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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | January 18, 2022

A wild week leads to a shakeup in the DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings

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

Brace yourselves, DII fans. In the wildest week of the second half, five teams in the DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings fell, leading to a shakeup in our new top 10. However, Lubbock Christian, Northwest Missouri State and Nova Southeastern escaped unscathed to maintain their stronghold atop the rankings.

This week is particularly tough. Take the top of the CCAA as a prime example of the difficulty in preparing a top 10:

  • Then-No. 4 Chico State lost to No. 11 Cal State San Marcos this past week. It was both teams' lone game of the week.
  • Cal State San Bernardino, which was No. 7 last week, won both its games.
  • One would think that should propel the Coyotes up the rankings. But when you dive into the minutiae — strength of schedule, RPI, performance indicator, etc. — Chico State and Cal State San Marcos are split at No. 1 or No. 2 in almost category, with the Coyotes trailing both at No. 3 across the board.
  • To make this harder, Cal State San Bernardino lost to Chico State, but hasn’t played Cal State San Marcos yet this year, so head-to-head is not as clear as it may seem.

If you think that was confusing, Upper Iowa’s big win over previously undefeated Minnesota Duluth makes an already impossible Central Region that much more difficult to sort. So, I expect these rankings to look different than others and stir up some debate. I also expect a few wins or losses to have a large effect by the next Power 10 rankings, so buckle up: We may be heading for a wild couple of months.

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Before we move on, let’s remember: 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. You will have a 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 Jan. 17)

No. 1 Lubbock Christian | Previous: 1

The Chaps improved to 16-0 this past week, picking up a signature win over a Texas A&M-Commerce team that was receiving votes in the last NABC poll. Lubbock Christian is one of three undefeated teams and has played a tough schedule — this 16-0 record is as impressive as it comes. Add in one of the best defenses in DII, and you have a title contender.

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No. 2 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 2

The Bearcats have won 13 in a row and are handling the competition with ease, winning games by an average of 18.5 points per game. The two-time defending champs check all the boxes and have experience and talent aplenty. There has never been a three-peat in DII men’s basketball, but if any team has had a chance, it is this one.

No. 3 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 3

The Sharks are also undefeated, improving to 15-0 with a 10-point win over Florida Southern, a program that has been an annual thorn in their side. As projected, this may be the best Nova Southeastern team in program history thanks to three Bevo Francis Award nominees in Nick Smith, RJ Sunahara and Sekou Sylla. Running the table is going to be tough in the SSC, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this team pulls it off.

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No. 4 Indiana (Pa) | Previous: 10 (tie)

Let’s review the Crimson Hawks season thus far to put into perspective how and why they jumped so high. IUP opened the season 7-0, cruising without many close games and winning by an average of 24 points per game. That’s when they lost top scorer Shawndale Jones for the season. We expected to see some bumps, but really, this team hasn’t missed a beat, which speaks volumes to its depth. Yes, the Crimson Hawks lost to Shippensburg, but they also edged out Mercyhurst this past week, a team I have spoken very highly of the past three seasons running. This IUP team is a good one and capable of doing damage in the tournament.

No. 5 Cal State San Marcos | Previous: First five out

This may be an incredibly high jump but taking down previously undefeated Chico State deserves high praise. The Cougars were 12-16 in 2020 (the CCAA never took the court last season) and are now 12-0 with about as signature a win as you can get on their resume. As mentioned earlier, the Cougars are either No. 1 or No. 2 in the West Region in the numbers that matter come selection time. The top three teams in the CCAA are very good and will likely flip flop in and out of the Power 10 every time one plays the other. For now, it is the Cougars who find their way to the top 5.

No. 6 Upper Iowa | Previous: First five out

The Peacocks are another huge riser that I expect to shock some people. The bottom line is that the win over Minnesota Duluth was larger than most think. They have played a statistically tougher schedule than their NSIC rival and per Inkblot’s updated numbers, have a better RPI and PI than both the Bearcats and Bulldogs. This team now has three top 25 victories over Truman State, Augustana (SD) and Minnesota Duluth with the latter two being enormous come selection time.

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No. 7 Chico State | Previous: 4

The Wildcats get to cling to their spot in the top 10 despite falling to the Cougars thanks to the other losses in the top 10 this past week. They have played not only a tougher schedule than their CCAA counterparts, but one of the toughest in DII against opposition with a combined .607 winning percentage. And let’s be perfectly clear: A few plays go a bit differently and Chico State could be 11-0, losing 87-85 in overtime as the only blemish on their record. Now we’ll see something we haven’t seen all season: How the Wildcats rebound after a loss.

No. 8 Cal State San Bernardino | Previous: 7

The poor Coyotes fall a spot despite going 2-0 this past week. This team checks all the boxes, but it came down to the loss to Chico State earlier this season that has them one spot behind. The Yotes now face a tough run over the next few weeks, beginning this Saturday when they host Cal State San Marcos. That means we know for sure there will be a shakeup in the next Power 10 rankings.

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No. 9 Minnesota Duluth | Previous: 5

I’m keeping the Bulldogs in the top 10 for at least one more week. Much like Chico State, they did lose, but lost to a team that was right outside the Power 10. All five scorers played well, each scoring in double figures as they normally do. They simply were bested by a very good team. Minnesota Duluth has a big opportunity to silence any naysayers with a top 25 matchup against Augustana (SD) this weekend.

10 (tie) West Texas A&M and West Liberty| Previous: 8 and 6, respectively

If it weren’t for Lubbock Christian, the Buffs would be the top team in the South Central. Playing in one of the toughest conferences in one of the toughest regions, well, that says something. West Texas A&M saw both games cancelled last week and with two new teams in the mix, it falls due to being idle.

West Liberty picked up a loss, but it was to a streaking Fairmont State team I was very high on this preseason (more on that in a bit). The MEC is a wild and exciting four-team race right now and the Hilltoppers have a chance to win a few ball games over the next few weeks until February starts. Then, they have to face West Virginia State, Charleston (WV) and Fairmont State in a 17-day span.

First five out (in alphabetical order)

  • Fairmont State: The Falcons were blown out of the gym by Charleston (WV) earlier this season but seem to have righted the ship. I think the depth of scorers in a wide-open region makes this a dangerous squad.
  • Lincoln Memorial: The Railsplitters avenged their two-point loss to Queens (NC) in December with a nine-point victory this past week. That loss to Queens was their last loss, but the Railsplitters will have to put their five-game win streak on hold with both games cancelled this week. 
  • Mercyhurst: The Lakers lost to Indiana (Pa) after tying for the final spot in last week’s Power 10. They rebounded with a victory over Kutztown and a return to the Power 10 may be imminent.
  • Regis (CO): The Rangers have one loss, and it came to Lubbock Christian on opening day. They have rebounded with 13 straight wins, and are undefeated in RMAC play. Now, Regis hasn’t played the top competition in its conference yet, so there is a lot to be learned down the stretch.
  • Truman State: I’ll continue to have three-loss Truman in the top-15 conversation. The Bulldogs are deep in talent and have performed well against the 12th toughest schedule in DII.

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Augusta, Augustana (SD), Barry, Bentley, Central Oklahoma, Dominican (NY), Ferris State, Flagler, Queens (NC), UNC Pembroke

Player to watch: Trenton Gibson, Tusculum

We continue to highlight those players who may be flying under the radar because their team is not mentioned in rankings or polls. Let’s look at Trenton Gibson, who was recently named to the Bevo Francis watchlist.

Gibson has been great since he stepped on the floor for the Pioneers back in 2018-19. He has steadily improved in all facets of the game each year and is having arguably the best season of his career.

He is averaging 20.3 points while contributing 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He pulled off a triple-double on Jan. 8 in a victory over Catawba. Gibson is big, listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but can stop and pop on from the top of the key just as easily as he can get to the basket. Gibson is a fun one to watch and should be on everyone’s radar.

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