LAKELAND, FLA. — Opening weekend of the 2022-23 DII males’s basketball season is within the books. 4 groups — Northwest Missouri State, Nova Southeastern, Florida Southern and Hillsdale — escaped the completely loaded discipline on the Small School Basketball Corridor of Fame Traditional with 2-0 information.
After sitting courtside for hours of high-level basketball from NCAA DII event regulars, let’s take an early have a look at some classes realized.
Small School Basketball Corridor of Fame Traditional outcomes
Saturday, Nov. 5 – Florida Southern School, George W. Jenkins Subject Home
- Hillsdale 64, DBU 57
- Nova Southeastern 101, Alabama-Huntsville 81
- Lincoln Memorial 108, Valdosta State 80
- Florida Southern 96, Flagler 80
- Northwest Missouri State 78, West Texas A&M 62
Sunday, Nov. 6
- Alabama-Huntsville 83, Lincoln Memorial 81
- Nova Southeastern 95, DBU 65
- Hillsdale 79, Valdosta State 65
- Florida Southern 92, West Texas A&M 90
- Northwest Missouri State 88, Flagler 75
RANKINGS: Here is Wayne Cavadi’s Preseason Energy 10 rankings
What we realized in Lakeland
1. Florida Southern can straight up ball
Florida Southern, the weekend’s host group, did not merely come out of the event a shocking 2-0; the Mocs seem like an offensive juggernaut with quite a lot of weapons. Coming into the season, we knew EJ Dambreville was a particular participant, nevertheless it was Wes Bongiorni, Jadin Sales space and Dominick Denny that got here alive and make this group harmful.
“Yeah, I used to be actually completely happy,” head coach Mike Donnelly stated. “I stated to my assistants we’ll want our sophomore class — I believe we have now seven sophomores — to actually take that subsequent step. We actually noticed that. If we’ll have a great yr, we’d like that group of men. An important factor was for them to achieve that confidence, as a result of their roles are elevated, however to see them play with quite a lot of poise and confidence, it was a extremely good signal for us.”
All three have been put into expanded roles this season, and the trio delivered, combining for 57 of the 96 factors on opening night time. Sales space was merely a scoring machine all weekend, dropping 28 within the opener and 25 within the stunner over West Texas A&M. The Mocs got here out of the weekend in opposition to two DII event groups averaging 94 factors per recreation, and whereas it is a small pattern measurement, it is fairly the advance on the 81.4 factors scored final season. Sales space’s large weekend propelled the new begin and earned him event MVP honors.
“I wasn’t anticipating to go for that a lot,” Sales space stated of his large opening night time. “I simply wished to remind those that I am a extremely good participant. Credit score to my teammates for locating me once I was open. I used to be trusting my work I put in over the summer time.”
2. Northwest Missouri State begins 2-0… once more
Northwest Missouri State gained each its video games, each by double digits. It’s the fourth season in a row that the Bearcats have opened the yr on the Small School Basketball Corridor of Fame Traditional with a pair of wins.
We all know how the different three seasons ended.
If historical past repeats itself, the Bearcats are on monitor for his or her fourth-consecutive title in 2023. Not solely has this group — for the fourth yr in a row — misplaced one in all DII males’s basketball’s star gamers to commencement, however arguably their greatest present offensive weapon (Wes Dreamer) went down 9 minutes into Recreation 1 with an harm and has no timetable to return to the court docket. Whereas Diego Bernard lights the hearth (already with 22 rebounds and 9 assists on the younger season), Luke Waters, Isaiah Jackson and Mitch Mascari all stepped up when wanted. However it was freshman Bennett Stirtz who could have left me most impressed. Moving into this lineup with relative ease, Stirtz averaged 12 factors per recreation with seven assists and 5 steals over the weekend. The Bearcats could have discovered one more weapon able to explode.
“We’re a troublesome group,” stated head coach Ben McCollum after the gritty first win in opposition to West Texas A&M. “I form of knew that getting into, however it’s a must to show it generally. [West Texas A&M] comes at you the entire recreation, and to deal with that first recreation says so much about our toughness. Not taking part in properly with reference to turnovers, staying with it and nonetheless getting the cease? That is the signal of children that need to win and might deal with adversity.”
3. Nova Southeastern nonetheless scores factors by the boatload
Any group led by Jim Crutchfield goes to be within the dialog for highest scoring group in DII. You’ll suppose shedding Nick Smith, Sekou Sylla and Eddie Puisis — who mixed for practically 50 factors a recreation final yr — would depart the Sharks needing a while to get into midseason type.
Graziana. Sunahara. Spotlight reel. @smcollegehoops #d2mbb pic.twitter.com/OuFi0R00fp
— Wayne Cavadi (@WayneCavadi_D2) November 5, 2022
Nova Southeastern scored 196 factors over the weekend. RJ Sunahara is again and is such a presence each offensively and defensively and goes to maintain the Sharks in each recreation, whereas switch Will Yoakum from West Liberty is properly versed in Crutchfield’s high-octane offense and rapidly match proper in. Kobe Rodgers is a scoring machine, however Dallas Graziani may very well be the X-factor for this group. After lacking virtually all final yr with harm, he introduced the vitality and ran the court docket, drilling 3-pointers and filling the stat sheet in each video games. “Yeah, I used to be excited to be again on the ground,” Graziani stated. “That is what I strive do, deliver the vitality, hold it going, and play with excessive depth. Everyone else did an incredible job getting open, all my assists weren’t very laborious to get.”
4. Shock, shock… Hillsdale remains to be a power to be reckoned with
(Picture credit score: David Dermer)
Hillsdale is coming off possibly the most effective two years in program historical past. After making back-to-back NCAA event appearances — highlighted by the Chargers first-ever journey to the DII Males’s Elite Eight final yr— Hillsdale entered the season as one of many “attention-grabbing groups to look at” simply outdoors the preseason Energy 10. That was as a result of two-time G-MAC participant of the yr and All-American Patrick Cartier and Austen Yarian have been not with the group.
Hillsdale was the primary winner of the 2022-23 season after which gained once more by 14 on Day 2 to go away Lakeland an ideal 2-0. Sophomore Joe Reuter, the reigning convention freshman of the yr, is an absolute beast. He scored 39 complete factors and ripped down 18 rebounds to assist prepared the ground, however this group has stability.
“I talked to our guys about simply competing,” head coach John Tharp stated. “That is the one factor that does not graduate. The custom, a few of these issues that we have carried out — that does not graduate. We’re a fine-line group, and we did, we competed and had some guys that made some performs.”
The G-MAC is fairly loaded on the prime this season, and albeit a small pattern measurement, Hillsdale confirmed it’s again for an additional title run.
5. Alabama Huntsville sends a loud message to the Gulf South Convention
These Chargers could have performed essentially the most spectacular recreation in your complete event. Dropping all-conference guard CJ Williamson days earlier than to harm, UAH was looking for a brand new identification. The Chargers have been blown out on opening day, falling to the high-flying Sharks by 20 and headed into Recreation 2 having to play a Lincoln Memorial group that shattered event information that exact same day.
With lower than 24 hours to regroup, this squad got here out and gained a thriller in opposition to the Railsplitters 83-81 to go away the event with a break up. You need to speak grit? This group has it. You need to speak resilience? They verify that off, too. And by the way in which, they’ve two actually good gamers in Chaney Johnson and Max Shulman that will wind up two of the perfect within the GSC.
Study the identify Chaney Johnson from @UAHChargers Very nice contact inside and rebounds properly. May very well be one of many premier gamers within the @GulfSouth this yr. #d2mbb @smcollegehoops pic.twitter.com/FMhHlzvT7c
— Wayne Cavadi (@WayneCavadi_D2) November 5, 2022
“If I needed to do it once more, I would need to play Nova after which play Lincoln Memorial,” head coach John Shulman stated. “And I need to scrimmage Northwest Missouri on Monday. We got here down right here to get higher. We misplaced a extremely good participant; we higher determine it out. There is not any approach higher to determine it out than to play actually good individuals.”
6. Lincoln Memorial rewrites the Corridor of Fame Traditional file books
Sure, the Railsplitters have been on the fallacious aspect of the scoreboard to shut out the event, however that is no straightforward discipline to navigate. What Lincoln Memorial did within the first recreation of the event was actually enjoyable to look at and speaks extra to what this group is able to this season.
Jordan Walters (@LMURailsplitter) will get Recreation 3 of the @smcollegehoops HoF Traditional off with a bang. #d2mbb pic.twitter.com/bn8YhxYsQl
— Wayne Cavadi (@WayneCavadi_D2) November 5, 2022
Lincoln Memorial gained the opener 108-80. Six gamers scored in double figures whereas three gamers posted double-doubles. The Railsplitters set the single-game event file for factors (108), discipline objectives made (41), rebounds (56) and assists (31). Chase Rankin, who tied for the DII lead in triple doubles final season, is an absolute machine and missed a triple double by one rebound within the opener. However all these stats — and there are quite a lot of them — solely inform half the story of Rankin.
“His management, him being so mature,” head coach Jeremiah Samarrippas stated of what Rankin brings to the group. “Now we have a bunch of men on our group that may be emotional. Their feelings fluctuate and he is the man that holds our group collectively. When one thing goes unhealthy, we hit adversity, he is the man pulling them along with the next-play mentality. His management is invaluable in our program.”
7. West Texas A&M put to the check
(Picture credit score: David Dermer)
The Buffs have grow to be NCAA DII event regulars, and never solely that, are accustomed to deep runs. They confronted two of the more durable assessments of the weekend — the defending nationwide champions and the house group with the rowdy opening-weekend crowd — and got here out a shocking 0-2.
Regardless of the powerful begin, there may be nonetheless loads of expertise on this group to show it round.
Julius Brown is a particular participant. He’s fast to the outlet and might lead the high-paced assault of the guard-heavy offense. It was the primary have a look at switch Damion Thornton, and he appeared actually good, scoring 13 and 23 whereas taking pictures 66% on the weekend. In each video games, the Buffs just about performed lifeless even within the first half with each opponents, so it’s merely a matter of closing issues out because the season goes on. That’s simpler stated than carried out, but when any group can rapidly flip it round and go on a run, it’s West Texas A&M.
“There are quite a lot of new guys on the group,” stated guard Zach Toussaint, who broke the 1,000-point mark for his profession on opening night time. “We’re nonetheless feeling one another out and dealing collectively reveals that we will hold with the most effective group within the nation proper now. The nearer we come as a group, the sky is the restrict and be careful for us.”
8. One of the best of the remainder
Flagler, Valdosta State and DBU all left Lakeland and not using a win, however that did not imply there weren’t loads of shiny spot.
- Flagler, coming off essentially the most dominant two-year stretch in its DII historical past, is now a younger group seeking to mesh new faces. Transfers Kyle Younger made the All-Match group and Malik Bryant appeared like a Flagler veteran. Whereas there will likely be ups and downs, new head coach Blake Selland is the fitting man for the job. “It is solely November,” Selland stated. “What a troublesome begin for us, however what an incredible alternative. We received 4 sophomores on the ground with Malik [Bryant], a junior and new in our system. It is superior to see the younger expertise on the market flying round, taking part in collectively. I inform them every single day, we received to only hold stepping in the fitting course.”
- Coming off an opening-day loss and having to face Nova Southeastern in the future later is not any straightforward activity for anybody, so DBU dealt with it in addition to anybody may. That is one other group meshing new faces into the combo however have a pair of transfers that may play an enormous function for them. Ta’Jay Dunlap was very spectacular in his Patriots’ debut, main the group with 15 factors whereas Micaiah Abii is a constructed like a linebacker, however can transfer down low and shoot the three. “They did some good issues,” stated head coach Blake Flickner. “The true trick is determining how all of the items match collectively. Whenever you add new gamers in, even when they’re actually high-level gamers, everyone’s function form of shifts. We’ll be taught from this, and we’ll get higher from this.”
- Valdosta State had the doubtful honor of opening in opposition to the steamroller that was Lincoln Memorial, however each Cam Hamilton and sophomore newcomer Caden Boser have been shiny spots to construct off of. In reality, Boser had a pair of actually sturdy video games in Lakeland. “I received requested that query final night time, ‘what occurs once you face adversity?’,” stated head coach Mike Helfer. “We received punched within the mouth fairly fast on the market, however our guys did not again down. They performed laborious, performed to the end. I used to be proud, and these two guys battled.”
9. Gamers to look at in 2022-23
A few of these gamers have been mentioned, however the Small School Basketball Corridor of Fame Traditional All-Match Group has fairly a couple of large names to look at. Do not be stunned if each one in all these names is on the primary Bevo Francis watchlist later this season.
- Chaney Johnson (UAH)
- Max Shulman (UAH)
- E.J. Dambreville (Florida Southern)
- Joe Reuter (Hillsdale)
- Kyle Goessler (Hillsdale)
- Dallas Graziani (Nova Southeastern)
- RJ Sunahara (Nova Southeastern)
- Kyle Younger (Flagler)
- Luke Waters (Northwest Missouri State)
- Diego Bernard (Northwest Missouri State)