Matthew Ryan (@matthewryan02)
December is always a bit of a slow month on the Division III calendar, with many programs taking multiple-week breaks for finals and the holidays. Add in some COVID cancellations, and there weren’t too many teams around who had busy Decembers.
Still, most teams played at least a couple games since our last update, and that was more than enough to shake things up in the area’s power rankings. Keep reading for how the area’s D-III men’s landscape is shaping up entering the meat of conference play.
Previous Rankings: Dec. 5
Others to Watch: Delaware Valley (6-5, 2-2 MAC Freedom), Elizabethtown (5-5, 0-1 Landmark), Gettysburg (6-4, 2-2 Centennial), Haverford (6-4, 2-2 Centennial), Lancaster Bible (5-5, 2-0 United East), Lebanon Valley (5-5, 2-2 MAC Commonwealth), Neumann (7-5, 0-0 Atlantic East), Widener (5-5, 1-3 MAC Commonwealth), York (6-4, 2-2 MAC Commonwealth)
10. Penn State Abington (Last Week: OTW)
Record: 6-3 (0-0 United East)
The first of two PSU campuses in our rankings, Jon Tanous’ Nittany Lions have recovered from losing two of their first three games to win five of their last six, building up some nice momentum heading into conference play. That UEast slate is going to come in hot and heavy, with five games scheduled in a nine-day span to kick things off; it’ll have been nearly a month since Abington's last game, an 89-80 win over Bryn Athyn on Dec. 10. Junior guard Alex Podolski (Sparta, N.J.) is their leading scorer (18.8 ppg) and passer (4.4 apg) and second-leading rebounder (9.2 rpg), while playing a team-high 35.7 mpg.
Next Up: vs. Morrisville State (Jan. 7), vs. St. Mary’s (Md.) (Jan. 8), vs. Penn College (Jan. 11)
Malik Green (above) is one of two local products leading Alvernia in scoring. (Photo: Alvernia Athletics)
9. Alvernia (OTW)
Record: 7-4 (2-1 MAC Commonwealth)
The Golden Wolves have a few quality wins already under their belt, having knocked off one other CoBL-ranked team in Gwynedd Mercy (on Nov. 11) and another in the running (York). This week’s trip to Eastern will be yet another tough test for an experienced group, which starts three seniors and a junior. A pair of local products, Simon Gratz’s Malik Green (16.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Mt. Pleasant (Del.)’s Keon Taylor (15.6 ppg), both seniors, are the two leading scorers, with Harrisburg-area sophomore forward Jakob Kelly (Bishop McDevitt) joining them in double figures at 14.1 ppg and 5.5 rpg.
Next Up: @ Eastern (Jan. 5), @ Messiah (Jan. 8), vs. Lebanon Valley (Jan. 12)
8. Cairn (OTW)
Record: 9-4 (3-0 CSAC)
Jason O’Connell’s Highlanders had one of the busiest months around, playing five December games while going 4-1, the only loss coming to Gwynedd Mercy. One more non-league game awaits, today against Del Val, before Cairn opens CSAC play; the conference scheduling wasn’t kind, with a visit from Rosemont followed by four straight on the road. They’re +10 on the glass as a team, led by senior forward Kameron Clark (14.1 ppg, 14.1 rpg), who’s ranked fourth in all of D-III in rebounding, with two games of 20-plus rebounds and six others with 15 or more. Senior guard Jesse Rivera, a Central Bucks East product, is also having a strong season at 13.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg and a team-high 5.6 apg.
Next Up: vs. Delaware Valley (Jan. 3), vs. Rosemont (Jan. 6), @ Saint Elizabeth (Jan. 8)
7. Ursinus (5)
Record: 6-2 (3-0 Centennial)
With head coach Kevin Small at the helm, the Bears are winners in five of their last six, with the only loss of that stretch coming to our No.6-ranked Susquehanna. While none of its early wins came against top-tier competition, Ursinus will be tested in the second stretch of the season, as it takes on our No.1 ranked Swarthmore and Johns Hopkins (7-1) twice each. Senior guard Ryan Hughes is the Bears’ number one option on offense as he averages 18.8 ppg while shooting 54.4% from the field and 43.3% from deep. In addition to his high-level scoring, Hughes leads the team in rebounds (8.3 per game) and assists (3.4). Trevor Wall (13.1 ppg), Kyle Maurer (12.8) and freshman Sean Neylon (11.6) round out the Bears’ double figure scorers.
Next Up: @ Washington (Jan. 5), @ Gettysburg (Jan. 8), vs. Dickinson (Jan. 11)
6. Susquehanna (8)
Record: 7-3 (1-0 Landmark)
Coming off a 3-2 start, the River Hawks have won four of their last five, with the lone loss coming against Swarthmore. Susquehanna has picked up five wins over teams that have a .500 record or better, including a recent victory over Ursinus on the road. The River Hawks won’t have a lack of opportunity against high-level opponents, with two contests against each Catholic (7-2), Juniata (7-4) and Drew (7-5) yet to come. Senior guard Lukas Yurasits leads the team in scoring at 14.7 ppg, and not far behind him is redshirt junior forward Dominic Dunn, who averages 13.8 ppg. Point guard Danny Frauenheim is the leading passer for Susquehanna, as he averages 6.3 assists per game, 17th best in the nation.
Next Up: vs. Haverford (Jan. 4), vs. Catholic (Jan. 8), @ Scranton (Jan. 12)
Donaven Spencer (above, in 2019) is nearly averaging a double-double for the Griffins. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
5. Gwynedd Mercy (6)
Record: 8-2 (0-0 Atlantic East)
Led by head coach John Baron, the Griffins are winners of four straight D-III games, including an impressive 83-70 victory over a Cairn team that now sits at 9-4. The fast-approaching Atlantic East schedule will be highlighted with games against Marymount (7-4), Centenary (N.J.) (6-4) and Neumann (7-5). Sophomore guard Aziz Parker averages a team-high 17.5 ppg, scoring at least 20 points in six games. Manny Clark (11.5 ppg), Ty Jones (11.3) and Donaven Spencer (10.3) follow Parker’s scoring load, and Spencer, who is 6-5, leads the team in rebounds at 9.1 per game.
Next Up: @ Valley Forge (Jan. 6), vs. Centenary (N.J.) (Jan. 8), vs. Neumann (Jan. 12)
4. Eastern (4)
Record: 9-2 (3-0 MAC Commonwealth)
Following a 1-2 start, the Eagles have rattled off eight straight wins, excluding their most recent loss to D-I Lehigh, which doesn’t count towards their record. During that span, Eastern picked up quality victories over Haverford (62-47), Wilson (89-60) and Stevenson (95-87), among others, and hung tough with the Mountain Hawks, only losing by seven points. Graduate forward William Blet leads the Eagles in scoring, averaging 15.1 ppg, and topping out with a career-high 28 points in their most recent D-III game against Lancaster Bible. During the winning streak, the 6-8, 255-pound Blet has registered five double-doubles and, against Widner, tied a career-high with five blocks. Rounding out Eastern’s double-figure scorers are Draig Cooley (10.5 ppg), Kaeshawn Ward (10.5) and Sam Gallardo (10), all full-time starters for Dan Preussner.
Next Up: vs. Alvernia (Jan. 5), vs. Hood (Jan. 8), @ Albright (Jan. 12)
3. Penn State Harrisburg (3)
Record: 9-1 (2-0 United East)
With 27 days between their last game and next, the Nittany Lions approach the second stretch of their season in a great place. The first 10 games for Don Friday’s team were headlined by solid victories, most notably a 75-64 win over Mary Washington which currently has a 12-3 record. Senior guard Donyae Baylor-Carroll leads the Lions in scoring at 17.8 ppg, followed by Dylan Daniels (13.8), Nate Curry (13.6) and Brandon Coleman (11.5), to round out the players in double figures. Curry and Daniels are Harrisburg’s top rebounders, averaging 8.8 and 8.4, respectively, and 5-10 Zegary Scott III leads the team in assists at 6.0 per game, tied for 21st in the nation amongst D-III men.
Next Up: @ Gallaudet (Jan. 8), @ Penn St. Berks (Jan. 11), @ Penn College (Jan. 14)
2. DeSales (1)
Record: 12-1 (4-0 MAC Freedom)
After opening up the season with 12 consecutive wins, the Bulldogs had their first blip of the year, falling to Drew University, 71-54. The loss cost DeSales its top spot in our rankings, but the Bulldogs’ dominant stretch beforehand keeps them in the top two. While DeSales doesn’t have a marque victory, wins over Hood (78-74) and Stevens (64-44) highlighted the opening stretch. The Bulldogs are led by committee as their leading scorer, Dat Lambert, averages just 10.2 ppg and nine other players average over five points. Guard Matt Kachelries leads DeSales with 6.0 apg, tied for 21st in the nation.
Next Up: @ FDU-Florham (Jan. 5), vs. Kings (Pa.) (Jan. 12), @ Lycoming (Jan. 15)
Vinny DeAngelo (above) leads the Garnet in points (17.7) and assists (2.7) per game. (Photo: Swarthmore Athletics)
1. Swarthmore (2)
Record: 9-1 (3-0 Centennial)
Coming off their first double digit loss since the 2019 national championship game, the Garnet have rattled off five straight wins, winning by an average margin of 23.2 points. During that stretch, Landry Kosmalski’s squad came away with impressive victories over Haverford (81-50) and Susquehanna (88-60). The powerhouse program is led by 6-1 sophomore guard Vinny DeAngelo, who averages team-highs in points (17.7) and assists (2.7) along with 4.1 rpg. Joining the Sun Valley graduate as double-digit scorers are George Visconti (15.3 ppg) and Conor Harkins (12.1). Swarthmore’s upcoming matchup against Johns Hopkins on Jan. 11 will be the first time the two programs meet since the Blue Jays handed the Garnet its first loss in 2019-20 after starting the season 26-0.
Next Up: vs. McDaniel (Jan. 5), vs. Franklin and Marshall (Jan. 8), @ Johns Hopkins (Jan. 11)