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Wayne Cavadi | | April 3, 2023

The final DII men's and women's basketball Power 10 rankings of 2023

Nova Southeastern wins DII men's basketball final

The DII college basketball seasons have concluded, and in quite similar fashion. Ashland went 37-0 to complete the sixth-ever (and the Eagles second) undefeated DII women's basketball season, while Nova Southeastern finished 36-0, completing DII men's basketball's, you guessed it, sixth-ever undefeated season. Both teams finished atop their respective Power 10 rankings for 2023. 

This is a reminder that the Power 10 rankings are mine, and mine alone. Reaching the DII Men's or Women's Elite Eight does not necessarily mean a team gets automatic entry into these final Power 10 rankings. Because of the regionalization of DII, there are many exceptional teams that simply can't make the DII Elite Eights. This is especially true in the men's bracket where so many upsets occurred this year. As always, I try to blend final statistics with other overarching metrics (like strength of schedule and record against ranked opponents) into the equation.

The final DII women's basketball Power 10 rankings of 2023

No. 1 Ashland. Well, no kidding. Ashland completed its second undefeated national championship season since 2017 and has another two national runner-up campaigns to go along with the 2013 national championship. The Eagles were in the top-5 statistically in a smorgasbord of categories and had to dethrone the defending national champs (Glenville State) in the semis. The Eagles are arguably No. 1 in the DII women's Power 10 rankings for the last decade, maybe only challenged by Lubbock Christian.

No. 2 Minnesota Duluth. There may be a lot of naysayers, but the Bulldogs fought and deserve every bit of the No. 2 spot. The Central Region was an absolute nightmare, and if you go back to the final Power 10 rankings before the tournament, there were three Central Region teams in the top 10. Overall, the Bulldogs made it all the way to the championship game playing the second-toughest schedule in all DII women's basketball, giving fans more and more opportunities to watch Brooke Olson, who had an outstanding season. 

RECAP: Ashland wins the 2023 national championship

No. 3 Grand Valley State. The Lakers had one of the best scoring defenses in DII women's basketball from start to finish and it showed in the tournament. They defeated Drury and then took Ashland to the wire, losing by three in the Midwest Region finals. They also avenged one of their only losses of the season when it mattered most, winning the GLIAC by defeating Michigan Tech, the No. 4 seed in the Midwest. GVSU entered the season No. 1 and lived up to the billing until the final whistle with a dominant season. 

No. 4 Glenville State. The Kim Stephens era comes to an end, but what a run it has been. The high-scoring Pioneers took on a cast of relative unknowns and danced all the way to the national semifinals, just missing the chance to defend their crown. Glenville State absolutely plowed its way through the tourney until it met Ashland, winning each of its first four games by no fewer than 12 points. What the future holds is a question mark, but there is no denying that this program was a powerhouse the past few seasons. 

No. 5 Drury. Another great DII women's coach, Amy Eagan, is departing, leaving behind a Drury program that has cemented itself as a perennial contender. No, the Panthers didn't make the Elite Eight, but this team was 31-2 and their two losses were Ashland and Grand Valley State. The Panthers had three tremendous players in Kaylee DaMitz-Holt, Alana Findley, and Terrion Moore and were so good on both ends of the court in yet another 30-win campaign.

No. 6 Tampa. The Spartans were pretty much in the top 10 from start to finish and had a very good showing in the tournament so there isn't any reason they shouldn't finish among the best this season. They utterly dominated a very good Eckerd team to win the South, riding a 22-game winning streak into the quarterfinals loss. The team set the program record for wins (33) and made it to their first DII Women's Elite Eight, so all in all, it was a very good season for the South Region champs. 

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No. 7 Cal State Dominguez Hills. The Toros were one of the best stories from start to finish. They were just 13-12 a season ago and romped their way to a 31-3 record and claimed a first-ever West Region title along the way. The 22-point win over Cal State San Marcos to clinch the West made a very clear statement that this team deserved to be in the DII Women's Elite Eight. While the road ended there in 2023, there is no doubt that the future is bright in Dominguez Hills. 

No. 8 Missouri Southern. If you go way back to October, I had the Lions at No. 9 in the preseason, a spot that some people questioned. The Lions played the third-toughest schedule in DII, had to defeat nationally ranked Nebraska-Kearney and Central Missouri to win the MIAA tournament for an automatic bid and then lost in dramatic fashion by one point to Minnesota Duluth in the Central Region championship. Missouri Southern was one of the best teams in the land and with so many impact players listed as underclassman, the Lions could be in very good shape for another run next year.  

No. 9 Catawba. All Catawba did was win all season long. The Indians reeled off a program-best 29 wins, captured its first Southeast Region championship, not only making the first DII Women's Elite Eight in program history, but winning in upset fashion once there. Lyrik Thorne was sensational setting the Catawba single-season record for points and becoming the program's first First Team All-Southeast selection. When you are one of the last four teams standing and have that many accomplishments on your resume, you earn a spot in the Power 10. 

No. 10 Eckerd. This could have gone several different ways, but the bottom line is, Eckerd made it to its regional final and was a top team all season long. The Tritons enjoyed a historic season, but simply couldn't figure out Tampa. They made the first trip to the South Region finals while racking up 26 wins with a handful of wins against ranked opponents against the toughest schedule in DII women's basketball. Like I said, you can make the case for a few others in this final spot, but Eckerd certainly has the numbers to stake their claim. 

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Assumption, Cal State San Marcos, Central Missouri, Minnesota State, Nebraska-Kearney, UT Tyler, Western Washington 

The final DII men's basketball Power 10 rankings of 2023

No. 1 Nova Southeastern. The Sharks entered the 2022 DII Men's Elite Eight and were stunned by No. 8 Black Hills State. They made sure that didn't happen again, handling every opponent with relative ease in the entire tournament. The national championship game was one of record-setting proportions, in which they put up a championship game record 111 points (their 20th 100-point game of the season) and won by 10. The Sharks were atop a myriad of DII men's basketball statistical leaders, including tops in scoring (102.5) and scoring margin (25.7). This team was utterly dominant.

No. 2 West Liberty. You can make the case that Northwest Missouri State could be No. 2 and it would be tough for me to argue. Both played a top-20 strength of schedule, but West Liberty made a run to the championship game in which they defeated an Indiana (PA) team that was top 5 all season to win the Atlantic Region. From there, they handled business in the DII Men's Elite Eight and the Hilltoppers 101 points in the final's loss was the second-most points ever scored in a championship game. At 33-4 and one of the best offenses in the nation, West Liberty finishes the season strong and deserving of the No. 2 spot.

2023 RECAP: How Nova Southeastern won the 2023 national championship

No. 3 Northwest Missouri State. Sure, be upset by this, but one game does not a season make. The Bearcats were another dominant team in 2022-23, posting both the best scoring defense and field goal percentage in DII men's basketball. The Bearcats still won yet another MIAA regular-season and tournament title, beating a very tough, nationally ranked Central Oklahoma team twice in 10 days to do so. It speaks volumes to what Southern Nazarene was able to do in the most stunning upset of the tourney, but make no mistake how good this team really was.  

No. 4 Cal State San Bernardino. The Yotes went 31-4 in capturing their first CCAA title since 2010. They then went on to take down a very good Cal State San Marcos team and top-5 Point Loma to win the West before routing Lincoln Memorial by 18 in their second DII Men's Elite Eight win in program history. Brandon Knapper, a DII superstar the past two seasons, set the Cal State San Bernardino 3-point record in that game. Like so many others, the Yotes season came to an end at the hands of the Sharks, but from start to finish this was one of the best teams in the division.

No. 5 Indiana (PA). As I said, this was a top-5 team from opening tip until right now. A loss in the Atlantic Region finals to the national runner-up doesn't change that. The Crimson Hawks were 32-2 with one of the best scoring defenses in DII men's basketball, but the shooting went a bit cold at the end of the season. That said, this team still edged out two tournament teams in East Stroudsburg and Mercyhurst to win the PSAC tournament and had a bevy of scorers that made them a tough out every single night. 

No. 6 Point Loma. Sure, Point Loma lost to the Yotes in the West Region finals, but it was one of the most memorable performances of the tournament... if not season. Kaden Anderson, a Bevo Francis and national player of the year finalist, got hurt three minutes into the game and went 5-for-5 from 3 to score 27 points on pretty much one leg. Perhaps the best part of the performance was the reaction by the winning team afterwards, as the Coyotes addressed their opponent's performance in their West Region championship presser (talk about sportsmanship, hat tip to CSUSB). The Sea Lions were about as good a basketball team as any in the division all year long and unfortunately end their season on a huge what-if, but it doesn't knock them from the Power-10 perch. 

No. 7 Lincoln Memorial. The Southeast Region was a tricky one this year and Lincoln Memorial was near the top for most of the season. The Railsplitters were a whole lot of offense for opponents to cover, scoring 87.5 points per game on nearly 52% shooting (third in DII) with a 15.8 average margin of victory (fourth in DII). They made the DII Men's Elite Eight for the third time since 2017 and are firmly established as an annual contender and perennial top-10 team.  

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No. 8 Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs basketball programs had a year to remember, with both the men's and women's teams making their respective DII Elite Eights. These Bulldogs did it against the fourth toughest schedule in DII men's basketball, racking up a memorable run to their first-ever DII Men's Elite Eight. Minnesota Duluth took down a very tough Northern State team to win the NSIC tourney and gain auto entry into the dance, where they went on a run and stunned nationally ranked Central Oklahoma, Emporia State and Southern Nazarene before succumbing to Black Hills State in the quarterfinals. Not a bad year at all for a team that is quickly becoming a tough presence in the stacked Central Region. 

No. 9 West Texas A&M. This probably won't make sense to a lot of people, but these are power rankings. West Texas A&M played the toughest schedule per and had the highest RPI in the region heading into the tournament. The Buffs had six losses heading into the tournament, but only two in region. Yes, they tested themselves early against nationally ranked and future tournament teams to mixed results, but they finished strong and were a buzzer-beater away from yet another trip to the DII Men's Elite Eight. 

No. 10 (tie) Black Hills State, Fort Lewis. These two RMAC adversaries were somewhat opposites. One dominated the regular season and the other came alive in the tournament. You seemingly can't tell the tale of the 2023 season without both, though. Fort Lewis rumbled to the RMAC tourney title defeating Black Hills State (for a third time) and Colorado School of Mines, but in the NCAA tourney it was the Yellow Jackets turn. They defeated Colorado School of Mines by 20 and Fort Lewis by 15 before marching to the national semifinals for a second year in a row. 

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Augusta, Central Oklahoma, New Haven, Southern Nazarene, UMSL

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