Lubbock Christian and Nova Southeastern keep rolling along, as both teams remain undefeated through January. That keeps both teams locked atop the DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings.
The previous two Power 10 rankings saw a lot of movement, with upsets and losses leading to a pair of new-look top 10s in back-to-back weeks. While all 10 teams weren’t fortunate enough to escape without a loss this past week, there was only a pair of upsets that led to a little shakeup near the bottom of the rankings. Overall, many of the teams this week should look quite familiar.
DII’S BEST: January’s all-stats starting five
The DII men’s basketball Power 10 is a list based on overall records, insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders and some of the numbers considered by the selection committee come DII men’s basketball tournament time. You will have a brand-new Power 10 every Tuesday until the start of the DII men’s basketball championship tournament.
The DII men’s basketball Power 10 rankings (All games through Jan. 31)
No. 1 Lubbock Christian | Previous: 1
Last time out, the Chaps made program history with their 17th-straight win to open the season. That streak has since been extended to 19. Parker Hicks, Lloyd Daniels, Aamer Muhammad and Rowan Mackenzie chip in 59.2 points per game while combining to shoot an impressive 52.3 percent from the field. Pair that firepower with a top-5 scoring defense and the Chaps look scary good.
No. 2 Nova Southeastern | Previous: 2
Nick Smith highlighted the January all-stats starting five and seems to be a perfect fit for this lineup. Of course, it is a lot easier to lead DII in assists when you are dishing to Sekou Sylla and RJ Sunahara every night. The Big Three makes the Sharks an absolute nightmare to defend, and when you add in a guy like Eddie Puisis, who added 55 points in two games this past week — including a career-high 32 on Saturday — this Nova Southeastern offense looks unstoppable.
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No. 3 Cal State San Bernardino | Previous: 3
The Coyotes sprung to No. 3 last week and after another two wins, they stay there. They are now an impressive 16-1 and boast the CCAA’s top offense, scoring 88.3 points per game. Darius Mickens has really come alive of late, with three 20-point games and a pair of double-doubles in his past five games. The Coyotes have a tough road ahead with both Chico State and Cal State San Marcos in a six-day span to open February.
No. 4 Northwest Missouri State | Previous: 4
The Central Region is its usual mess of highly ranked teams that all boast the stats required to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Northwest Missouri State has played a tough schedule and may arguably be the No. 2 seed in the region right now, but the Bearcats are also the two-time defending champs. Yes, they have two losses, but one came to a top-25 team by one point in overtime. Every time this team loses, they seem to learn a lesson and come out stronger and remain the highest ranked team in their region on this list.
No. 5 Indiana (Pa) | Previous: 9
Last week, the Crimson Hawks dropped to No. 9 after falling in an upset to Pitt-Johnstown. This week, they rebounded with a pair of wins, including their second of the season over perennial tournament power and nationally ranked Mercyhurst. Armoni Foster came up big (as always) in the Mercyhurst win with 30 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals. Right now, the Atlantic Region is a fun little race between West Liberty, IUP and even Fairmont State, so the Crimson Hawks must finish strong.
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No. 6 West Liberty | Previous: 6
Speaking of the Hilltoppers, West Liberty holds tight at No. 6 with a pair of high scoring wins last week. The team overtook Nova Southeastern and is now the top-scoring offense in DII men’s basketball with a 99.2 average. While Pat Robinson III and Bryce Butler stuff the stat sheet nightly with big games after big game, this team is deep with six more players averaging at least seven points per game. This is a huge week for West Liberty with both West Virginia State and Charleston (WV), two teams that are near the top of the MEC standings, on the schedule.
No. 7 Augustana (SD) | Previous: 7
The Vikings tallied two more wins last week and have now won seven in a row. Sitting at 17-2, Augustana is part of the cluster atop the Central Region. This weekend, the Vikings have a chance to improve their spot with two big matchups. First up is a Winona State team clinging to their hopes of capturing the final spot in this loaded region. On Saturday, Augustana can avenge its early season loss to nationally ranked Upper Iowa. Both games are home where the Vikings are 9-0 this season. Should they win both, we may be looking at the top seed in the Central.
No. 8 UNC Pembroke | Previous: 10
The Braves continue their climb up the rankings, jumping another two spots this week. UNC Pembroke won two more games this week to extend their winning streak to 14 and improve to 18-1 on the season. Most importantly, the Braves avenged their lone loss of the year, trouncing Emmanuel (GA) 80-59 this past weekend. Spencer Levi, Jordan Ratliffe, Tyrell Kirk and Deon Berrien — all of whom are scoring in double figures this year — as well as Trenton McIntyre make an intriguing starting rotation as any in DII.
No. 9 Minnesota Duluth | Previous: First out
The Bulldogs are back in the Power 10 after dropping out with consecutive losses to nationally ranked teams. They have won three games since, all convincingly at that. This starting five is very good, with each player contributing more than 11.0 points per game. Austin Andrews posted back-to-back double-doubles last week while Drew Blair went for 21 and 33 as the team’s most potent weapons. The Bulldogs have six games remaining in the regular season and none of the six opponents have an above-.500 record in NSIC play. They need to win out to hold onto this spot and stay in the hunt in the heated Central Region.
No. 10 Fairmont State | Previous: 8
This final spot came down to the Fighting Falcons and Cal State San Marcos. Both lost last week, but the Cougars have now lost two of three, keeping the very narrowly open door ajar for Fairmont State. The Falcons have played a relatively tough schedule and have come out with a 16-3 record plus a signature win over West Liberty. This team can put up points with legitimate scorers, but with three losses, have very little wiggle room for error down the stretch. A rematch with West Liberty on Feb. 19 will be pivotal in the standings.
First five out (in alphabetical order)
- Bentley: The East Region hasn’t gotten much attention this season, but the Falcons just keep winning and deserve mention. They had a perfect January to improve to 14-2 on the season and have a dynamic offense with four players averaging at least 15.4 points per game.
- Cal State San Marcos: The Cougars have played a tough schedule and for the most part, have played it well sitting at 14-2. However, two losses in three games, both to teams that are in the hunt for the conference title, drops them from the top 10.
- Central Oklahoma: The Bronchos suffered a tough loss to a surging Washburn team but are still 17-3 on the season. Isaiah Wade is an absolute stud and has been playing some of his best basketball of late.
- Ferris State: The Bulldogs have just one loss in 2022 and that was a double-overtime doozy to Minnesota Duluth. Ferris State looks to stay undefeated in the GLIAC, but a very tough Grand Valley State team, which it beat on Jan. 13, stands in the Bulldogs way this week.
- Lincoln Memorial: The Railsplitters bounced back from their stunner against Catawba with two big wins. Here’s what to watch down the stretch: Lincoln Memorial is 11-0 at home but play six of its final eight games on the road.
Also considered (in alphabetical order): Augusta, Barry, Dominican (NY), Flagler, Mercyhurst, Queens (NC), Regis (CO), Truman, Upper Iowa, West Texas A&M
Player to watch: KJ Jones II, Emmanuel (GA)
We continue to highlight those players who may be flying under the radar because their team is not mentioned in rankings or polls. This week’s spotlight is on Conference Carolina’s smooth-scoring guard, KJ Jones II.
Jones II broke out in a big way last season. After an impressive freshman year, he erupted in 2020-21, averaging 22.0 points per game. That success has carried over into this season as he continues to lead Emmanuel in scoring, contributing 21.1 points per game.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, Jones II has a pretty shot from the outside, but he is at his best taking it to the hole. With an explosive first step, he gets to the basket quickly and smoothly and clearly capitalizes often when he beats an opponent. For his efforts thus far, Jones II was a member of the initial Bevo Francis 2022 watchlist.