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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | December 28, 2021

Queens (NC), Cal State San Bernardino return to the DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings

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

Brace yourselves — this wild DII men’s basketball season got a little bit crazier since the last Power 10 rankings. The number of undefeated teams was cut in half from 10 to five. Four teams in the previous rankings lost heading into the holiday break and we will resume play with a new-look Power 10 heading into 2022. One thing that didn’t change was the Big Three at the top — Lubbock Christian, Northwest Missouri State and West Texas A&M — remain kings of the court. 

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Check out the last Power 10 rankings

As mentioned several times throughout the start of the season, what separates teams in the top 10 from teams in the top 40 is tough to determine right now — it's that close. The field is more level than ever before, and you have to cut through the minutiae to figure out the Power 10.

EARLY SEASON STORYLINES: 7 things to watch in 2021

My weekly disclaimer: 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. It is not overly reliant on any one formula, but a combination of the sight test and stats. You will have a brand-new Power 10 every Tuesday until the start of the DII men’s basketball championship tournament. 

The DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings (All games through Dec. 26)

No. 1 Lubbock Christian | Previous: 1
The Chaps are 12-0 and one of five remaining undefeated teams in DII men’s basketball. That’s three more than the 2019-2020 season (most teams had just started play around this time last year, so no need to count that large number). Lubbock Christian hit up Las Vegas and swept the Holiday Hoops Classic, but played in its tightest ball game since its Nov. 18 victory over West Texas A&M. It was still a 10-point victory, which speaks to how dominant the Chaps have been to start the season. 

No. 2 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 2
The Bearcats continue their utter domination of college basketball, beating Missouri Western — a team that was 4-0 in MIAA play — by 38 points. Per usual, it is tough to find a weakness on the court: This team is shooting 51.1% from the floor and 41.5% from 3-point range. Trevor Hudgins continues to pace this team on both ends of the court, but it's Wes Dreamer that you need to watch. He continues to mature into a dominating presence for the Bearcats.

2021 RECAP: Northwest Missouri State repeats as DII champions

No. 3 West Texas A&M | Previous: 3

West Texas A&M Athletics Zack Toussaint has been a leader for West Texas A&M basketball. Zack Toussaint has been a leader for West Texas A&M basketball.

Heading into the 2021-22 season, we knew Zach Toussaint was going to emerge as the leader on a team with so many new faces. The 5’11 guard did his best to fulfill that role in Las Vegas, hitting a buzzer beater to keep the Buffs win streak intact, which now stands at eight-straight wins. You may as well circle the date on your calendars now — Lubbock Christian returns to Canyon on Feb. 10 in a game that will have Lone Star Conference and NCAA DII tournament implications all over it. 

No. 4 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 5
The Sharks got to a perfect 10-0 on the season and it was thanks to some freshman heroics. Kobe Rodgers hit a shot to tie the game against Virginia Union at the buzzer and Nova Southeastern pulled away in overtime to stay undefeated. The Sharks are a dangerous group but have two players in Sekou Sylla and RJ Sunahara performing at a player-of-the-year level. Right now, this is as strong a contender for the DII Men’s Elite Eight as there is in DII. 

No. 5 Chico State | Previous: 7
The Wildcats are off to a historic start and with each win, the program record books continue to be rewritten. Chico State has reached the highest national ranking in any poll in program history, coming in at No. 4 in the D2SIDA poll before the break. The next victory will be a big one. The 10-0 start will tie a program record set in the 1942-43 season and set the program record for most consecutive conference wins, dating back to the previous season. This team is balanced, plays smart defense and has signature wins against top-25 teams. There are very few playing better basketball right now. 

No. 6 West Liberty | Previous: 9 
The Hilltoppers cruised into the holiday break with a 34-point bludgeoning of Wilmington (DE). This offense is creeping back into top form, averaging 95.8 points per game, but needs to find that consistency it has become known for over the years. Pat Robinson III is an absolute beast and has found that consistency, scoring 22, 24 and 28 his last three times out. The Hilltoppers have one more out-of-conference game before entering the heart of the MEC schedule and a mid- January matchup with Fairmont State will be a nice test. 

No. 7 Cal State San Bernardino | Previous: First five out

Cal State San Bernardino Athletics Cal State San Bernardino re-enters the DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings. Brandon Knapper is playing at a DII men's basketball player-of-the-year level.

This pick may come with some skepticism. After all, the Coyotes jump two undefeated teams to return to the Power 10. Why? This team is 10-1 against a schedule that has a combined record of .600, far superior to any other team not yet ranked. Its lone loss is to Chico State, a loss in which they scored 90 points against one of the best defenses in the nation. The Wildcats next highest number of points allowed this season? It’s 65, so put that in perspective to how well this team is flowing right now. Put Brandon Knapper on your player-of-the-year watchlist. With some intense competition in a surprisingly stacked CCAA, Knapper already has three player-of-the-week awards.

No. 8 Indiana (Pa) | Previous: 4 
This too will likely be met with some disapproval, considering The Crimson Hawks cling to a Power 10 spot after losing their first game of the season. But know this: There is very little separating No. 7 all the way through the “first five out” that it could change by the time you are done reading this.

Indiana (Pa) lost the fifth leading scorer in DII men’s basketball and was expected to hit a few road bumps as it figured out its way. That’s exactly what happened as the Crimson Hawks were upset by Shippensburg heading into break. But remember: The Raiders are the top team in the PSAC East — this wasn’t a mind-blowing upset. Indiana is 2-1 without Shawndale Jones and Armoni Foster is every bit a player-of-the-year candidate with or without him, so expect IUP to rebound quickly. 

No. 9 Minnesota Duluth | Previous: First five out
The myriad of losses by the top 25 teams the past couple weeks opens the door for the Bulldogs to make their Power 10 debut. Now, Minnesota Duluth still hasn’t played a super-tough schedule, but it has handled the top-five conference opponents in the NSIC. The Bulldogs are outscoring opponents by nearly 26 points per game and every player in their starting five is scoring in double figures. They just need to keep the pedal to the metal. 

No. 10 Queens (NC) | Previous: Also considered
The rollercoaster ride in Charlotte continues. The Royals eked out a thrilling victory over Lincoln Memorial right before the break and bumped the Railsplitters, Embry-Riddle and Hillsdale from the Power 10 in doing so. Queens has played a tougher schedule than all three and having the head-to-head victory over a terrific Railsplitters’ team helps. Kenny Dye continues to be the keys to the engine, but Jamari Smith is becoming a superstar before our eyes.  

First five out (in alphabetical order)

Cal State San Marcos: The Cougars are the last of the five undefeated teams in DII men’s basketball and sit just outside the top 10 until we see how they handle Chico State and Cal State San Bernardino. We won’t have to wait long: They head to Chico on Jan. 13. 

HISTORY: Every DII men's basketball champion

Lincoln Memorial: Like I said, this came down to recency bias and the loss to Queens (NC). The Railsplitters have overcome the adversity of an overhauled roster to a 9-2 start and look very much like the annual tournament contender they always have been. Serious kudos to new head coach Jeremiah Samarrippas for not missing a beat.

NEWS AND UPDATES: DII basketball central The D2 Hub

Mercyhurst: Mercyhurst dropped an absolute stunner in several ways. Its loss to East Stroudsburg was a big upset, but the Lakers also allowed 85 points in the loss, something this defense rarely does. It was the first time this defense has allowed more than 75 points in 42 games. I'm still a firm believer in this team.

Truman State: I was high on the Bulldogs coming into the season, putting them at No. 9 in the preseason. The Bulldogs had two early season losses, both coming against top-25 opponents, and have played the toughest schedule in DII going against a combined .714 winning percentage thus far. I think Truman has found its way and could dominate in the second half. 

Upper Iowa: The Peacocks are 12-1 against one of the tougher schedules in DII, along with a top-10 RPI and was one of those top-25 teams that defeated Truman. This team had 10 wins in 17 tries last year and was 19-11 in 2019-20. We're watching one of the true surprises of the DII men's basketball season as the Peacocks enter a tough January schedule where we will see how well they can hold up. 

Also considered: Augusta, Barry, Dominican (NY), Embry-Riddle, Fairmont State, Ferris State, Flagler, Hillsdale, Missouri-St. Louis, Shippensburg

Player to watch: Mekhii Noble, Florida Tech

Florida Tech Athletics Mekhii Noble is averaging a double-double for Florida Tech basketball. Mekhii Noble is averaging a double-double for Florida Tech basketball.

We continue to highlight those players who may be flying under the radar because their team is not mentioned in rankings or polls. For the second time this season, we turn our attention to the Sunshine State Conference.  

Florida Tech is off to a nice 9-3 start and Noble is a large reason why. The forward is averaging 16.2 points per game on an impressive 61% shooting. He’s also among the DII leaders in rebounds, pulling down 12.2 per game giving him 10 double-doubles on the season — second to only Andrew Sischo, who is arguably the best big in DII men’s basketball.

Noble is listed at 6’8 and 225 pounds. He is a big presence and plays like one. Noble is a strong finisher, able to throw down an exciting dunk, but is quick with his back to the basket as well. He positions himself well to clean up on the boards on both ends of the court with 45 offensive rebounds leading to quite a few put backs and second-chance points. Defensively he is a monster, blocking shots angrily and swatting them with a ferocity that makes people think twice about entering the paint. If he isn’t on your radar, take some time to watch Noble play. 

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