USCAA D1 Men's Update: 10 Teams To Watch and 3 More
After missing two straight years of USCAA postseason basketball, the 2021-22 USCAA Division-I men's basketball season welcomed fans back in exciting fashion.
The top-seeded Paul Quinn Tigers hoisted their first USCAA championship trophy after finishing the game on a 15-2 run, defeating the #3 seeded Bryant & Stratton Buffalo by a score of 80-69 to claim the 2022 title.
With COVID cancellations out of the way for now, let’s look forward to the 10 teams poised to make a run in March next year, along with 3 teams likely to show immense improvement for the upcoming season.
Bluefield State College
Despite a 31-point output from senior guard Marquez Cooper, #8 seed Bluefield State fell in the first round to eventual champs Paul Quinn College by a score of 88-74. After going 9-13 this past season, Bluefield State needs to replace Cooper’s 20.4 points per game. Head Coach Devin Hoehn has reason for optimism, as Second Team All-American rising sophomore guard Jordan Hinds is returning. Hinds is an absolute flamethrower, firing at 45.2% on 3.3 attempts/game from three, the best percentage in D1. Bluefield State loves to crash the glass on offense, as they finished at the top of D1 with a whopping 14.8 offensive rebounds per game. A year after being the last team in, the Big Blue should once again be very competitive.
Bryant & Stratton Albany
Coming off of a Final Four run and an 18-7 record, Bryant & Stratton Albany has a bright future ahead. Head Coach Mike Shewmakers’ squad is returning its two leading scorers, Charles Echols & Denali Burton. Burton led the country in rebounding last year averaging 12.6 a game, and Echols put up 16.7 points a game as a freshman. According to Coach Shewmaker, the Bobcats “are looking to take another step forward defensively and on the glass.”
In order to take this step, Shewmaker expects a breakout year for sophomore Amari Scott. In a win against BSC Syracuse on February 16th, Scott scored the last 17 points of the game, leading BSC Albany to a roaring comeback win. As stated by Shewmaker, “(Scott) has the ability to take over games and I am expecting to see more consistency from him with a year under his belt now.” This improvement from Scott is vital as he has the opportunity to become the final piece of a budding Big Three. The Bobcats are primarily known as a defensive-oriented team, and they have the numbers to back it up. BSC Albany ranked 3rd in the country in points allowed, giving up 69.5 per game last season.
Bryant & Stratton Buffalo
Bryant & Stratton Buffalo had a disappointing end to a great season as they let a 67-65 lead slip away in the last five minutes of the National Championship game. The 2022 Runners-Up are returning four players who averaged double-digit points on their way to a 24-8 record. Mid-season addition rising-junior guard DJ Little proved to be a revelation, averaging 13.5 points and hitting threes at a 47.6% clip. Not far behind was First Team All-American forward Sam Dorissant who contributed 13.4 points a contest. Rising junior forward Kalon Kimble was the second most efficient player in the country, finishing the year shooting 62.4% from the field.
The Bobcat's defense, led by Little with 2.3 steals a game, ended up 4th in the country in points allowed. According to Assistant Coach Johnathan Snyder, the Bobcats are “adding tough physical transfer guard Ronkevis Clardy, and are in process of adding more experienced transfer depth.” These additions should help Head Coach Damone Brown’s team make another deep run in the 2023 USCAA National Tournament.
Bryant & Stratton Rochester
Bryant & Stratton Rochester returns all their starters from a team that went 9-9, including two rising sophomores who averaged double-digit points, Aziyon Clemens and Dominic Jones. First Team All-American Marcus Zappia, a rising senior, is a top candidate for Player of the Year in 2023. Not only did Zappia score 21.2 points per game, coupled with two 30+ point performances, but he also led the country with 3.3 steals and 6.6 assists a contest. On Zappia’s back, the Bobcats shot 34.4% from three, the best mark in the nation. Former University of Dayton Assistant Coach, BSC Rochester Head Coach Dan Schaffer, will be riding his best player in hopes of a USCAA Tournament berth after missing out in 2022.
Bryant & Stratton Syracuse
Bryant & Stratton Syracuse ended the season on a four-game skid, finishing with an 11-13 record. BSC Syracuse entered the 2022 tournament as the #7 seed. The Bobcats are losing their most prolific shooter, Cheikh Dieng, who shot 40.4% from outside the arc on 5.5 attempts a game. New York City native and Second Team All-American Jameel Abdullah looks to take his place after averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds as a sophomore. The Bobcats averaged the 3rd most points in D1 with an impressive 83.4 per game. Head Coach Clay Gagen-Sherman will need to focus on taking care of the ball, as his team averaged 17 turnovers per game, good for third-worst in the country. However, the return of rising senior Kenneth Richardson provides a steady hand in the backcourt after he started every game of the 2022 season.
Florida National University
Florida National held the #1 seed in the last two tournaments played before this year. Yet in 2022, the Conquistadores did not measure up to their recent history. In a limited season due to many cancellations, Florida National went 5-8 and did not make it to March. On the bright side, the Conquistadores finished first in D1 in points allowed, giving up only 68.8 points per game. Guard Ryan Sanchez looks to build off an impressive rookie campaign where he averaged 16 points and 3.1 steals a contest. Rising senior trio Sandro Noel (14.0 PPG), G Jeffrey Hernandez (11.1 PTS, 7.5 REB), and C Jordan Cardenas (10.9 PPG) will bring experience to this squad in hopes of returning to their glory days. The Conquistadores have a chance to re-enter the scene and crack the top 8 behind second-year Head Coach Marcos Molina, who won two state titles in Florida high school basketball, one with Hialeah Gardens in 2012 and another with Miami Christian in 2015.
The Blue Jays’ 10-7 record was enough to earn them a #5 seed in the 2022 USCAA National Tournament. In a wild first-round matchup with BSC Albany, Manor College forced 28 turnovers and only converted on 24 of their 80 shot attempts, losing 71-61. However, Head Coach Leo Mahon has much to look forward to next season, as the Blue Jays return First Team All-American forward Rahmaad Dejarnette and his 20 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. Fellow rising junior Isaiah Leonard will no doubt be a large chunk of Manor’s offense as he broke a USCAA record with 29 field goal attempts in a March 7th game vs. BSC Albany. In order for Coach Mahon’s squad to go deep into next season, they must improve their shooting, having finished dead last in the country in three-point percentage at 24.6%.
Paul Quinn College
Led by 2022 Head Coach of the Year Brandon Espinosa, Paul Quinn College posted an impressive 26-2 record. The old trope that defense wins championships rang true for the Tigers last season, winning it all on the back of a stifling defense, giving up a mere 66.5 points per game, good for first in the nation. After facing five NCAA D1 teams in 2022, the battle-tested Tigers look to go back to back without First Team All-American guard Spencer McElway, who recently graduated. To replace McElway’s massive production, the Tigers turn to former walk-on Trevoin Shaw to improve upon his already impressive junior campaign where he averaged 13.1 points per game. Chipping in to help is rising-senior guard Henry Hampton, who fired almost 7 three-pointers a game last season, along with last year's Tournament MVP Ja-Mare Redus, who returns as the team’s primary facilitator after averaging 10.5 points last season.
The Apprentice School
The Apprentice School features many familiar faces next year as they are returning 17 of 18 players for the 2023 season. Head Coach Evan Kee is excited about First Team All-American Marion Moore, a rising senior forward, who led the Builders in points and rebounds this past season. Kee also highlighted rising sophomore guard Karee Smith, who paced the team with 18 points in their first-round loss to BSC Buffalo. However, the single player not returning for the Builders is a big one. Second Team All-American, 5’6 guard Corey Joyner scored over 12 points a game and was top 10 in the country in assist to turnover ratio. Rising junior guard Avin Hawkins should be a focal point for the Builders as they look to replace Joyner’s playmaking.
University of Dallas
The University of Dallas posted a 7-17 record in Head Coach Matt Grahn’s first year at the helm. Leaving the Crusaders next season is last year's leading scorer Jai Love, who put up 15.3 points a contest. In 2023, the Crusaders will head into battle with rising junior duo, Jack Boyle and Marcus Juarez, who each averaged double digit points as sophomores. Coach Grahn’s team shot only 22% of their field goals from the perimeter, instead opting to use their size to bully opponents in the paint. However, rising junior Louis Christifano Jr. may have something to say about that, as he shot 36.5% from deep a year ago. Although Christifiano only took 3.4 threes a game, his sweet stroke at the free throw line (88.5%) provides enough evidence to believe in his shot.
(On July 11, 2022, CBT learned that University of Dallas will not be in the USCAA this coming season.)
3 Teams On the Road to Major Improvement in 2022-23
The Celtics owned the worst record in Division I at 2-23, and for good reason. Carlow shot an abysmal 38.8 percent from the field, the worst mark in the country. However, the Celtics can turn this around quickly as they return 5 players who started at least 15 games last season. Highlighting the returning players is rising junior guard Nehemiah Brazil. Brazil started in 21 of 24 games and averaged almost 9 points. In an interview with Carlow Sports Network, Brazil said that his main focus for the upcoming season is to improve his shooting, which would provide a much-needed boost for the squad come November. Elsewhere on the roster, rising sophomore forward Riley Comforti showed lots of promise after starting in 17 games and averaging 8.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Mid-Atlantic Christian University
Just one season after finishing 8-4 and winning the NSAC Regular Season Championship, the Mid Atlantic Christian Mustangs struggled to repeat their success. The Mustangs finished on a 10-game losing streak and fell to 3-16 on the year. First year Head Coach Charles Sims’ squad will suffer from the absence of First Team All-American Kevin Fletcher, who scored 23.2 points a contest. However, there are reasons to believe the Mustangs can vastly improve upon their disappointing season. Rising senior Talik Totten scored 11.2 points per game and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc last season. Additionally, the 2022 starting lineup featured two freshmen, Damarius Alexander and Jahiem Hinton, who will help move the needle after a year under their belt.
The 2016 and 2019 champions did not live up to their storied history in 2022. The Ambassador’s disappointing season ended in February with a 5-17 record. Oakwood’s journey to get back to a championship-caliber team in 2023 is led by rising senior forward, Edmund Stewart, who paced the team in scoring with 16.3 a game. Also contributing will be rising sophomore guard TaKari Rogers-Olive, who averaged 9 points as a rookie. The Ambassadors will need to make it a priority to limit fouls as they averaged the second most in the country with 20.6 a game last season. The path to success is clear, as Oakwood has shown they can outscore anyone. In 2022, the Ambassadors finished 6th in the country, with 6.9 threes made per game.
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