried and tried to find something that separated these two teams. Star power? Hillsdale has Patrick Cartier scoring 22.9 points per game and the Railsplitters have Jordan Guest averaging nearly a double-double per night. Incredible depth? Lincoln Memorial has six players averaging double-digit points while Hillsdale has rolled to an 8-1 start with every starter and key role player back from last year. Going down to the minutiae is even tricky as they've played a very similar schedule in terms of toughness. Both teams just missed last time, and now both get to prove which one belongs.

First five out (in alphabetical order)

Augusta: The Jaguars are playing very good basketball right now and are one of the remaining undefeated teams. They are shooting the lights out from 3-point land at nearly 43% a night. What's holding them out of the top 10 right now is the competition they've played — but the PBC slate opens next week so we'll quickly learn a lot more about this squad.

Augustana (SD): I like this Vikings squad. They have some signature wins against ranked teams, most recently knocking then-No. 25 Minnesota State from the NABC poll behind an 83-50 victory. Tyler Riemersma is a machine, averaging a double-double per game to go with 20 steals and eight blocks already. It's early, but this is certainly a team to watch.

Cal State San Bernardino: The Coyotes were tied for No. 10 in the last rankings and lost to Chico State. They then bounced back with a pair of double-digit victories. This team has battled early playing a schedule with a combined .618 winning percentage. To be sitting at 8-1 against that competition is flat out impressive. 

HISTORY: Every DII men's basketball champion

Fort Hays State: I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about the Tigers. They have played a schedule with an overall winning record and have come out a perfect 8-0 with DII’s best scoring defense, allowing a paltry 53.2 points per game. Plus, Jared Vitztum is a DII superstar with three straight double-doubles. They have an absolute brutal mid-January stretch against Missouri Southern, Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri State, so we’ll learn a lot more about how good this defense is after the holiday break.

NEWS AND UPDATES: DII basketball central The D2 Hub

Minnesota Duluth: Now, the Bulldogs haven't played the toughest schedule, but 11-0 is 11-0. I'm interested to see how they handle Northern State this weekend, but this starting five is impressive: All five are scoring more than 10 points per game. 

Also considered: Barry, Cal State San Marcos, Dominican (NY), Fairmont State, Ferris State, Flagler, Queens (NC)

Player to watch: Joel Scott, Black Hills State

Black Hills State Athletics Joel Scott is averaging a double-double for Black Hills State basketball.

Each week, I want to highlight a player who may be flying under the radar because their team isn’t mentioned in rankings or polls. This week, we turn our attention to Spearfish, South Dakota. 

Joel Scott is posting career highs across the board, which is impressive since he was the RMAC freshman of the year in 2020 and First Team All-RMAC last year. Scott, who stands at 6-foot-7 and 225, is posting nightly averages of 22.6 points and 11.1 rebounds, while shooting 60.7% from the floor with seven double-doubles in his first nine games. He set a career high with 50 points in a game against Western Colorado on Dec. 3, hitting 19 of 28 shots.

Scott has a quick first step and can create his own shots, especially down low where he’s a strong finisher at the rim. At 6-3, the Yellowjackets, and Scott, should certainly be on your radar.

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