• Frederick Eberhart

USCAA Men's D2 Update - 10 Teams to Watch And 3 More

Given that most teams have finalized their rosters for November, let’s take a look at 10 USCAA Division II teams you should look out for before enjoying the 2022-23 season.


Whether you call them sleepers, underdogs, long-shots, or Cinderellas, I’ll also give you three dark-horse teams to keep on your radar.


Berkeley College


Ever since a 4-peat from 2015-2018, the storied program of Berkeley College basketball has failed to even win a game in the national tournament, going 0-3 in that span. Head coach Jonathan Pena has had a .804 win percentage since taking over at Berkeley, and he continued that success by leading his team to a 14-6 record this past year. All-American rising junior guard Dontel Henry exploded in his second season, scoring 21.2 points per game, good for 5th best in the country. Henry was a pest on defense as well, swiping 3.1 steals a game. Sixth-man rising junior guard Kenny Pitt commanded the second unit, scoring an efficient 15.4 points in only 20.5 minutes per game. The Knights’ dominance over the HVIAC continued, winning their seventh conference title in a row, by going 7-0 in conference play. Expect Berkeley to be right where they have been every year under Coach Pena, firmly positioned as a top team.


Johnson & Wales University - Charlotte


As the #7 seed in the 2022 National Tournament, Johnson & Wales University - Charlotte made a Cinderella run, besting two of the top 3 seeds and winning 3 straight games to earn an appearance in the championship game. After clawing their way to the finals, the Wildcats came up just short, losing 79-75 to Southern Maine CC. The Wildcats owned the best offense in the nation last season, overpowering opponents with 84.3 points per game. This high-octane offense will take a hit, after losing two of their top 3 scorers to graduation in Fred Patterson and Zyrion Wilkins. The runners-up still have much to look forward to, returning First Team All-American rising junior forward Anthoney Ray, who was electric in his sophomore year, scoring almost 20 points per game. Although former head coach Josh Gross is out of the picture after stepping down to take a position at Elon University, the Wildcats are poised to repeat their magical season with a familiar face at the helm in former assistant coach Kevin Harrington.


Kent State University - Tuscarawas


Kent State Tuscarawas led the country in offensive rebounds and blocks per game, averaging 14.8 offensive boards and 5.5 blocks each night. The scrappy Golden Eagles finished 19-10 and won their first-round matchup in their first-ever appearance in the national tournament. According to head coach Richard Tharp, the team is returning 5 seniors, led by All-American duo London Cobbs and DeJuan Lawrence. Cobbs led the squad with 14.9 points a game, and Lawrence averaged a double-double, putting up 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds a night. “All five seniors bring a great deal of experience and leadership that will prove to be very valuable for our upcoming season,” Coach Tharp says. This returning experience points to a likely jump in play next year, but Coach Tharp is staying focused. “This is a completely new team that will work through the process of finding its own identity, beliefs, and expectations.” Once they click, watch out for this experienced team to make some noise come March.


Miami-Hamilton


Without a single senior on the team last season, Miami-Hamilton finished 20-8, losing in the elite eight of the National Tournament. First Team All-American rising junior guard Ryan Marchal has the opportunity to build on his spectacular sophomore year where he dropped 19 points and 6 assists a game. Second Team All-American rising senior King Goss was just behind Marchal, putting up 18.8 points a contest. Rising senior Kaleb Taylor led USCAA D2 with 101 made threes, firing at an absurd 45.9% on 7.9 attempts per game. For reference, in Steph Curry’s MVP year, he shot 44.3% on 8.1 attempts per game. The Harriers led D2 in 3-pt percentage, shooting 41.5% on the year, miles ahead of the competition. Head Coach Michael Piatt makes sure to challenge his team against tough competition each year. “Last year we had one of the toughest schedules in the country, and that will be the case this year too,” Piatt says. The Harriers have much to prove this year traveling to D1 Stony Brook, as well as NAIA runner-ups Thomas More.


NHTI


The 2020 USCAA National Champions rolled over a very inexperienced roster to the 2021-22 season. This year, head coach Irvin Harris returns an entire team that did not have a single upperclassman. With no juniors or seniors, the young and hungry Lynx went an impressive 20-6, earning the #6 seed and an elite eight appearance. The Lynx are losing First Team All-American rising sophomore guard Saeer Miller who transferred to Trinity Christian College after a strong performance last season where he put up 14 points and 3.7 assists a game. NHTI is a high-powered offense that was difficult to stop, averaging 84.2 points per game last season, good for second-most in the country. The Lynx will return a trio of double-digit scorers including rising sophomore forward Donovan Rodriguez, rising junior guard Scott Spann, and rising junior guard Angel Oquendo.


Penn State Beaver


Penn State Beaver is a very defensive-minded program, stifling opponents, and only allowing 61.4 points per game, which was the best defense in the nation last year. Head coach Brian Bibey’s team loses only one starter in Jeremy Redwine, who was a 1,000-point scorer for the Nittany Lions. PSU Beaver returns 5 players who have started a significant number of games for them, including Ike Dickerson and Devon Johnson. Dickerson led the team with 16.7 points a game, while Johnson scored 15.3 a night. According to Coach Bibey, “We will look to those two to provide most of our scoring on a regular basis.” Also in the mix is rising sophomore guard Chris Green who started in all 25 games as a freshman last season. A year after not qualifying for the national tournament, Coach Bibey is confident in his squad's potential. “I'm excited to see what this group can accomplish. I think we have a really high ceiling.”


Penn State Mont Alto


Penn State Mont Alto went 25-5 last season and captured the #1 overall seed in the National Tournament before bowing out in the semi-finals to the eventual champs, Southern Maine CC. The Nittany Lions take a big hit by losing 2022 Player of the Year, Quintyn Flemister, who recently graduated. It is rising senior guard Cameron Williams’ job to take over for Flemister. Replacing Flemister will be a tall order but Williams should slot in nicely after putting up 13 points, 7.7 boards, and 4 assists a game on his way to Second Team All-American honors. Mont Alto also returns First Team All-American rising senior forward Darrius Bush who started every game, scoring 16.4 points and snagging 6.9 rebounds. Behind 2022 Coach of the Year, Jack Schenzel, the Nittany Lions were 4th in the country in points allowed, conceding only 66.3 points a contest.


Penn State Wilkes-Barre


Head Coach Leshawn Hammett has very high expectations for the upcoming season, after putting up a 23-6 record and earning the #2 seed in the National Tournament. First Team All-American rising junior forward Jeddiah Ashton will be the focal point for the Nittany Lions, coming off an impressive sophomore campaign, scoring 14.5 points a game. Penn State Wilkes-Barre is losing 2 All-Americans to graduation in 6’0 guard Kaii Gilliam, along with leading scorer Kevin Major and his 19 points per game. Even with these tough blows, Hammett remains confident that the guys he is bringing in will fill those gaps. “I’m very excited about the big-time recruiting class we’ve put together,” Hammett says. “We brought in guys that we expect can get it done in March.” The Nittany Lions brought in 5 Four Year transfers, including two from USCAA D1 programs, Isaiah Leonard from Manor College, and Teequan Holley from BSC Syracuse. Hammett has high praise for his incoming squad, saying, “This team reminds me of the National Championship team in 2019 with the size and experience we've brought in.”


Penn State York


Penn State York was a very balanced team a year ago, as they were top 10 in both points scored and points allowed per game. This two-way presence proved to be very successful, and York went 25-6 on the season, finishing as a #3 seed and losing in the semi-finals of the tournament. They also captured the 2022 PSUAC title, defeating Penn State Brandywine by a score of 73-56. The Nittany Lions are losing First Team All-American forward Michael Coleman to graduation while returning fellow First Team All-American and leading scorer rising junior forward Deriq Brown. Brown is one of the most efficient players in the country, shooting 55.2% on 12.2 attempts per game. Head Coach Matt Rotonda has been on the staff for 11 years and has built a winning program since his promotion to head coach in 2019. Expect nothing different this year.


Southern Maine Community College


Highly decorated Head Coach Matt Richards led Southern Maine CC to their first National Championship in team history in 2022. The SeaWolves dominated in conference play, going 13-1 and taking the YSCC conference tournament crown. Richards begins his 20th season as the winningest coach in SMCC history, with a 348-190 record over his tenure. Richards will have two All-Americans at his disposal next year, in rising senior guard Ian Regan and rising junior center Cameren Cousins. Cousins was a double-double machine, scoring an efficient 14.2 points a game to go along with 10.4 rebounds. Regan paced the team in scoring with 15.4 points, along with making himself known on the defensive end by pocketing 2.3 steals a game, good for top 10 in the nation. Rising junior guard Zachary Mickle is due for a breakout year after flexing his muscle during the championship run, leading the team with 20 points in the final contest.



3 Dark Horses


Southwestern Adventist University


Head coach Tyler Woolridge led his team to a 13-10 record and the #8 seed in the tournament. Unfortunately, Southwestern Adventist’s season came to an early end when they were eliminated by Kent St-Tuscarawas in the first round despite a 24-point output from rising junior Ephraim Viadex. Woolridge has an uphill battle ahead of him after losing his knight in shining armor, All-American Miles Meridith, who fought his way to 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game last year. Rising junior Jason Garcia is also a major factor in helping SWAU take a step forward after averaging 12.4 points a contest this past year. The Knights prefer to work inside the paint, as they shot almost 70% of their shots from inside the three-point line, firing only 19 threes per game. According to the USCAA power rankings, Southwestern Adventist had the 6th toughest schedule in the nation last year. Don’t count them out this year.


Word of Life College


Word of Life College went a very respectable 16-9 last season in large part due to their exceptional ability to crash the glass, ranking 2nd in total rebounds per game last season. The huskies only return 3 players from a year ago. Head coach Justin Cousins will have his hands full as All-American 6’5 forward Noah Amet is gone after scoring 16 points and snagging 9.8 rebounds per game a year ago. Word of Life’s success this past season was primarily built on defense, ranking 5th in the country in points allowed. Coach Cousins says that “Ethan Crawford is our primary returner who will be the team captain and leader of this year's squad.” With Cousins’ confidence behind him, Crawford is perfectly lined up to improve upon his 12 points per game from a year ago. Despite this rebuild ahead, Coach Cousins is still setting high goals. “We anticipate competing for the HVIAC championship this coming year and hopefully that puts us in a great spot to qualify for the USCAA D2 National Tournament,” Cousins says.



Villa Maria College


Villa Maria was a very young team that featured no seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, and 11 freshmen a year ago. Head coach Desmond Randall was still able to lead his team to a 12-11 record in their first season since 2019-20. According to an article on the Vikings website, Randall believes that despite missing the tournament, his team will come back with more passion to win. “I think it will have a very positive impact, it has made our guys extremely hungry and ready to work,” he said. Second Team All-American rising senior Rhalon Bragg paced his team with 16.5 points per game. Rising senior forward Jeremiah Williams and rising junior forward Nolan Shephard were the second and third options for the Vikings, averaging 13.9 and 12.8 points respectively.


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