Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
We can’t believe it, either -- the 2016-17 season is almost over.
The last two weeks of Division III regular season are upon us, with the various leagues either three or four games away from the start of postseason play.
There’s no fewer than four or five programs not in the rankings that certainly could be; the teams at the bottom of the poll all had strong two weeks, however, and there wasn’t anybody that deserved to be dropped. So teams like Del-Val, Eastern and Ursinus will have to wait two more weeks to see if they can finish the season in the rankings.
Here’s our penultimate Top 10 of the season:
Others to Watch: Albright (10-12, 8-5 MAC Commonwealth), Delaware Valley (13-8, 8-2 MAC Freedom), Dickinson (12-9, 9-5 Centennial), Eastern (13-8, 8-2 MAC Freedom), Immaculata (10-11, 8-6 CSAC), Muhlenberg (11-9, 6-8 Centennial), Penn State-Abington (8-11, 7-7 NEAC), Rosemont (11-10, 9-5 CSAC), Ursinus (13-8, 10-4 Centennial), Widener (12-9, 6-6 MAC Commonwealth), York (13-8, 8-6 Capital)
10. Lebanon Valley Dutchmen (Last Week: 9)
Record: 14-8 (8-5 MAC Commonwealth)
Last Two Weeks: @ Stevenson (L, 74-71), vs. Hood (W, 94-74), @ Widener (W, 79-73), @ Albright (W, 91-87)
Star Watch: Sam Light (Jr./G) -- 23.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Though Lebanon Valley currently sits tied with Albright in second play in the Commonwealth, which fits five teams in its playoff bracket, the Dutchmen still only sit one game ahead of Widener and Messiah (11-9, 6-6) in the loss column, with a trip to Messiah and visit from current league leader Lycoming (18-4, 10-3) after an Arcadia group they only beat by one on the road comes to town in search of revenge; lose all three and they’re in trouble, but win all three and second place is very likely theirs. Could have picked any one of three standouts these two weeks, as senior Travis Conrad dropped 33 against Hood and junior Andy Orr had 31 points and 11 rebounds against Widener, but Light topped them both by going for a career-high 46 points against Albright, the fifth-highest outing in Dutchmen history.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Arcadia (Feb. 8, 8 PM), @ Messiah (Feb. 11, 5 PM), vs. Lycoming (Feb. 14, 8 PM)
9. Alvernia Crusaders (8)
Record: 13-8 (7-5 MAC Commonwealth)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Hood (W, 77-74), vs. Lycoming (L, 78-61), vs. Messiah (W, 75-68)
Star Watch: Marquis Marshall (Sr./F) -- 21.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg
Right behind Lebanon Valley and Albright in the Commonwealth is Alvernia, and Rick Miller’s squad is certainly talented enough to make some serious postseason noise if it can finish the season strong; the Crusaders are 6-4 in their last 10 games. Marshall ran his double-double streak to five games in a row, with at least 17 points and 12 rebounds in all three games; he’s got 10 double-doubles on the season. Considering Alvernia beat Albright in the teams’ earlier meeting this season, winning out guarantees them no worse than third in the conference, but anything worse than 3-1 takes things out of their hands, especially if they can’t beat Widener in the season finale.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Albright (Feb. 8, 8 PM), @ Arcadia (Feb. 11, 3 PM), @ Stevenson (Feb. 14, 8 PM), vs. Widener (Feb. 18, 3 PM)
8. DeSales Bulldogs (10)
Record: 15-6 (7-3 MAC Freedom)
Last Two Weeks: @ King’s (W, 77-74), vs. Eastern (W, 80-66), vs. Manhattanville (W, 78-67) FDU-Florham (W, 76-66)
Star Watch: Kuity Slanger (Sr./G) -- 11.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.1 apg
After a three-game losing streak resulted in a tumble from fourth to our tenth in the last power rankings, DeSales bounced back with four straight wins, including one over co-division leader Eastern; the Bulldogs are currently 3-0 against the Eagles and Del-Val with that fourth and final meeting looming as the season finale next Saturday. DeSales is in good shape for the four-team MAC Freedom playoff, two games up on fourth-place Misericordia (14-7, 5-5) and Wilkes (11-10, 5-5), with a chance to guarantee no worse than a second-place finish if they sweep all four games. Slanger put up at least four rebounds and four assists in all four games, scoring double digits in three; a 16-point, eight-assist, five-rebound effort against Eastern was his best of the last two weeks.
Next Two Weeks: @ Wilkes (Feb. 8, 8 PM), @ King’s College (Feb. 11, 3 PM), vs Misericordia (Feb. 14, 8 PM), vs Delaware Valley (Feb. 18, 3 PM)
Brandon McGuire (above) and Moravian are having a breakthorugh season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
7. Moravian Greyhounds (7)
Record: 14-7 (7-3 Landmark)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Goucher (W, 84-69), vs. Susquehanna (W, 80-77), vs. Scranton (L, 69-61), @ Elizabethtown (W, 79-63)
Star Watch: Brandon McGuire (Sr./F) -- 17.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg
The Greyhounds’ last two weeks were highlighted by the win over No. 11 Susquehanna, Moravian’s first win over a nationally ranked program in over 15 years. Second-year head coach Justin Potts has a nice mix of veterans in the starting lineup and a deep bench that’s getting contributions from underclassmen like Jake McGee, C.J. Barnes, Will Brazukas and John Hargraves. McGuire, a 6-4 forward out of Father Judge scored at least 14 points in all four games, dropping 20 and grabbing 14 in the win over Elizabethtown. Four teams make the Landmark playoffs, and Moravian/Catholic have a two-game lead on Drew (11-10, 5-5); as long as the Greyhounds win that game Feb. 15, nothing else matters -- but sweeping all four gives them a shot at the regular-season championship, as they’re just a game back of the top two (Susquehanna/Scranton).
Next Two Weeks: @ Goucher (Feb. 8, 7 PM), @ Juniata (Feb. 11, 4 PM), @ Drew (Feb. 15, 7 PM), vs. Catholic (Feb. 18, 4 PM)
6. Franklin & Marshall Diplomats (6)
Record: 15-6 (9-5 Centennial)
Last Two Weeks: @ Gettysburg (W, 62-58), vs. McDaniel (W, 70-47), @ Ursinus (L, 94-82), @ Muhlenberg (W, 80-63)
Star Watch: Brandon Federici (Jr./SG) -- 21.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg
The Centennial playoff picture is all but set. Five teams make the playoffs, and F&M -- tied with Dickinson for fourth -- sits three games up on the teams tied for sixth, Muhlenberg and Gettysburg. It’s by no means an easy stretch to close out the year, playing first-place Swarthmore and second-place Johns Hopkins (14-7, 10-4) as well as Dickinson, but they should be able to pick up the necessary win to secure the bid; a strong close to the year could even give them the title if all the chips fall the right way. Federici, who already had 12 games of 20-plus points on the season, went off for a season-high 34 against Muhlenberg, hitting exactly half of his 20 shots and 14 3-pointers.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Johns Hopkins (Feb. 8, 7:30 PM), @ Washington (Feb. 11, 4 PM), @ Dickinson (Feb. 15, 8 PM), vs. Swarthmore (Feb. 18, 3 PM)
5. Gwynedd-Mercy Griffins (5)
Record: 17-4 (11-3 CSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Marywood (W, 75-65), @ Neumann (L, 92-77), vs. Cairn (W, 84-67), vs. Rosemont (W, 87-84)
Star Watch: Arron Goodman (Sr./F) -- 16.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg
None of the three CSAC teams ranked in our poll are in any danger of missing out on the six-team CSAC playoffs, which currently has Centenary (10-11, 6-8) as its final qualified team. But getting the bye that a top-two slot guarantees is a nice perk, meaning the Griffins only need to pass Cabrini -- which they conveniently play in the final game of the season after something of a friendly three games. The defending league champions have won seven of eight and 12 of 14, losing only to Cabrini and Neumann during that span. But this is a deep and talented group, led by its frontcourt of Goodman and Cedric Elleby, plus guards Courtney Cubbage and Rip Engle.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Immaculata (Feb. 8, 8 PM), @ Keystone (Feb. 11, 3 PM), vs. Clarks Summit (Feb. 15, 8 PM), @ Cabrini (Feb. 18, 3 PM)
4. Cabrini Cavaliers (4)
Record: 16-5 (12-2 CSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Centenary (W, 83-66), @ Immaculata (W, 98-74), @ Centenary (W, 77-63), @ Rosemont (L, 79-78), vs. Keystone (W, 103-87)
Star Watch: Deryl Bagwell (Jr./SF) -- 11.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg
The Cavaliers were within one game of league leader Neumann for a while, until Rosemont came into Radnor and dealt Cabrini its second league loss of the year. Tim McDonald will have a chance to get one of those games back when he takes his team to Neumann on Feb. 15, but they’ll otherwise have to hope the Knights drop two more games if they want to steal the top seed in the CSAC playoffs. So more than likely, assuming they take care of business against Gwynedd in the season finale, Cabrini will begin the postseason as the No. 2 seed as it chases its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014. Got sick of honoring Tyheim Monroe (22.8 ppg/16.2 rpg) every week, so this time we’ll mention Bagwell, a 5-11 Imhotep grad who did his best Monroe impression with three consecutive double-doubles against Cententary (twice) and Immaculata.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Cairn (Feb. 8, 8 PM), @ Clarks Summit (Feb. 11, 3 PM), @ Neumann (Feb. 15, 7 PM), vs. Gwynedd-Mercy (Feb. 18, 4 PM)
3. Swarthmore Garnet (3)
Record: 17-4 (11-3 Centennial)
Last Two Weeks: @ Washington (W, 84-61), vs. Gettysburg (L, 76-65), vs. Muhlenberg (W, 70-50), @ McDaniel (W, 89-81 OT)
Star Watch: Cam Wiley (Soph./G) -- 17.5 ppg, 4.5 apg
The usually sharp-shooting Garnet struggled from beyond the arc against Gettysburg, making 5-of-29 (17.2 percent) from 3-point range against the Bullets to end a three-game winning streak. Now they’ve got a tough finalizing swing against three playoff squads Ursinus and Hopkins, then a visit from a Franklin & Marshall squad that seems to be figuring itself out to end the season. Wiley, a 6-0 Atlanta native, has been scoring the ball at a higher and higher rate all season; he went for at least 21 points in all four games these last two weeks, including 31 (on 16 shots) against Washington College.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Ursinus (Feb. 8, 7 PM), @ Johns Hopkins (Feb. 11, 3 PM), vs. Haverford (Feb. 15, 8 PM), vs. Franklin & Marshall (Feb. 18, 3 PM)
Steven Weidlich (above) and Susquehanna are in the driver's seat in the Landmark -- if they beat Scranton. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
2. Susquehanna River Hawks (2)
Record: 18-3 (8-2 Landmark)
Last Two Weeks: @ Catholic (W, 89-83), @ Moravian (L, 80-77), vs. Juniata (W, 83-57), vs. Goucher (W, 84-63)
Star Watch: Steven Weidlich (Sr./G) -- 21.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Tied with Scranton for the league lead in the Landmark, both teams have their fates in their own hands -- win out, and earn the No. 1 spot in the league playoffs. So it’s safe to say the John Long Center in Scranton will be rocking and rolling next Wednesday when the River Hawks come to town, assuming Susquehanna emerges unscathed from home games against Catholic (15-6, 7-3) and Drew first. It’s no secret that Susquehanna is its best team when Weidlich and junior big man Ryan Traub are playing well: the only team to hold Weidlich under 24 the last two weeks was Moravian. Got a big bench boost in the Catholic win from senior Danny Weiss (20 points) and freshman Seth Callahan (19 points), who each set season highs in scoring.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Catholic (Feb. 8, 7 PM), vs. Drew (Feb. 11, 4 PM), @ Scranton (Feb. 15, 7 PM), @ Elizabethtown (Feb. 18, 4 PM)
1. Neumann Knights (1)
Record: 20-1 (14-0 CSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Keystone (W, 99-76), vs Gwynedd-Mercy (W, 92-77), vs. Immaculata (W, 93-82), @ Centenary (@, 96-73)
Star Watch: Darian Barnes (Sr./F) -- 14.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg
The Knights have passed every CSAC test this season with flying colors, though it was Rosemont -- who took Neumann to overtime in its own gym before falling 85-83 on Jan. 18 -- who’s come the closest so far. If Jim Rullo’s bunch survives that one and a visit from Cairn, they then face one more regular-season test in Cabrini, who they dealt an 84-76 loss at Cabrini early last month. They can still afford a slip-up and earn the No. 1 seed in the CSAC playoffs anyways, where they’ll be the odds-on favorite to earn the league’s automatic bid after falling just short to Gwynedd-Mercy in the title game a year ago. Barnes, a 6-9 big man, is on a string of eight double-digit scoring outings with six double-doubles in his last eight games.
Next Two Weeks: @ Rosemont (Feb. 8, 8 PM), vs. Cairn (Feb. 11, 3 PM), vs. Cabrini (Feb. 15, 7 PM), @ Marywood (Feb. 18, 3 PM)