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Wayne Cavadi | | September 27, 2020

3 questions to be answered as DII sports begin

Watch all 6 touchdown passes from West Florida's Austin Reed in DII football championship

West Texas A&M and Angelo State football got DII sports back in action on Saturday, September 26. The Rams defeated the Buffs 21-10 in the first football game that pitted two DII teams against each other in any sport since play was halted in March.

So what can we look for in the early stages of this new 2020-21 season?

What will the DII football season look like?

The easiest answer is different. Of the ten teams currently set to play this season, nary a one made my preseason top 25. That could mean we have a very level playing field as there are quite a few games between teams that don't often — or have never — play each other. 

DID YOU KNOW? The complete guide to the DII football season

West Texas A&M now has two games under its belt, defeating NAIA foe Oklahoma Panhandle by 51 before losing 21-10 to Angelo State Saturday in the first DII football game of the season. Angelo State showed off its powerful defense in the win. A year after the Rams finished third in the Lone Star Conference in yards allowed while tying for the least points allowed per game, they completely shut down the Buffs in the second half after a tightly-contested first 30 minutes. Angelo State allowed no points and a mere 89 total yards.

Angelo State gets a week to rest, but West Texas A&M continues its interesting schedule this coming week, the only DII team that will play before we are treated to our first “full slate” of games on October 10. The Buffaloes certainly have the most diverse schedule in DII football. They have already defeated an NAIA team and now head to Stephen F. Austin of the FCS on October 3. They face another FCS team, one more NAIA team, two teams from the MIAA and Colorado Mesa from the RMAC before the season ends.

Coming up: West Texas A&M at Stephen F. Austin, 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 3
Stephen F. Austin didn’t fare well its last time against a DII football Texas rival. The Lumberjacks lost by 11 to Tarleton State last season on the same Saturday that five other DII football teams took down FCS foes. Stephen F. Austin is off to a rough 0-3 start having been outscored 98-31 in 2020.

While quarterback Nick Gerber should be poised for a big game, it is the Buffs running game that could pave the way to victory. The Lumberjacks are allowing 213.7 yards per game on the ground and have allowed nine rushing touchdowns thus far. The Buffs piled up 415 yards rushing in their first game, their highest rushing total in 20 years, so expect them to try and establish control of the ground this Saturday.

Fun fact: Ashland football has had quite the DII football history, racking up over 500 wins in program history. This past Friday, September 25 was the 100-year anniversary of the Eagles first collegiate football game. They lost 74-0. 

Who do we watch this DII college basketball season?

That is a good question. October is about to start and in normal times, that means the beginning of the DII men’s and women’s basketball preseason. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait a bit longer than usual, and what the DII college basketball landscape will look like upon its return is very much a mystery.

Technically speaking, we have no defending champ which means there is a lot of unfinished business for many teams. While there are a ton of question marks about what the 2020-21 season will look like, we do know how it ended.

The final DII men’s basketball Power 10 (from March 2, 2020):
1. Northwest Missouri State
2. Lincoln Memorial
3. West Texas A&M
4. UC San Diego
5. Florida Southern
6. Azusa Pacific
7. Indiana (Pa)
8. Indianapolis
9. Valdosta State
10. St. Edward’s

Quick thought: We know we will have a new top 5 at the very least as UC San Diego heads to Division I. The Bearcats, Railsplitters and Buffs all had key, young pieces in place for a championship run in the 2019-20 shortened season, so expect all three to be in the hunt this year.

The final DII women’s basketball Power 10 (from March 2, 2020):
1. Drury
2. Ashland
3. Hawaii Pacific
4. Grand Valley State
5. Lubbock Christian
6. Alaska Anchorage
7. Adelphi
8. Indiana (Pa)
9. Central Missouri
10. Minnesota Duluth

Quick thought: That Midwest Region is sure going to look different, won’t it? Drury head coach Molly Miller, who’s .914 winning percentage over the past four seasons is the best in all of college basketball, is now the head coach at Grand Canyon. That Ashland squad that ran off a DII college basketball record-setting winning streak will be barren of almost all the pieces that helped make it happen. And that experienced Grand Valley State team that caused a lot of trouble the past few seasons will look completely different. The Midwest Region was definitely the toughest the past few years. It’s safe to wonder if there will be a changing of the guard.

Will a DII baseball alum hoist the World Series trophy?

This past week, Nova Southeastern announced that it has named its Baseball Golf Classic after Sharks’ Hall of Famer Miles Mikolas. Mikolas, of course, is one of a few big-name Sharks’ alum to make it to the ranks of Major League Baseball, but has been injured this 2020 season for the St. Louis Cardinals.

His 2009 Nova Southeastern rotation-mate Mike Fiers, however, is heading to the MLB playoffs as part of the Oakland A’s rotation. Of the 16 teams heading to the 2020 MLB postseason, 14 have clinched a spot heading into Sunday’s final day of the regular season. That means currently 10 former DII baseball players will still be playing when the playoffs commence on Tuesday, September 29.

Here’s a look at the DII baseball players heading to the postseason.*

Team Player School
Atlanta Braves Nick Markakis Young Harris**
Miami Marlins Brandon Kintzler Dixie State
  Matt Joyce Florida Southern
Minnesota Twins Sergio Romo Colorado Mesa
Oakland As Mike Fiers Nova Southeastern
  Lou Trivino Slippery Rock
San Diego Padres Dan Altavilla Mercyhurst
  Emilio Pagan Belmont Abbey
Tampa Bay Rays Joey Wendle West Chester
Toronto Blue Jays Anthony Bass Wayne State (MI) 

Daniel Ponce de Leon (Embry-Riddle) and Ryan Helsley (Northeastern State) are hoping the Cardinals hold on and clinch one of the two National League playoff spots remaining. The Philadelphia Phillies Kyle Garlick (Cal Poly Pomona) would round out the bunch should the Phillies claim the final playoff spot. 

*Based on current active regular-season rosters. Official postseason rosters have not been announced, so this list could change.
** Young Harris was NAIA when Markakis played, however is now a DII program.

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