Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
For the first few weeks of the season, our Division II rankings has been a “Super 7” consisting of teams from the PSAC East and CACC South. But frankly, this week there are only six squads deserving of being ranked these two weeks, as the programs most in the running for that seventh spot -- Lock Haven, Millersville and West Chester -- all had losing records in December.
Here’s a look at our D--II rankings after two months of the regular season (Dec. 20 rank in parenthesis):
Others to Watch: Holy Family (5-8, 3-1 CACC), Lock Haven (6-4, 2-4 PSAC) Mansfield (4-5, 2-4 PSAC), Millersville (5-5, 4-2 PSAC), West Chester (5-6, 3-3 PSAC)
6. Goldey-Beacom Lightning (6)
Record: 8-3 (3-2 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Millersville (W, 95-84)
Star Watch: Dante Thompson (Jr./F) -- 10.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg
Update: The Lightning picked up a nice victory on New Years’ Eve, dropping the Marauders on the road behind 18 points and eight rebounds from Thompson, which was a nice follow-up to a 27-point, eight-rebound effort against Wilmington on Dec. 18. January begins with four games against CACC North squads, including hosting the current division leader Caldwell (9-4, 4-1) on Wednesday night.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Caldwell (Jan. 4, 8 PM), @ Concordia (Jan. 7, 3 PM), vs. Felician (Jan. 10, 8 PM), @ Dominican (Jan. 14, 3 PM)
5. Philadelphia University Rams (4)
Record: 8-5 (4-1 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: @ American International (L, 64-61)
Star Watch: Eric Long (Jr./F) -- 10.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg
Update: The loss to AIC is Philly U’s second in three games, which drops them down a rung (behind a Wilmington squad that beat them on Dec. 3). Long, a 6-7 forward who usually is focused more on the rebounding aspect than on getting his own shot, went for 19 points and 15 rebounds in the loss, leading three Philly U starters in double figures. It was a rough shooting day for the Rams, who were 21-of-60 (35.0 percent) overall and just 6-for-25 (24.0 percent) from 3-point range; on the season, they’re hitting 37.7 percent from deep.
Next Two Weeks: @ Bloomfield (Jan. 4, 7:30 PM), @ Felician (Jan. 7, 3:30 PM), vs. Post (Jan. 10, 8 PM), vs. Holy Family (Jan. 12, 6 PM), @ Nyack (Jan. 14, 3 PM)
4. Wilmington Wildcats (5)
Record: 8-5 (4-1 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: N/A
Star Watch: Tyaire Ponzo-Meek (Sr./G) -- 17.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg
Update: After an extended holiday break -- the Wildcats’ last game was Dec. 18, a win over Goldey-Beacom -- Wilmington gets back to action with five games in the next two weeks, including one final non-league game against UDC before CACC play closes out the year. With the high-scoring duo of Ponzo-Meek and junior Nick Richards (17.5 ppg), head coach Dan Burke has a reliable 1-2 punch that should make this easily the best yet of Burke’s three seasons. Don’t play another South Division opponent until Dec. 17 against USciences.
Next Two Weeks: @ District of Columbia (Jan. 2, 6 PM), @ Felician (Jan. 4, 8 PM), vs. Dominican (Jan. 7, 3 PM), @ Bloomfield (Jan. 10, 7:30 PM), vs. Caldwell (Jan. 14, 3 PM)
3. Kutztown Bears (2)
Record: 8-2 (4-2 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Shippensburg (L, 97-82)
Star Watch: Anthony Lee (RS-Soph./G) -- 13.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Update: The Bears’ second conference loss in four games knocks them down one more rung, but No. 12 Indiana and No. 18 Shippensburg aren’t exactly a bad pair of losses. The loss to Shippensburg just before 2016 became 2017 saw Kutztown get out-rebounded 43-27 while only 27 percent of its 3s (6-for-22); Lee and Ethan Ridgeway each had 22 points in a losing effort. Assuming they take care of business in the first three games to start the new year, that sets up a big-time road trip to a scorching-hot East Stroudsburg squad; the two teams split their meetings a year ago.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Clarion (Jan. 3, 7:30 PM), @ Lock Haven (Jan. 6, 7:30 PM), vs. Cheyney (Jan. 9, 7:30 PM), @ East Stroudsburg (Jan. 11, 8 PM), @ Mansfield (Jan. 14, 3 PM)
2. East Stroudsburg Warriors (3)
Record: 8-3 (6-0 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Cheyney (W, 105-64)
Star Watch: Ryan Krawczeniuk (Jr./G) -- 8.9 ppg
Update: Winners of five straight and eight of their last night, East Stroudsburg now claims the second spot in our rankings. It was indeed a team effort in the win over Cheyney, as 15 different Warriors scored, led by Krawczeniuk, who was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line en route to his 18 points; sophomore guard Nick Giordano chipped in 11 on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting performance. Things get much tougher to start the new year, with a visit from a scrappy Lock Haven squad followed by a trip to Millersville, but playing four of the first five games at home to kick off 2017 is a nice little New Years’ present for Jeff Wilson and company.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Lock Haven (Jan. 3, 8 PM), @ Millersville (Jan. 6, 7:30 PM), vs. West Chester (Jan. 9, 8 PM), vs. Kutztown (Jan. 11, 8 PM), vs. Slippery Rock (Jan. 14, 3 PM)
1. Shippensburg Raiders (1)
Record: 10-0 (6-0 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Kutztown (W, 97-82)
Star Watch: John Castello (Fr./F) -- 12.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg
Update: The Raiders kept rolling, establishing themselves as the team to beat in the PSAC East this season with an impressive 15-point road win over preseason favorite Kutztown. Castello, a 6-4 freshman from Mars (Pa.), had the best game of his young college career, going for 23 points on 11-for-12 shooting, grabbing 18 rebounds as well. In in his first 10 college games, he’s scored in double-figures seven times, including five double-doubles, and has put himself up there with junior Dustin Sleva (21.6 ppg, 11.5 rpg) and senior Abe Massaley (13.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg) as indispensable pieces for fourth-year head coach Chris Fite.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Millersville (Jan. 3, 8 PM), vs. Bloomsburg (Jan. 6, 8 PM), @ Mansfield (Jan. 9, 7:30 PM), vs. West Chester (Jan. 11, 8 PM), @ Lock Haven (Jan. 14, 3 PM)