Giving the Little Guys Some Love: D-2 Schools Without a Home
The ICAA is comprised of eight independent NCAA Division II schools: the University of the District of Columbia, Central State University of Ohio, Chowan University, Columbia Union College, Flagler College, North Greenville University, Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Tiffin University.
Here is my analysis on each school:
University of the District of Columbia
With third year coach Julius L. Smith, Jr. at the helm, the University of the District of Columbia will look to their three seasoned seniors, Willie Shaw, Charlie Smallwood, and Frank Petersen, for scoring, experience, and leadership.
UDC’s starting five, all returnees from last season, have already shown their ability to play with anyone, narrowly knocking off two quality opponents in George Washington and Fordham. With seven seniors and a handful of exciting newcomers, the Firebirds will no doubt look to post another 20 win season.
As if a strong coaching staff, senior laden team, and games against high quality opponents weren’t enough, UDC also has one more present to look forward to at the end of the season: they will host the ICAA’s tournament.
Central State University of Ohio
Led by Coach John Lewis, Central State looks to improve on a great 22-5 record from last season. This early in the year, Central State has certainly shown the ability to score, racking up three convincing wins, a boatload of points, and contributions from nearly every player.
The trio of Reginald Harwell, PJ Mills, and Darryl Brownlee is as balanced and athletic as any team on their schedule; any one of them is capable of a monster game on any given night.
With the ability to play nine players deep each game, Coach Lewis has certainly designed a team capable of beating anyone. This team has to be seen as a serious contender for the ICAA’s title in March.
Columbia Union College
Led by Coach Calvin Dunbar, Columbia Union College hopes to make a turnaround this year after a disappointing 4-22 record last season. While CUC does not have any players on the preseason team, senior scorer Darren Travis looks primed for another big year after posting over 17 points a game last season.
CUC will look to its newcomers to give Travis help with the scoring load. A big test for CUC comes November 28th, when the Pioneers travel to Lexington, VA, to face the high powered VMI Keydets.
Bo Clark returns for his 22nd season as coach of the Flagler College Saints. After an up and down campaign last season, the Saints will call on captains Bryan Borstelmann, JP Clark, and Ben de La Cruz for consistency and leadership. While the Saints are not the deepest team, their starting five, rounded out by exciting freshman playmaker DJ Ferguson and scorer Lyndon Merthie, is extremely well balanced.
If the Saints can get production from their bench, particularly from sharpshooter John Pietkiewicz and forwards Adam Dixon and Brandon Johnson, they could be a dangerous team. Flagler started this season with the incredible opportunity to face the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators. While the final score ended ugly, Flagler held its own for the first twelve minutes, trailing by just six, 23-17. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can gel as the season gets going.
North Greenville University
While the Crusaders of North Greenville lose four starters, coach Chad Lister is confident that his team will improve on their 16-13 season from a year ago.
Though quality contributors return and a highly regarded incoming recruiting class enters, the Crusaders will face a challenge in learning to play together early in the season. However, the improvement of Lister’s teams each year, from two wins in his first season to 16 last year, has to make you a believer that Lister knows what he is doing. The Crusaders opened the year with a tough 94-73 loss at the hands of a hot shooting Limestone team.
After leading Chowan University to a 19 win season in 2005, Jim Tribbett’s team had a disappointing 11-15 record last season. With six freshmen and only two seniors, the Hawks will need to rely on their youth to rally, and junior transfer Aaron Scott to shoulder the scoring load.
After an exhibition win against the Kazakhstan National Team (insert Borat jokes here), Chowan lost a heartbreaker in their first regular season game, a 73-74 defeat at the hands of Queens. Look for Tribbett to call on his vast basketball experiences to get this potential-laden team on the side of several wins.
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Terry Primm, the former star for Palm Beach Atlantic University, begins his first year as head coach of his alma mater. Primm inherits a very young team, as only one senior will dress for the Sailfish.
Additionally, PBA does not return any experienced scorers, so finding a solution for wins might be tricky for the first year coach. The team should continue to grow, however, as Primm recruited each player in his former role for PBA.
In early action, PBA lost a close battle with Division I Stetson University, then lost another close game to Tarleton University. They posted their first win against Texas A&M-Commerce, 72-68.
Tiffin University, led by second year coach Rodney Martin, is coming off a 5-22 season. With only one returning starter, Coach Martin will look to three newcomers to spark a team searching for a winning identity: freshmen point guard Brian Scott, junior college transfer Geryn Reese, and freshman big man Rafael Cuellar.
The Dragons also have the luxury of some experienced role players who will log consistent minutes. With such a young team and a very tough schedule, Tiffin might have to take its lumps this year in somewhat of a rebuilding process. In early action, Tiffin lost a tough first game to Ashland.
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