This is it, ladies and gentlemen: The final few games to beef up that DII men's basketball championship resume. As we head into Sunday's selection show, Nova Southeastern remains undefeated and in the top spot of the latest Power 10 rankings.
BRACKETOLOGY: Track all 23 AQs to the DII men's basketball tournament
Last week I took a look at the dark horse contenders. Now, you can consider these the true contenders for the 2023 national championship. These final rankings before the tournament begin to lean more heavily on selection committee metrics than previous ones with so much at stake. It is also the final Power 10 until after the DII men's basketball championship is complete.
Away we go.
The seventh DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings of the season
(All games through Monday, Feb. 26)
No. 1 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 1: For the second time in as many years, the Sharks blew through the Sunshine State Conference and finished the regular season undefeated. As they have all season, the Sharks lead DII in a slew of categories, scoring 104.4 points per game, winning games by 27.4 points, and by forcing 23.30 turnovers a game (just to name a few). The impressive part about these numbers is that the second-place team in each category isn't even close.
No. 2 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 2: It's March, and until further notice, the month is also referred to as Bearcat Season in DII parts. This team is rolling once again leading the division with the best scoring defense, allowing a stingy 56.1 points per game, and the best shooting team in the division, shooting 52.4 percent. Luke Waters and Diego Bernard have won five MIAA regular season titles in a row and are looking to close this ridiculous run with their fourth national title in as many tries.
No. 3 Indiana (PA) | Previous: 3: The Crimson Hawks are another team predicated on tough defense which always bodes well this time of year. That especially holds true when teams like West Liberty and Fairmont State stand in your way in the Atlantic Region. That said Shawndale Jones, Dave Morris, Tomiwa Sulaiman and Ethan Porterfield are all very athletic and strong scorers making this one of the most balanced teams in the land. Despite Nova Southeastern's undefeated run, the details separating the top three are microscopic.
TOURNEY 101: How the NCAA DII men’s basketball tournament works
No. 4 Point Loma | Previous: 9: The Sea Lions have apparently forgotten how to lose. After a 4-3 start, Point Loma sits at 25-4, meaning they swept through the PacWest a perfect 20-0, the first team in conference history to ever do so. Kaden Anderson gets a lot of the attention (and rightfully so), but Luke Haupt has been one of the most important players in the division this year. He contributes 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and a team-high 1.5 steals and 4.7 assists this season. This is a guy that stuffs the stat sheet and could be an X-factor down the road.
No. 5 West Liberty | Previous: First five out: The Hilltoppers were just outside the last Power 10 and are gelling at the right time. As the win streak and points per game keep jumping up, so does their ranking. West Liberty has now won 10 games in a row and has scored at least 100 points in each of its last five games, now averaging 101.1 points per game. Bryce Butler should find his name on the very short list of player-of-the-year candidates, averaging 22.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as the leader of this team.
Note: This is where it gets dicey. The top four have handled their business, pretty much since the calendar flipped to 2023 (if not earlier in some cases). EVERY team remaining in the previous Power 10 lost at least one game since Feb. 14 (the date they were released) so it becomes a matter of weighing which losses meant more.
No. 6 Cal State San Bernardino | Previous: Not ranked: With all those teams losing, the Coyotes jump into the Power 10 party. The Yotes have won 10 in a row and clinched their second CCAA regular-season title in as many years. Brandon Knapper is one of DII men's basketball's best players, but the starting five is loaded with scorers for the conference's top-scoring offense. It would be a stunner for the Coyotes not to win the CCAA tournament, but crazier things have happened. A win, however, would likely lock in CSUSB as the No. 2 seed in the West.
SLEEPERS?: Watch out for these 7 teams in March
No. 7 Fort Lewis | Previous: First five out: What a furious final two weeks for the Skyhawks. First, they dispose of the defending South Central champion Black Hills State twice in a row before closing the regular season with a loss to Colorado School of Mines. But if you are wondering how a team climbs so high after a loss it is because Mines is a top-20 team in DII. Even with that last final loss to the Orediggers, Fort Lewis has played DII-ranked competition to a 6-2 record and that's impressive. Akuel Kot's breakout as one of DII men's basketball's premier scorers has been remarkable to watch.
No. 8 (tie) UIndy, UNC Pembroke| Previous: 7 (tied): Truth be told, both teams nearly fell from the Power 10, but losses by nearly everyone else secured their spots. Neither team has played a particularly strong schedule, but when they have (meaning against DII-ranked opponents) they have excelled. UIndy suffered a big loss to UMSL, a team that started the season red-hot but had been in a complete nosedive until the victory against the Greyhounds. UNC Pembroke lost to a streaking Emmanuel (GA) team that is trying to sneak its way into the national tournament. The point is, these were both very big games against two teams both may see again in the conference and national tournament. You want to see top-10 teams win those games this time of year.
No. 10 Augusta, Lincoln Memorial | Previous: First five out, 4 (respectively): The Jaguars pick I'm sure is the stunner, but there is plenty of reasons why. The Southeast has three teams in the national top-25 conversation, so it's no joke. Despite having five losses, Augusta still has the best RPI in that region, and one of the best RPIs in the entire division. The Jaguars also have 23 wins against the fifth-toughest schedule in DII men's basketball and on top of that have played 12 games against DII ranked opponents — a number far greater than nearly every other top-25 team — and are 8-4 against said opponents. This is where the Power 10 differs from both the regional and traditional rankings: I try to bring aspects together from both to show that a five-loss team may be way better than you think it is.
Note how I just said that the Southeast is stacked. Well, the Railsplitters prove that. Lincoln Memorial gets dinged because that loss to Lenoir-Rhyne was a bad one. This offense — which is top-10 in scoring — was held to a season-low 59 points against an 11-win team. That said, bad days happen and if Lincoln Memorial got its out of the way now, that may be all she wrote for the Southeast. This team, talent-wise, is that good and deep to get very far in the tournament.
First five out (in alphabetical order):
- Central Oklahoma: If I ranked these numerically, the Bronchos are the first team out. Yes, they are coming off a loss, but it was to Northwest Missouri State. This team has been good all year and is ready to make some noise in March.
- Colorado Mesa: The Mavericks are 5-1 against DII-ranked teams in what has suddenly become one of the toughest conferences and regions in DII. Their current 10-game winning streak has them poised for a big run.
- Mercyhurst: Momentum, my friends. Mercyhurst ekes out this spot over Colorado School of Mines (a losing record against DII-ranked opponents) and Black Hills State (lost three of its last four regular-season games) because the Lakers have won nine of their last 10, including that big one over IUP to give them a winning record against ranked opponents. As one IUP fan commented on my Twitter page, "Playing Mercyhurst is about as fun as a root canal." That's what this defense does to people... makes them yearn for the dentist.
- Northern State: That first-round loss in the NSIC tournament was a big one, and I'll gladly take heat for still keeping this team this high. But the schedule the Wolves have played and a 6-3 record against DII-ranked teams in the toughest region in DII men's basketball lets them cling to this spot.
- Southern Nazarene: The Storm continues to brew as this team finished the year on a torrid 15-game winning streak. They have one of the best defenses in the land but are in a Central Region that is stacked with postseason experience. Still, the balance of scoring in the starting five and that stingy D make this a team to watch.
Just missed: Black Hills State, Colorado School of Mines
Team to watch: Well, in case you missed it, I gave you a whole bunch to consider last week. Here's a look at seven dark horses you better be watching this March.