The DII college basketball season is revving up. With opening tip scheduled for this week, we’ll take a look at the current slate for opening weekend and the first NCAA.com rankings of the season in the DII men’s basketball preseason Power 10.
But let’s not forget, there was some football played this weekend. Despite four games being canceled due to COVID-19, the Pittsburg State Gorillas headed to FCS Stephen F. Austin and gave the Lumberjacks an early scare before SFA put the game away in the second half. The Gorillas, who trailed 13-7 at the half, lost 26-7. We’ll take a look ahead at what is in store for the final weekend of 2020 DII football fall season.
Get ready, NCAA DII sports fans. It’s your weekly NCAA DII Sunday Special. Away we go.
DII men’s basketball preseason Power 10
We are on the cusp of the 2020-2021 DII college basketball season. And while only a portion of the teams will be tipping off over the next few weeks, the time seems right to release my picks for the teams to watch this season.
First, a quick reminder: These are my picks, and mine alone. Much like I did last year with the weekly Power 10, I spoke to a slew of coaches and SIDs, dove into rosters and used my years on the DII men’s basketball beat to come up with what I feel are the preseason top 10. That means my Power 10 will probably have a much different look than the preseason NABC preseason poll to be released this coming week.
One important note. DII men’s basketball is a fickle sport, not always as predictable as one thinks (remember when Mercyhurst almost ended Northwest Missouri State’s season in the 2019 DII Men’s Elite Eight?). This season is going to be even more unpredictable with so much uncertainty surrounding each week. Because of that, I weighed the amount of returning student-athletes, especially starters, very heavily in my guesses — er, rankings.
We shall see how that affects things. Remember, two seasons ago, the Bearcats were supposed to take a step back, losing the MIAA’s all-time leading scorer (Justin Pitts, for those that forgot) and having to mesh several freshmen into the mix. They wound up going 38-0 and winning the national championship. Oops.
Let the record show. I think Northwest Missouri State is the clear cut No. 1 team in the land. Teams two through five were separated by a thread. The final five teams are also so close, they may be interchangeable. Without further ado, let’s take a look at your NCAA.com Preseason Power 10.
PREVIEW: 5 teams that could threaten the Bearcats run to another MIAA title
No. 1 Northwest Missouri State. The Bearcats have the two frontrunners for the player of the year in Trevor Hudgins and Ryan Hawkins returning, along with Wes Dreamer, Diego Bernard and Luke Waters. Hudgins, Hawkins and Bernard have gone 69-1 over the past two seasons together. Any questions?
No. 2 West Liberty. I expect I have the Hilltoppers higher than most, but the entire starting five is returning. That includes one of the best scorers in DII men’s basketball in Dalton Bolon and his two wingmen — Will Yoakum and Pat Robinson III — that each scored 18.0 points per game in 2019.
No. 3 West Texas A&M. Qua Grant and Joel Murray have absolutely wowed me since they were freshmen in 2019. Now as juniors, they are one of the best one-two punches in the sport. You should also keep an eye on Jon’il Fugett. Grant and Murray are the unquestioned leaders, but his gritty play makes Fuggett one of those key glue guys every team needs.
No. 4 Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters were loaded last season and looked like real contenders for the DII men’s basketball championship. They only return two starters, but they are good ones. Cameron Henry is the reigning South Atlantic Conference defensive player of the year and Devin Whitfield took home the 2020 SAC tournament MVP honors.
No. 5 Florida Southern. I went with the Mocs over the Sharks here because I am absurdly high on Jalyn Hinton. The reigning Sunshine State Conference defensive player of the year can dictate the game, able to put up a double-double any night while being amongst the best shot blockers in DII.
No. 6 Nova Southeastern. Four starters return for Jim Crutchfield which is a big advantage. There is a big question mark (pun somewhat intended), as that one starter not returning was Mark Matthews, an absolute beast of a scoring machine. Still, you know Crutchfield is going to have a contender on the floor.
No. 7 Northern State. I may be a little higher on the Wolves than most as well. They will have tricky Minnesota Duluth, Augustana (SD) and possibly Sioux Falls teams to contend with, but they play in one of the toughest home venues in DII basketball. Northern State is two years removed from the DII men’s basketball championship game and return four starters, including player of the year candidate Parker Fox.
No. 8 Indiana (Pa). It’s not a DII men’s basketball preseason poll without a mention of Coach Joe Lombardi’s squad. Four starters return, including Armoni Foster who should be a PSAC player of the year candidate. The key here is the return of Tommy Demogerontas who was averaging 16 points and nine rebounds per game before getting hurt in just the fourth game of the 2018-19 season.
No. 9 Missouri Southern. I am going big here. Big as in Cam Martin. Martin is the Lions’ big man and one of the best in DII men’s basketball. He’s a special talent that can help a team make a big run. There are only two starters returning, but a couple of DI transfers, including RJ Smith who started every game for Sam Houston State in 2019, and freshman Jalen Parker have me very intrigued.
No. 10 Alabama-Huntsville. This was the hardest spot to pick. The next few teams out (more on that in a minute) were all deserving. I really liked the Chargers last year and felt they even underperformed a bit. It was a deep rotation with six players chipping in nine or more points per game. Four of those players, including leading scorers Max Shulman and Sam Orf, return.
The GLVC: Okay, all joking aside, let it be known I think the GLVC may be the most fun conference to watch in DII men’s basketball this season. That’s what I think hurts them a bit ranking wise — the competition is so tough and balanced, the teams may not have great records, which would lead a casual observer to think they are not as strong. UMSL, UIndy, Truman State, Southern Indiana and even Drury with their loaded returners were all strongly considered.
Queens (NC). What’s a DII preseason poll without Bart Lundy’s Royals? They only return one starter, but we know that Queens is a basketball factory.
Valdosta State. The Kings of the GSC only have two returning starters. I always seem to undervalue the Blazers in the preseason, and with some intriguing transfers, I may be doing it again.
The best of the rest: Ashland, Augustana (SD), Azusa Pacific, Colorado School of Mines, Fairmont State, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Jefferson, Point Loma, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edward’s, Western Washington.
Opening weekend matchups (All times ET. Please check back for updates on possible COVID-19 postponements):
Thursday, November 19, 2020
- Missouri Western at Rogers State, 8:30 p.m.
- Missouri Southern at Central Oklahoma, 8:30 p.m.
- Emporia State at Nebraska-Kearney, 8:30 p.m.
- Washburn at Fort Hays State, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 1 Northwest Missouri State at Northeastern State (postponed, rescheduled for Dec. 31)
- Miles at Carver, 7 p.m.
- Missouri Southern at Central Oklahoma, 6:30 p.m.
- Washburn at Fort Hays State, 6:30 p.m.
- Emporia State at Nebraska-Kearney, 6:30 p.m.
- Missouri Western at Rogers State, 6:30 p.m.
- Pittsburg State at Newman, 6:30 p.m.
- Northwest Missouri State at Northeastern State, 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Other men’s matchups:
Other women’s game:
DII football championship history lore: 30 seasons ago, the Gorillas make their mark
Pittsburg State was the only DII football team in action this past weekend. Though they weren’t able to add to their record-setting amount of wins, the Gorillas still hold the DII football mark for most victories of all time.
Originally an NAIA powerhouse, Pittsburg State made its jump to DII football in 1989. A mere two years later, the Gorillas were hoisting their first trophy. Pitt State was led by the 1989 Harlon Hill Award winner Ronnie West — the first of two consecutive Gorillas to win the award — and entered the championship game with a 12-1-1 record.
Though the Pitt State offense pounded out 202 yards on the ground in that game, it was their star wide receiver who got the scoring rolling. West caught his 14th touchdown of the season — then the single-season Pitt State record — at the end of the first quarter and the Gorillas never looked back. They rolled to a 23-6 victory over Jacksonville State. West finished the season with 1,495 yards which is still the single-season record in Pitt State history.
The Gorillas next loss was 15 games later, back in the 1992 DII football championship game against the very same Jacksonville State team. The Gamecocks got their revenge, ending the Gorillas winning streak and spoiling their chance at a repeat championship behind a 17-13 victory. In just four years as a DII football program, Pittsburg State let everyone know its NAIA dominance translated very well at the next level. Over 700 wins and two DII championships later, the Gorillas look to add to their legendary win total each and every week.
Pitt State is one of four DII football teams in action next Saturday. Let’s take a look at the weekend ahead.
DII football: Saturday, Nov. 21 (all times ET)
Note: Please check back throughout the week. We will update this post should games get canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
Missouri Western at Nebraska-Kearney, noon
Both of these teams had games postponed this past Saturday. We were deprived of seeing what UNK sophomore sensation TJ Davis would do next. The quarterback has four touchdowns in each of his last three games dating back to last season and seems to get better each week.
Pittsburg State at West Texas A&M, 2 p.m.
The Gorillas are back in the Lone Star state with a matchup against the Buffs. Though Pitt State took the loss on Saturday, there were plenty of highs to build upon. They will look to add to that win total in the DII football fall season finale from Canyon, Texas.