basketball-men-d2 flag

Wayne Cavadi | | February 17, 2022

Breaking down the top-5 scoring offenses in DII men's basketball

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

The 2022 DII men’s basketball tournament is getting closer every day. We have been treated to some explosive offensive performances at the DII Elite Eight the past few seasons thanks to some of the nation’s best teams at scoring the basketball.

POWER 10 RANKINGS: Undefeated Nova Southeastern is No. 1 

If the age-old cliche is defense wins championships, how important is a top offense in getting to Evansville for the DII Elite Eight? Last year, West Liberty led DII men’s basketball in scoring with a 101.0 points per game average. The Hilltoppers made the Elite Eight, as did Lincoln Memorial, which finished in the top five of scoring offenses and also found its way to Evansville.

Flashback to 2019 and Nova Southeastern made a trip to the DII Elite Eight with the second-best offense in DII. We saw the same in 2017 when Fairmont State was the top seed and third-highest scoring team in DII. While 2018 was the outlier, it seems highly likely that we will see at least one of the top-5 scoring teams late in March vying for a national championship.

The only question is, which will it be?

The top-5 scoring offenses in DII basketball (through Feb. 16)

West Liberty

The Hilltoppers are leading DII in scoring because that’s exactly what the Hilltoppers do. They have led the division in each of the past five seasons with a high-octane offense typically deep in big-time scorers. This year is a little different with just Pat Robinson III (pictured) and Bryce Butler averaging more than 17 points per game. That said, this team has seven other players that contribute significant minutes and average at least 6 points per game. Opponents better be ready to run the floor when they play West Liberty — its fast style of play accounts for the top scoring margin in DII by a hair at 21.8.

So, how do you beat the Hilltoppers? With West Liberty's scoring depth and aggressive defense, even looking at its losses, you'll notice it still won the points off turnovers and bench points in both. Even dating back to last year's DII Elite Eight loss to Northwest Missouri State, West Liberty won both those categories. The one thing in common with the two losses this season was the opponent adjusted at the half and completely took away the 3-ball. In the loss against Fairmont State, the Hilltoppers went 10-for-21 in the first half and just 5-for-16 in the second. Going back to the upset by Notre Dame (OH), West Liberty was just 2-for-11 shooting from behind the arc in the second half. 

BEVO FRANCIS 2022: The top-50 watchlist for Small College Basketball's prestigious award

Nova Southeastern

The Sharks are undefeated and look to be a steamroller right now. They have taken down nationally ranked competition, cruised through the Sunshine State Conference and are averaging 98.2 points per game. This team comes at you in a variety of ways, leading DII in assists per game, steals per game and turnover margin all while shooting 51.0 percent from the floor. They have a bevy of scorers that can make a defense’s night a miserable one: Sekou Sylla (pictured), RJ Sunahara, Eddie Puisis and Nick Smith all average in double figures nightly. Fun fact: West Liberty’s explosive offense began dominating DII under head coach Jim Crutchfield, who now coaches the Sharks and has turned them into a perennial contender.

How do you beat the Sharks? Right now, you don't — and until someone figures out how, we don't have much data to even make a guess.

DII'S BEST: January's all-stats starting five


Barry unfortunately has its hands full with Nova Southeastern in its own conference. The nationally ranked Bucs have just six losses, but two have come to those undefeated Sharks. This team can still score, currently sitting at third in DII putting up 92.0 points per game. Barry has five players above the 10 points per game mark, and that really is what contributes to this team’s success. The Bucs aren’t highly ranked in field goal percentage but have weapons all over that can spread the floor and do damage, especially from 3-point land where they are 12th in DII hitting nearly 40 percent of the time.

The key to beating the Bucs is to outscore them. It sounds like the obvious game plan, but for all the points this team puts up, they also allow quite a bit of points. Barry is ranked No. 269 in scoring defense, allowing 81.4 points per game. If you look at the losses to Rollins and Tampa, for example, you'll notice a few things in common. When Rollins beat Barry the first time, it scored its highest number of points in SSC play. The same can be said for Tampa. Both teams won the battles in the paint as well. In the most recent loss, Barry went cold, going 0-for-6 from 3-point land in the second half. The Bucs lost that game by three points. Taking away the 3 from one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the land is also clearly effective.

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

Glenville State

It is going to take a miracle run in the Mountain East Conference — one with West Liberty and Fairmont State atop the standings — but John Williams Jr. (pictured) makes the Pioneers must-watch basketball. The Pioneers’ problem is certainly not their offense, one which scores 90.1 points per game, but that the defense allows 91.3 per game. But back to Williams. He paces this offense with 23.9 points per game and is one of the more unheralded stars of DII men’s basketball. He sets the tone, leading the team in 3-pointers. No team makes more 3-pointers per game than Glenville State.

John Williams is going to get his. He's been held to single digits in scoring only once all season. Opponents can try to slow him down, but the key to taking down the Pioneers is making sure Williams has no one to help.

UNC Pembroke

The Braves were rolling, winners of 16 in a row before a somewhat shocking loss to Southern Wesleyan. They have rebounded by scoring 192 points in their last two victories and sit at fifth in scoring offense. Four starters contribute more than 11 points per game, so this is a very balanced attack, making it difficult for defenses to home in on one player. Spencer Levi (pictured) has been utterly dominant of late, averaging more than a double-double in his last four games.  

It's really hard to pinpoint the Braves' weaknesses in their losses. Both of their losses have been by 10 points, but at the same time, they have won nearly every advantage on paper. In its most recent loss, UNC Pembroke dominated points off turnovers, second-chance points (off an incredible 16 offensive rebounds) and fast-break points while winning the points in the paint battle as well. The one thing common in both losses is the Braves lost the defensive rebounds. With so little pointing to a statistical advantage in defeating them, the best way to do it is to simply bring your A game and hope the Braves have an off night. 

Nova Southeastern vs. West Liberty: How to watch, preview and prediction

Nova Southeastern and West Liberty face off for the 2023 DII men's basketball national championship on CBS at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 25.

2023 March Madness: Men's NCAA tournament schedule, dates, times

Here is how to watch all of March Madness, including links to live streams, TV info, scores and schedules.

Latest bracket, schedule and scores for 2023 NCAA men's tournament

The March Madness bracket, plus the latest schedule, scores, livestreams and TV info for the 2023 NCAA DI men's basketball championship.