The 2022 DII Men’s Elite Eight tips off from Evansville, Indiana on Tuesday, March 22 at 1 p.m. ET. Before the two-time defending champion Northwest Missouri State Bearcats take on Bentley to start the action, let’s take a look at the field of eight.
Entering the tournament, I broke down the recent history of the field and discovered that the DII men’s basketball championship is not one for Cinderellas. We also uncovered that an average of four No. 1 seeds make it to the DII Men’s Elite Eight each year. Both held true in 2022. Nova Southeastern, Indiana (Pa), Augusta and Bentley were all No. 1 seeds in their respective divisions, while the other four seeds that advanced were No. 3s.
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With no underdogs or real surprises in the mix, that makes the quarterfinals field absolutely loaded.
No. 1 Nova Southeastern: The Sharks are 31-0 and survived two very close affairs to reach Evansville, winning in the final seconds over both Union (TN) and Embry-Riddle by a combined four points. They are the top-scoring offense in the field at 95.9 points per game and lead DII in a wide array of categories, including assists, steals and turnover margin. Prior to head coach Jim Crutchfield’s arrival in 2017-18, this was a six-win team. Now the Sharks are back in the DII Men’s Elite Eight for the second time in the last three tournaments. It’s a remarkable turnaround.
No. 2 Indiana (PA): The Crimson Hawks are no strangers to the DII Men’s Elite Eight, but it has been a while. Last time IUP made it this far was in 2015, and it went all the way to the championship game before falling to Florida Southern. This is a very well-balanced team on both sides of the court with four scorers that reach double figures and the PSAC’s top scoring defense. The way the Crimson Hawks clamped down on Cal (Pa) in the final minutes of the Atlantic Regional was impressive.
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No. 3 Augusta: The Jaguars are back in the DII Men’s Elite Eight in true March fashion.
Augusta returns to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010 and it is its fourth trip to the DII Men’s Elite Eight. Tyshaun Crawford is one of the best players in the field and one of 25 players remaining on the Bevo Francis Watchlist, crowning the best player in small college basketball. He will need to be at his best for this team to advance.
No. 4 Bentley: Like Augusta, Bentley returns to the DII Men’s Elite Eight for the first time since 2010. That season, the Falcons beat Augusta to reach the semifinals, where their run ended. This team is very balanced and handled the East Region very well. Offensively, they come at you in many ways with four players averaging at least 15 points per game, making the Falcons a defensive matchup nightmare.
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No. 5 Northwest Missouri State: Diego Bernard and Trevor Hudgins are looking to add to their historic run with their third national championship in four years. Hudgins is having arguably the best season of his career, which is scary, and Bernard continues to be one of the most important players in all DII; his defense is vital to the Bearcats’ success. If it isn’t already, should the dynamic duo pull off another title, it will go down as arguably the best four-year run in DII men’s basketball history.
No. 6 Chico State: The Wildcats are back in the DII Men’s Elite Eight for the third time in recent history (nine years, but seven tournaments since 2020 was canceled and the CCAA never played last season). That is pretty impressive, but Chico State is trying to find that elusive quarterfinals win. This is a very gritty team that had to battle (and beat several times) two top-10 teams in Cal State San Marcos and Cal State San Bernardino just to get here. Don’t sleep on this six seed.
No. 7 Hillsdale: History was made for the Chargers’ program as they advanced to their first-ever DII Men’s Elite Eight. They made it to the Atlantic Region finals last year as the No. 1 seed before succumbing to West Liberty, but this year, the Chargers left no doubt, winning both the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals by double digits. Patrick Cartier is a Bevo Francis finalist and will make Hillsdale a very tough seven seed.
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No. 8 Black Hills State: More history was made in Spearfish, South Dakota as the Yellow Jackets are also making their first DII Men’s Elite Eight appearance in program history. They swept through both the RMAC and South Central Region but will have their hands full in the quarterfinals matchup against Nova Southeastern. Joel Scott — a walking double-double and yet another Bevo Francis finalist — will be the focal point and has proven to be a real game-changer.