There shouldn’t be much of a surprise at the top. Northwest Missouri State looks like it is already in March form, off to an 8-0 start. In fact, seven teams from the preseason Power 10 have gotten off to the starts I expected, all holding on to a spot in the top 10.
Remember, these are my rankings. I don’t have an official vote and I like to try and blend those metrics used by the selection committee with the traditional eye test, as well as data compiled on Inkblot Sports.
The first DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings of the regular season
(Note: Games through Dec. 3)
No. 1 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 1: It’s not just that the Bearcats are undefeated, it’s the resume they are already putting together. Now 8-0, wins against West Texas A&M, Flagler and Northern State were huge before MIAA play even began. This team continues to cook with Diego Bernard as its leader, but Bennett Stirtz has been remarkable as a freshman, providing a spark every time he comes into a game.
No. 2 Indiana (PA) | Previous: 2: The Crimson Hawks are another team that is cruising into the new year. They are a perfect 7-0 and only one of their games has been particularly close. Shawndale Jones, who missed much of last season with injury, is making up for lost time with 20.8 points per game, but per usual, this team has scorers all over the floor.
No. 3 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 5: I’m impressed. After losing Nick Smith, Sekou Sylla and Eddie Puisis from a 31-1 team, I did not expect the latest rendition of Sharks’ basketball to make it look this easy so early. Lo and behold, the Sharks came out of the gates red-hot, scoring 196 points in consecutive days at the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic and have yet to slow down. Five players are scoring in double figures to get Nova Southeastern off to a 7-0 start.
No. 4 Black Hills State | Previous: 7: The Yellow Jackets are picking up right where they left off in their historic 2021-22 season, now 8-0 on the young season. That includes wins over nationally ranked teams MSU Moorhead and Augustana (SD). Probably to no one’s surprise, Joel Scott leads the team in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game so far.
No. 5 West Liberty | Previous: 9: The Hilltoppers are another team that is adjusting quickly and are right back to West Liberty form, scoring at least 101 points in four-straight games. Sitting at 7-0, the Hilltoppers are winning games by close to 30 points a night. Bryce Butler is blossoming into a full-fledged DII superstar with 21.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
All Stats Team: A starting five of box score stuffers for November
No. 6 Central Oklahoma | Previous: First five out: After a strong start against non-division opponents, the Bronchos are charging through the competition in DII men’s basketball. That includes an impressive victory over previous Power-10 team, Cal State San Bernardino by 12 points. Central Oklahoma has four big-time scorers, but in the MIAA, hot starts mean very little come March... especially with the Bronchos' February schedule.
No. 7 Hillsdale | Previous: Interesting teams to watch
Hillsdale entered the season in a bundle of teams that had a lot of question marks. Hillsdale has become a tournament threat the past couple of seasons but lost some key players that got them there. It was fair to question how quickly they could get back to that level of play. However, the Chargers are now 9-0 and looking tougher than ever before. There are a lot of weapons that lead a very balanced attack, allowing Hillsdale to come at opponents in different ways. This is quite the start for the Chargers, and No. 7 may be too low.
No. 8 Lincoln Memorial | Previous: 8
The Railsplitters are a one-loss team, but that shouldn’t fool you from how good this team is. The one loss came to a preseason top-25 team in the SCB Hall of Fame Classic — which every DII basketball fan knows is no easy field. Since then, they have reeled off seven wins in a row, including handing Tusculum its first regular-season loss. There are just so many scorers on this team (seven players are averaging more than nine points per game) to think they can’t go far in the Southeast.
No. 9 Augusta | Previous: 3: The Jaguars came out of the gates red-hot, looking like they are on a mission to get back to the DII Elite Eight. However, they ran into an equally scorching hot Virginia Union team and lost by 19 points. Still, basketball is its own beast, and I’m not ready to see the defending national runners-up fall out of the top 10 after one tough loss, especially with Tyshaun Crawford averaging a double double.
No. 10 Colorado School of Mines | Previous: Not ranked: Well, how about those Orediggers? This team did return quite a bit of talent, but it looks like they are putting it together much better than last year’s 16-11 season. More importantly, they have signature wins against Lubbock Christian and Colorado Mesa, which will loom large as their tournament resume grows. This weekend is a big test with Black Hills State on tap.
First five out (in alphabetical order):
- Cal State San Bernardino: Yes, this team ran into the bulldozer that is Central Oklahoma, but otherwise, the Coyotes have looked very much like last year's tournament team at 6-1.
- Emporia State: Losing one of the most dynamic backcourts in the nation, I did not think Emporia State would rebound so quickly. Saying the Hornets 7-0 start is impressive is an understatement.
- Fort Lewis: Last week, Akuel Kot made his all-stats starting five debut. This week, the undefeated Skyhawks make their Power 10 debut. The RMAC is shaping up to be a fun conference early on this season.
- Minnesota State: The Mavericks were 16-10 last season and are already 9-0. A big weekend against Augustana (SD) and Wayne State (Neb) awaits.
- UMSL: The Tritons were another team I didn't have on my radar, but they have been very good, sitting at 8-0. That includes a big non-conference win against then-top-20 Walsh.
Just missed: Bentley, Fairmont State, Florida Southern, UNC Pembroke, Virginia Union
Team to watch: Florida Tech — How about the Panthers? They are off to an 8-1 start and have no one, but two players averaging more than 20 per game. Sean Houpt drops 21.2 per game and Sesan Russel adds 20.9, while third-leading scorer Niall Harris already has a triple double on the season. A big matchup against Florida Southern awaits this weekend, but I am intrigued.