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Wayne Cavadi | | March 17, 2023

1 thing to know about each team in the 2023 DII Men's Elite Eight

DII men's basketball: 2023 selection show

The 2023 DII Men’s Elite Eight tips off from Evansville, Indiana at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 21, when Black Hills State takes on Minnesota Duluth. For the first time since 2018, the final eight looks a bit different, as the Northwest Missouri Bearcats will not be defending their crown.

Heading into the tournament, I made some predictions based on history, and quite a bit of history at that. That history showed a few things, the main one being that No. 1 seeds have had a greater than 50 percent chance of making the DII Men's Elite Eight since the dawn of the 64-team bracket. On top of that, there was never less than three No. 1 seeds in the current DII Men's Elite Eight format, while not many seeds below a No. 4 made the trip to Evansville.

Welcome to 2023.

FOLLOW THE DII ELITE EIGHT: Live updates: 2023 NCAA DII men's basketball championship

My bracket was blown to bits as a mere No. 1 seed advanced to the DII Men's Elite Eight. That No. 1 seed is Nova Southeastern. Joining the Sharks are three No. 2s, one No. 3, one No. 4, and two No. 6 seeds. In essence, the 2023 DII men's basketball championship made no sense.

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BRACKET: Follow the interactive bracket

1 thing to know about the DII Men's Elite Eight remaining teams

No. 1 Nova Southeastern. The DII Men's Elite Eight began seeding the final eight teams in Evansville in 2016. Since that process started, the Sharks are the first team to earn consecutive No. 1 overall seeds. It is also the second-straight year the Sharks have entered the DII Men's Elite Eight undefeated. It's pretty remarkable what coach Jim Crutchfield has done since taking over in 2017-18. The Sharks have reached the DII Men's Elite Eight in 2019, 2022 and now 2023, were a No. 2 seed in the South when the 2020 season shut down, and never played the 2021 season. That's quite the track record.

No. 2 West Liberty. The Hilltoppers have the longest winning streak of the seven remaining teams, entering the DII Men's Elite Eight winners of 16 in a row. They are also the only other team outside of the Sharks to average more than 100 points per game this season. Crutchfield was the longtime coach at West Liberty and the way the bracket is seeded, a showdown for the ages could happen in the finals if no one can slow down either of these rocket-fueled offenses. Bryce Butler is one of a handful of players that could win player of the year.

No. 3 Black Hills State. What a road traveled for the Yellow Jackets. After a torrid start to the season, they stumbled to the finish line, losing four of their last seven games. However, they pulled out three-straight upsets over the top three seeds in the South Central region, barely escaping the regional final with a one-point victory over West Texas A&M in a last-shot thriller. None of that matters. Black Hills State is back for the second year in a row, but this year aren't in the position to pull off the most shocking upset of the tournament (and possibly the DII Men's Elite era). 

No. 4 Cal State San Bernardino. This is a historic year for the Coyotes, already setting the program single-season wins and scoring record. While this isn't the first trip for the Coyotes to the DII Men's Elite Eight, it is their first in over a decade. Never has a Coyote final eight team made the championship game, so why not this historic bunch. The Yotes are coming off one of the more memorable games in the tournament, taking down No. 1 Point Loma. With DII superstar Brandon Knapper (one of four 2023 Bevo Francis finalists in the DII Men's Elite Eight) leading the way, this team has the makeup to continue its historic run.

No. 5 Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters were a No. 3 seed in the Southeast, but that doesn't speak to the talent this team has. Lincoln Memorial is one of two teams remaining (the other being the Sharks) to open the season in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic, the official opening to the DII season. Like the Sharks, the Railsplitters eclipsed the 100-point mark on opening night, showing this team can be a bulldozer if not D'd up. Lincoln Memorial is not far removed from its previous Elite Eight appearance, when it made it to the semifinals in 2017.

No. 6 Minnesota Duluth. In the bracket prediction article, I did mention that the Bulldogs were the most dangerous six seed in the entire tournament. Now that they are in Evansville, that very well may still hold true. Last year, the Bulldogs returned to the tournament for the first time in nearly two decades and didn't want to wait that long again. Every win since then has been of historic proportions: their first-ever tournament win was in upset fashion against Central Oklahoma and then they won their first-ever Central Region title to advance to their first-ever DII Men's Elite Eight. This team is loaded with veteran leadership, albeit in uncharted territory. Can the Bulldogs continue to rewrite their history books in Evansville?

No. 7 New Haven. The East continues to mystify everyone, with nary a repeat champion in more than six years. For the Chargers, the 10th time was the charm, as they are heading to the DII Men's Elite Eight for the first time in program history after their first nine tourney appearances fell short. The Chargers survived the East Region gamut with the NE10's best scoring defense which was also a top-10 mark in all DII men's basketball, and the best remaining scoring defense in the tournament. Going against a West Liberty team that can drop 100 points with relative ease, that defense will be the key to scoring a huge upset.

No. 8 Missouri-St. Louis. UMSL broke a 32-year NCAA tournament drought in 2020 only to have the tournament canceled due to COVID. This is the Tritons third-straight year in the dance and each one has gotten progressively better. Last year they made it to the Midwest Region championship game and this year, they won it, securing their spot in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1972. What a rollercoaster season it has been for UMSL. At one point this team was 12-0 and in the top 10 before a midseason speed bump. The Tritons will look to be the second No. 8 seed in as many years to advance to the semifinals, but it will once again have to come over Nova Southeastern. 

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