NCCAA Men's D2 Update - Seven Surprising Starts
While the season is undoubtedly still young, there are several teams who have opened up this NCCAA Men's D2 campaign in notable fashion. Whether it’s a squad which has improved on offense or defense, or a team dealing with turnover amongst players and coaches, there are a wide variety of success stories so far in 2022-23.
The Knights began last year 0-10 and posted a subpar 3-18 record, but their start to this season is a much different story, as they already have more wins than they earned all of last season.
Sitting at 7-1, Spurgeon has thrived despite the departure of their two highest-scoring players from last year, Brett Smith and Jamie Juncal. A vital part of the team’s offensive performance this season is sophomore Drew Middleton, currently the second-leading scorer at 20.75 points per game in his first year getting playing time. Middleton is also shooting a stellar 47% from three-point range.
The fact that the Knights have a new coach this year in Billy Livezey makes their fast start all the more interesting. A team with a first-year leader at the helm sometimes takes a while to gel, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Livezey, coming over from Oklahoma Panhandle State University, has helped the team play with a cohesive style.
Kansas Christian College
Last season, the Falcons started off 0-5 and went 11-16 overall, but early on this year the team is off to a fast 3-1 start. They are averaging well over 90 points per game, which easily tops last year’s mark of 81.8 points per game.
Beyond their scoring average, Kansas Christian is tallying 17 offensive rebounds per game and shooting 47% from the field as a team. So, the Falcons’ ability to keep possessions alive and make shots at a solid clip help their cause, as well.
So far, the Falcons’ leading bucket-getter is junior guard Jamal Clark, who’s checking in at over 20 points per game and shooting 42% from the field. Clark also is helping with 5 assists per game, the fifth-best mark in NCCAA D2.
Boog Lewis, a senior guard, is scoring 19 points per game in his own right. Much like Clark, Lewis also is a steady playmaker, averaging 4 assists per game. That is the fourth-highest average for the Falcons.
Toccoa Falls College
The Screaming Eagles are 3-2 so far in 2022-23, a better winning percentage than the .500 mark they posted last year. What’s more, a look at the underlying numbers indicates noticeable offensive improvement.
While Toccoa Falls barely eclipsed the 72 point-per-game mark in 2021-22, the team is filling the scoreboard more frequently this season, coming in at over 85 points per contest.
Junior guard Anthony Williams II, the Screaming Eagles’ leading scorer at 25.4 points per game, is a key part of the team’s improved scoring output. Williams is also the squad’s 3rd leading rebounder with 5.4 boards per game.
Toccoa Falls’ second highest-scoring player, sophomore guard Josh Parker, is putting up 15.2 points per game. Parker also brings playmaking skills to the table, as he leads the Screaming Eagles in assists with 3.6 per game.
Providence University College
Coming off of a 6-9 record in 2021-22, the Pilots already have 3 wins this year, with 3 losses as well. Their defense is a key area of improvement, as they are allowing just under 73 points per game so far, compared to over 78 points per game last season.
The Pilots’ two leading contributors are senior guard Joshua Armstrong and junior center Riley Paul. Both players are averaging at least 14 points and 3 rebounds per game this year.
Paul adds more to the Pilots than just offense, however. He is averaging a team-high 1.2 blocks per game, taking advantage of the fact that at six-foot seven he’s the second tallest player on the team.
Champion Christian College
The Tigers lost more games than they won last year, checking in at 10-13, but so far in 2022-23 the team is 2-1.
Part of this improvement is certainly due to their defensive efforts, as Champion Christian is surrendering almost 13 less points per game this year than last year.
Guard Ariyon “AJ” Williams is making an impact on this end of the floor. He is averaging 3 steals per game so far this year. Williams’ turnover-creating defense is helping the Tigers lock down opponents with more success in the current season.
In terms of individual performers on offense, Williams stands out there, too. He is averaging 20 points per contest, while adding over 4 assists and rebounds per game for good measure.
Welch went 10-20 last season, but this year they are on a better track, sitting at 4-1. Their ability to get stops is aiding their turnaround thus far in 2022-23, as their defense is giving up over 10 less points per game this year.
The Flames have three players who are averaging at least 1 steal per game this year: juniors forward JC Chapman and guard EJ Byrd, and sophomore guard Timmy Goodrich.
At this stage of the 2022-23 campaign, the Flames’ two highest scorers are Chapman and Byrd. Both are averaging right around 15 points per game. They are versatile players as well, with Chapman and Byrd each chipping in at least 7 rebounds per game.
Grace Christian University
These Tigers are 4-4 this year and went 16-15 a season ago. But, their offensive statistics tell the story of a team who is playing better this year.
Grace Christian’s offense is getting almost 10 more points per game this year than last, a number that is buoyed by the fact that they are shooting 47% from the field and an NCCAA D2-leading 39% from three-point range as a team.
The Tigers’ offensive attack is enhanced by junior Jalen “JD” Rawls, a transfer from Mott Community College playing his first year with Grace Christian. He’s been a key contributor, as he is the team’s leading scorer with 16 points per game.
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