CBT's Men's Wheelchair Rankings - Feb 2022
Due to cancellations and various issues, some teams have played a lot more games than others. Regardless, the upcoming month is crunch time for teams trying to make a postseason push.
Following the holiday break in between semesters, this season’s contenders are back in action. These rankings feature a bit of a shakeup in the top-five, and the order is sure to be further shuffled in upcoming tournaments.
Now, let’s take a look at where each team stands:
1. University of Alabama
The Crimson Tide did more than enough in their past games to retain the top spot in the nation. Alabama dominated its competition by going 4-0 at the Jan. 22-23 Auburn tournament. It beat the host Tigers, Wisconsin-Whitewater and Illinois twice. According to bamaadpted.com, Alabama won its last four games by an average margin of 8.8 points per game, dismantling teams that stand in the top-five in the country.
Senior Ignacio Ortega ran through the competition, averaging 32.8 points and 14 rebounds per game in the last tournament, including a 43 point, 15 rebound double-double against the Tigers on Jan. 23. Per NWBA.org, the Crimson Tide has improved to 18-4 and 10-3 in divisional play. Head coach Ford Buttram’s team will have a chance to continue to prove itself at the UT-Arlington Tournament on Feb. 11.
2. University of Texas-Arlington
The Movin’ Mavs fell from their No. 1 ranking in our last edition, but this team still strikes fear into opponents as the reigning national champions. UT-Arlington hadn’t played since early December, but it took the court again at Missouri for a tournament that started on Jan. 28. The Movin’ Mavs went 3-1 with wins over Missouri and SMSU and an upset loss to Auburn.
The Movin’ Mavs were spectacular in the early going and can once again prove themselves as the best team in the land in their upcoming tournament. UT-Arlington has star power that can match anyone in the nation, including Australian Paralympian Clarence McCarthy-Grogan.
3. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
The Warhawks have remained in our top-five all season, and they have jumped one spot in each of the last two rankings. It has been a steady run for head coach AJ Messmer’s squad, going 2-2 at the tournament in Auburn. Wisconsin-Whitewater split with Auburn, and it was able to knock off Illinois while keeping its loss against Alabama within single digits.
Wisconsin-Whitewater’s 2-2 record at the Auburn tournament was only so-so, but at this point it’s clear that the Warhawks belong with the big boys of wheelchair basketball. They won three straight national championships from 2014-16 and could be getting ready to add to that legacy soon.
4. University of Illinois
After coming out of nowhere to grab the No. 2 spot in our first in-season poll, the Fighting Illini have come back to Earth. Illinois started 4-0, but has since gone 1-3 at December’s UT-Arlington tournament and now 1-3 at last weekend’s Auburn tournament. Illinois was swept by Alabama, lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater and defeated Auburn.
“Over the two years of COVID break we definitely worked on a lot of great things and we were able to showcase those in November,” head coach Matt Buchi said. “And then our counterpart teams got an opportunity to watch the video on that, and they definitely did their homework against us. I don’t think we necessarily came out with the same fire that we had in November.”
Team captain Ben “Willy” Moronchuk led Illinois with 13 points per game at the Auburn tournament, but he only shot 33.8% from the field. Jon McNamara, who is finding a new role in Illinois’ offense, was its only other double-digit scorer of the tournament, scoring 10.8 points per game on 57.6% shooting.
5. University of Missouri
One of the best teams coming into the season, the Tigers had yet to play a game until they finally hosted a tournament on Jan. 28. It was a tumultuous start for Missouri, canceling its original season-opening tournament in November due to “unforeseen circumstances,” then having its season debut at Jan. 14’s Nebraska-Omaha washed away, as well.
It took a while for Missouri to get on the floor, but it surely did not disappoint. The Tigers had a great 3-1 weekend, knocking off Auburn twice and beating SMSU by 16. Their lone loss came to UT-Arlington, in which they led by two at half, but ultimately lost by 10. Due to its low number of games, all played at home, Missouri stays at No. 5 for now. However, they can rise with strong showings against top teams coming up.
6. Auburn University
The Tigers did not exactly capitalize on their home tournament, going only 1-3 in four games. They won one game and lost one against Wisconsin-Whitewater while losing to Illinois and Alabama, the latter for the third time this season. Auburn had a sensational 10-2 start to the season but stumbled out of the break. In its next tournament at Missouri, Auburn went 2-2. The Tigers were swept by Missouri but beat SMSU and upset UT-Arlington.
7. University of Arizona
The Wildcats are also in the midst of a lengthy break and have been 5-5 for each of the last two rankings. Along with Missouri and SMSU, Arizona was a part of the canceled tournament in Nebraska. Head coach Michael Beardsley tells CBT that his team will not play again until February’s UT-Arlington tournament. Two college first-timers, Justyn Newman and Blaise Mutware, have led the Wildcats thus far.
“We’re hoping the second semester, we’ve got about 20 games, that [Mutware] can take some huge strides forward going into the future but also into Nationals,” Beardsley said of his emerging star, Mutware.
8. Southwest Minnesota State
SMSU is another team that was scheduled to play in the canceled Omaha tournament and will be a part of the upcoming tournament at Missouri. The Mustangs went over two months without playing, but they finally resumed action at the Auburn tournament on Jan.28. It was another tough go for SMSU, which went 0-4 with losses to Missouri, UT-Arlington and Auburn.
The Mustangs’ only wins have come over Arizona and Edinboro, though they have played Alabama close. Heading into Auburn, All-American Walter Johnson led the Mustangs with 27.4 points per game. SMSU has not got the results it has wanted yet, but there is a clear gap between the eighth- and ninth-ranked teams in the sport.
9. Eastern Washington University
The No. 9 spot is where the gap between the cream of men’s wheelchair basketball and the rest of the crop begins. Having been founded in 2019, the program is still virtually brand new and has yet to find its footing. The Eagles are 0-3 in division games and have also lost to the Seattle Sonics and Division III St. Luke’s. Head coach David Evjen recently explained to CBT how injuries have held back the program.
10. CUNY (City University of New York)
In its first-ever college invitational, CUNY made a major statement. It easily beat Edinboro twice, winning 71-25 and then 62-32. Chris St. Remy put up a near quadruple-double in the first game and averaged 33.5points, 14 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 6.5 steals in the two games on 56.7% shooting.
11. Edinboro University
The Fighting Scots went 1-8 in their first nine games, with their only win coming in their Oct. 30 season opener against the Rochester Wheels. Since then, according to its athletics website, Edinboro has lost eight straight. Sophomore Gabe Warsing averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in the nine games. After that stretch, Edinboro fell to CUNY twice.
12. University of Nebraska-Omaha
Nebraska-Omaha was supposed to host a tournament for its first intercollegiate competition in mid-January, but it was canceled. The Mavericks did not win a single game in the 2019-20 season, and it is unclear how much they have progressed since then.
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