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Wayne Cavadi | | January 11, 2022

Nova Southeastern, Chico State and Minnesota Duluth climb in latest DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings

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

Welcome to 2022. These are the first DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings of the new year. This DII college basketball season has been as tight as we can remember in terms of the level of competition, making it very difficult to decipher a top 25, never mind a Power 10. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 once again wreaking havoc on rosters and schedules, it is even more trying to separate these talented teams.

RANKINGS: The final Power 10 of 2021

Here’s some insight into how tough it is. Teams Nos. 1-4 can all be the No. 1 team in DII right now. Whether you look at simple stats of the players, overall record or take a deep dive into the analytics, Lubbock Christian, Northwest Missouri State, Nova Southeastern and Chico State are all playing at an insane level. Lubbock Christian and Northwest Missouri State maintain the top two spots simply because they have held on to it all season and deserve to make a mistake — which have been minimal at most — before falling in the Power 10.

The first disclaimer of 2022: These are my rankings, and mine alone. Below is a combination of overall records, insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders and some of the numbers considered by the selection committee come DII men’s basketball tournament time (strength of schedule, RPI, in-region play and other stats of that nature). You will have a new Power 10 every Tuesday until the start of the DII men’s basketball tournament.

DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings

(All games through Jan. 10)

No. 1 Lubbock Christian | Previous: 1

Lubbock Christian Athletics Lubbock Christian remains No. 1 in DII men's basketball.

The Chaps are 14-0 and 2-0 out of the gate in 2022. They have a very tough week ahead with Texas A&M-Commerce and UT Tyler up next. Lubbock Christian has played a tough schedule and has the best RPI in a packed region. Its top-3 scoring defense is simply suffocating the opposition and gives the Chaps a very strong edge in a loaded conference.

No. 2 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 2

The Bearcats have won 11 in a row and none of the games have been close since their surprising loss in November. Per usual, there seems to be no weakness on this team. Trevor Hudgins is one of the best floor generals in DII men’s basketball and Wes Dreamer and Diego Bernard have elevated their play to form as formidable a “Big Three” you’ll find anywhere in the division.

ALL-STATS TEAM: Trevor Hudgins leads the first starting five of 2022

No. 3 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 4

This is how ridiculous the level of play has been in DII this season: Nova Southeastern may very well be the best team in DII and I have them at No. 3. Let’s check out the Sharks' resume, shall we? They have the top RPI in their region while playing a schedule against teams with a .598 combined winning percentage. They are the top scoring offense in DII with three — yes, three — players I expect to be on the Bevo Francis Award watchlist. Lastly, Nova Southeastern has come out of the break with top 25 wins against Barry and Embry-Riddle. This team is a true title contender.

No. 4 Chico State | Previous: 5

Chico State Athletics Chico State is surging in DII men's basketball.

The Wildcats are another team that checks off all the intangibles that the selection committee looks for come tourney time. They also happen to be 10-0 against a tough schedule with a matchup against fellow undefeated Cal State San Marcos on Thursday. I really like the depth of their starting five as each player is a proven weapon that can beat you any night. The CCAA has been super tough this year, but Chico State is showing it is the toughest … so far.

No. 5 Minnesota Duluth | Previous: 9

As we said in the last Power 10, the only thing that held the Bulldogs out of the top 5 was the strength of schedule. They answered the call, taking down a very tough Ferris State team in double-overtime. They are now 15-0, which is a good cushion. Despite some of the more familiar powers not being on top of the NSIC this season, the number of tournament-ready teams is deeper than ever. With the Bulldogs high-octane offense — fueled by all five starters scoring double digits nightly — they will be tough to beat.

No. 6 West Liberty | Previous: 6

West Liberty Athletics West Liberty is once again a top-scoring team in DII men's basketball.

The Hilltoppers hold steady, with three huge wins coming out of the break, winning each by an average of 17.3 points per game all while averaging 98 points per game over that span. They are currently the top team in the Atlantic and if some teams aren’t careful, West Liberty could run away with it. The emergence of Bryce Butler as a scoring threat has been fun to watch.

No. 7 Cal State San Bernardino | Previous: 7

Despite having one loss — a terrific ball game against Chico State — the Yotes hold their spot above fellow-CCAA and currently undefeated Cal State San Marcos. And this is where the details come into play: Cal State San Bernardino has played a much tougher schedule and the results have been great. I have spoken much about Brandon Knapper, but it should be known this is another starting five that is talented everywhere on the court. It seems to be a pattern: If you have five guys that can score at will and always seem to be in the right spot for a rebound, your team wins a lot.

No. 8 West Texas A&M | Previous: 3

The Buffs dropped an absolute stunner to Arkansas Fort Smith, but immediately bounced back with a 10-point win over Texas A&M-Commerce and 12-point win over UT Tyler — both of which received votes in the previous NABC poll. Zach Toussaint, Larry Wise and Julius Brown are great as the go-to weapons: This team simply needs to stay the course and another tournament berth is inevitable.

No. 9 Augusta | Previous: NR

Augusta Athletics Augusta makes it debut in the DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings.

I have had Queens (NC) and Lincoln Memorial in and out of the top-10 from the Southeast Region, but entering the new year, the Jaguars are the kings of the hill … for now. Statistically speaking, Augusta has played the toughest schedule in the region outside of 8-4 Tusculum and are tops in other pivotal factors such as RPI and Performance Indicator. The Jaguars have come out of the break with an 18-, 21- and 54-point win to improve to 12-1 and look to be a potent force.

No. 10 (tie) Indiana (Pa) and Mercyhurst | Previous: 8 and “First five out”, respectively

These two teams were so close that it was very hard to separate one from the other. So, I have them tied ... for just a few days. Luckily, the two play each other this week and we will see if offense prevails over defense.

Indiana (Pa) has the second-best scoring offense in the conference, putting up 87.9 points per game. Mercyhurst, as always, has the best scoring defense in the PSAC — and one of the best in DII overall — allowing a paltry 63.7 points per game. IUP is led by a bevy of scorers, but Armoni Foster is one of the most dynamic players in DII, a beast in many aspects of the game. Mercyhurst has a balanced attack and while MiyKah McIntosh is so fun to watch, the first six or seven players are all dangerous. When it comes to the minutiae, these two teams are nearly inseparable, so this week’s matchup will be very telling.

First five out (in alphabetical order)

Upper Iowa Athletics Upper Iowa continues to play strong hoops in DII men's basketball.

Cal State San Marcos: The Cougars are still undefeated, so they certainly deserve top-10 consideration. They play the toughest team on their schedule thus far in Chico State this week, so we will learn a lot more then.

HISTORY: Every DII men's basketball champion

Lincoln Memorial: With all the change this team saw entering 2021-22, it’s fair to say we haven’t seen the Railsplitters’ best basketball yet. The opposite side of that coin is that they have been playing very good basketball thus far, perhaps even better than expected, so if the Railsplitters come together in the second half … watch out.

Queens (NC): There is just a lot to like about the Royals. They have five straight wins, including a big one over Lincoln Memorial, and have a chance to avenge their loss to Tusculum in just a few games. Any team with Kenny Dye at the helm is one to watch.

TOURNEY TIME: Everything you need to know about the DII men's basketball tournament

Truman State: It’s fair to question why I have the Bulldogs so high, especially after their most recent loss to McKendree gives them three on the season. At the end of the day, right now Truman has squared off against the fifth-toughest schedule in DII and has still posted a top-10 RPI and remain in the driver’s seat in what is looking like a very tricky Midwest Region.

Upper Iowa: I’m sticking with the Peacocks in the upper echelon because they have performed very well in a very tough NSIC. However, this week will be telling — both St. Cloud State and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth come to town.

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Barry, Bentley, Black Hills State, Dominican (NY), Fairmont State, Ferris State, Flagler, Georgia College, Hillsdale, Regis (CO)

Player to watch: Tray Buchanan, Emporia State

Emporia State Athletics Tray Buchanan is leading DII men's basketball in scoring.

We continue to highlight those players who may be flying under the radar because their team is not mentioned in rankings or polls. It seems like it’s time to highlight DII men’s basketball’s leading scorer, Tray Buchanan.

The Hornets were a 10-win team in 2019 and won 11 last year, finishing both seasons below .500. With the infusion of Buchanan — a transfer from South Dakota State — into this rotation, Emporia State is off to a 12-3 start.

Buchanan debuted with a 31-point performance and has yet to relent. He has 11 straight games with 20-plus points and has scored less than 21 just once this whole season. Paired with guard Jumah’Ri Turner, they form one of the toughest backcourts in the nation.

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