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  • Writer's pictureSean Savage


March is here. That means March Madness to the world of college basketball.

For teams, their mentality hardens. Each player knows each time they take the court, it could be the last game of their season - or career. All divisions of college basketball are heating up.

For the National Christian College Athletic Association, the story is no different. On Thursday (March 10) the top 8 of 36 Division II teams will face off in hopes of hoisting a championship trophy. The tournament is single elimination with a losers’ bracket. Ozark Christian College will host the tournament in Joplin, Mo.

Here’s a preview of the top three teams in the NCCAA power rankings.

Manhattan Christian College

Manhattan Christian College started its 2021-22 season on the wrong foot, losing seven of their first ten. The Thunder’s stumbling start mirrored previous seasons. They lost 15 of 16 games in the 2019-20 season and opened last season with an eight-game losing streak.

However, coach Jordan Storm and the Thunder had an unexpected turnaround. Following the 10 losses, they collected 11 conference wins while only losing once. That success boosted the Thunder to No. 2 in the NCCAA final power ratings.

Manhattan’s late-season success is primarily credited to the 6-foot-7 forward, Jordan Marshall. The senior averaged 17.9 with 8 rebounds per game during the regular season. He is shooting over 50 percent from the field, a major reason that his team is averaging 80.2 points per game.

The Thunder (22-8) and are the No. 3 seed. Manhattan is hoping its late-season momentum will carry it to its second NCCAA title. The Thunder last won it in 1996.

Great Lakes Christian College

After being ranked sixth in the country last season but not making the NCCAA tournament, the Crusaders knew they had something to prove coming into the 2021-22 season.

This year, coach Richard Westerlund has his team abide by the slogan "leave no doubt." A dominant 25-5 record that earned the Crusaders the No. 1 spot in the power rankings proves the team took the three-word motto to heart.

The Crusaders have five upperclassmen averaging over 10 points per game. That scoring depth has translated to averaging 23 points a game. Perhaps even more impressive is that they’re averaging a 22-point scoring margin over their foes.

"Our defense is our offense," Westerlund said. The Crusaders average 12.5 steals and 3.8 blocks per game.

"We have a more experienced team that has played many games together,” Westerlund said. “We do not get rattled easily whatsoever. This is the most talent I have ever had on a team with much continuity."

The Crusaders’ best season in the last two decades included a 16-0 record in conference play. Great Lakes Christian is the No. 1 seed and is seeking its first D-II championship.

Campbellsville University Harrodsburg

Campbellsville University ended its regular season winning three consecutive games/ The Pioneers rely on a deep player rotation, with five players averaging over 10 points per game. Two of their top reserves average 9.5 points per game while other bench players also posted good numbers.

The Pioneers have good balance between their frontcourt and backcourt. Senior guard Antonie Darby puts up 16.3 a game, while junior forward Chris Rawlins adds 13.9 and 5 rebounds. The Pioneers’ biggest challenge will be adjusting to making their first trip to the national tournament. However, if they can stand up to that challenge, they should be considered serious contenders.

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