Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Just about a month into the season, one thing is clear: there’s some terrific basketball being played in the PSAC East. The four top teams in our bi-weekly D-II rankings all hail from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, but that won’t last -- at some point, they’ll start playing each other. We’ve also got one new arrival to the rankings as well as a few other movers and shakers.
Without further ado, our updated Division II Super 7:
Others to Watch: Bloomsburg (4-4, 0-4 PSAC), Goldey-Beacom (3-4, 1-0 CACC), Lock Haven (2-5, 1-3 PSAC) Mansfield (3-3, 3-1 PSAC), Wilmington (4-3, 0-0 CACC)
Kylan Guerra (above) and Jefferson hold onto the last spot in our biweekly Super 7. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
7. Thomas Jefferson Rams (Last Week: 6)
Record: 5-5 (1-0 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Bridgeport (W, 103-81), vs. Kutztown (L, 67-66), @ Georgian Court (W, 69-60)
Star Watch: Yevgen Sakhniuk (Sr./PF)
Update: The Rams have now won three of their last four games following a four-game losing streak, enough to hang on here at the bottom of the rankings. The Bridgeport win was a terrific all-around effort by Herb Magee’s starting five; nobody scored fewer than Kylan Guerra’s 15 points, and the Rams made more than 60 percent of their shots and 40 percent of their 3s in the win. Sakhniuk, who played the last two seasons at La Salle but more and more sparingly and those years went on, is enjoying the chance to be a full-time starter; he poured in 19 points and 12 boards against Bridgeport, and the 6-7 forward is averaging 11.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg on the season. CACC play has begun, and the Rams can’t overlook Chestnut Hill with a big rivalry game at Holy Family waiting in the wings.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Chestnut Hill (Dec. 5, 8 PM), @ Holy Family (Dec. 9, 2 PM), @ NYIT (Dec. 14, 7 PM)
6. University of the Sciences Devils (5)
Record: 5-3 (1-0 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: @ St. Thomas Aquinas (L, 66-51), @ Indiana (Pa.) (L, 80-57), @ Pitt-Johnstown (W, 71-69), @ Holy Family (W, 85-81)
Star Watch: Flo Da-Silva (Sr./G)
Update: The Devils cooled off somewhat after a strong start, failing to get to 60 points in a pair of losses before gaining a measure of redemption with two wins, including a nice road score at Holy Family to open up league play. Da-Silva (12.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 3.3 spg) continues to be a big-time stat sheet stuffer; his best effort this week was an 18-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist, three-steal outing in the win over Holy Family. Freshman Brandon Starr, a Garnet Valley grad, played 29 minutes off the bench in that one, scoring 11 points on 4-5 FG (3-4 3PT); as a team, USci was 6-of-9 from 3 while Holy Family was 14-of-40. They continue league play with two should-win home games before a 10-day layoff for finals.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Georgian Court (Dec. 5, 8 PM), vs. Chestnut Hill (Dec. 9, 3 PM)
5. Lincoln Lions (NR)
Record: 5-2 (0-0 CIAA)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Millersville (W, 68-65), vs. Clarion (W, 89-79), vs. Cheyney (W, 80-62), @ Queens College (W, 70-48)
Star Watch: Gevon Arrington (Jr./G)
Update: Two weeks ago, Lincoln was sitting at 1-2. But a four-game win streak has them not just on our radar but right into the rankings, and deservedly so; they’ve won the last three by double-figures, and head coach Doug Overton is getting production from up and down the roster. Arrington, a Virginia native, is the Lions’ leading scorer (13.5 ppg), but 10 different players are averaging at least 4.8 ppg. Lincoln’s getting it done on the defensive end, holding opponents to 37.7 percent overall and 25.4 percent from 3-point range. The four-game win streak is the first for Lincoln since the 2013-14 season; the Lions only won seven total games a year ago, but look primed to blow right past that. After a tournament at Salem State, CIAA play finally gets underway with the Johnson Smith game next week.
Next Two Weeks: @ Lynn (Dec. 9, 2 PM), @ Salem (Dec. 10, 7 PM), vs. Johnson Smith (Dec. 14, 7:30 PM), vs. Winston-Salem (Dec. 16, 4PM), @ Livingstone (Dec. 18, 7:30 PM)
4. Shippensburg Raiders (2)
Record: 6-2 (3-1 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Wilmington (L, 73-71), @ Chestnut Hill (W, 80-67), vs. Gannon (W, 65-48), vs. Clarion (W, 78-65)
Star Watch: Dustin Sleva (Sr./F)
Update: There’s certainly a tight grouping up, here at the top. How tight? Ship lost one game, by two points on the road at Wilmington against a solid Wildcats squad, and that costs them two spots; to be fair, it was their second loss in a row before bouncing back with three straight wins. Last year, however, it wasn’t until Feb. 1 that the Raiders suffered their second loss of the season. Sleva (21.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg) continues to be a double-double machine, and they’re getting very strong point guard play from Clay Conner, averaging 10.0 ppg and 5.0 apg with a 2.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio to boot. They’ve only got two games in the next 24 days, playing Cal and then Wilson on Dec. 19 before the main portion of the league slate begins in earnest on Dec. 30 with a trip to Mercyhurst.
Next Two Weeks: vs. California (Pa.) (Dec. 9, 3 PM)
Anthony Lee (above) and Kutztown had three close wins over the last two weeks. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
3. Kutztown Golden Bears (3)
Record: 6-1 (3-1 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Jefferson (W, 67-66), vs. Mercyhurst (W, 72-69), vs. Gannon (W, 67-62)
Star Watch: Anthony Lee (R-Jr./G)
Update: The Golden Bears certainly toughed out their three wins over the last two weeks, surviving a last-second shot attempt on the road at Jefferson, coming from behind in the last five minutes against Mercyhurst and then holding off Gannon down the stretch. Lee, the ultra-athletic 6-3 wing out of Abington, was the team’s leading scorer in all three, with 16 against Jefferson, then 26 (and five assists) against Mercyhurst and then 18 against Gannon; he’s averaging a team-high 20.9 ppg as well as 4.1 rpg while hitting 20-of-37 (54 percent) from 3-point range. The Jefferson win was especially impressive, as Kutztown got it done without Moe Williams or Dan Cuevas; sophomore forward Max Wagner filled in admirably with 15 points and 12 rebounds, setting new career highs in both.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Bowie State (Dec. 6, 7 PM), vs. Seton Hill (Dec. 9, 3 PM)
2. West Chester Rams (4)
Record: 7-0 (4-0 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Wilmington (W, 78-61), vs. Indiana (Pa.) (W, 93-78), vs. Seton Hill (W, 88-75)
Star Watch: Tyrell Long (Sr./SF)
Update: A well-deserved jump for Damion Blair’s Rams, who are off to their second 7-0 start in the last three years following a weekend sweep of two PSAC West foes. The previous Rams run ended at seven (though they won the following five, and went all the way to the league championship game), but this year’s version will look to push it to eight with a Saturday matchup against the Mercyhurst team it faced in the championship two years back. Long, the former standout at Philly’s Bishop McDevitt, has been stuffing the stat sheet this season, averaging 21.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 3.0 apg; he went for 27 and 13 (and six assists) against Wilmington, then dropped 26 against IUP and 20 (and nine boards) against Seton Hill. The Rams are No. 15 in the country in defensive FG percentage (39.2 percent) and No. 24 in the country in scoring defense (65.1 ppg).
Next Two Weeks: vs. Mercyhurst (Dec. 9, 3 PM), @ Bowie State (Dec. 11, 7 PM)
1. East Stroudsburg Warriors (1)
Record: 6-0 (4-0 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Chestnut Hill (W, 111-77), vs. Concordia (W, 106-82), vs. Seton Hill (W, 109-85), vs. California (Pa.) (W, 108-97)
Star Watch: Kobi Nwandu (Soph./SF)
Update: The Warriors’ train picked up some momentum these last two weeks, winning four games by an average of 25.8 ppg, getting into triple digits each time. As a team, they’re averaging 107.7 ppg this season, a product of a defense that’s forcing 24.3 turnovers per game, but they’re also hitting 38.9 percent of their 3-pointers. What’s especially impressive is that it seems to be someone different leading the way each game: Josh Williams had 18 against CHC, Steve Harris had 19 against Seton Hill and 22 against CalU, and Nwandu bursted through for a career-high 29 points (on 9-11 FG, 3-5 3PT and 8-10 FT) to lead the way against Concordia. They’ve got their sights set on 8-0 heading into break, with a game against a 2-6 Molloy squad and then a home contest against Gannon (4-5, 1-3) before a 10-day layoff.
Next Two Weeks: @ Molloy (Dec. 6, 7 PM), vs. Gannon (Dec. 9, 3 PM)