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CoBL-area Division III Power Rankings (MBB): March 1, 2022

03/01/2022, 10:00am EST
By Jeff Griffith

Jeff Griffith (@Jeff_Griffith21)

A strong regular season across the board for area Division III men’s basketball programs came to a conclusion this weekend, but not before an impressive six teams from southeastern Pennsylvania earned bids to the 64-team DIvision III NCAA Tournament, which kicks off March 4. Of those six, three earned conference championships in the final weekend of February. 

As conference tournament play transitions to NCAA Tournament play, here’s a quick refresh of CoBL’s Division III men’s power rankings: 

Also considered: Cairn (16-11, 9-5 CSAC), Gwynedd Mercy (15-10, 7-5 Atlantic East), Rosemont (11-12, 10-5 CSAC)

Pernell Ghee shoots a basketball

Local product Pernell Ghee (above) helped lead the Aggies on a solid late-season run. (Photo courtesy Delaware Valley Athletics)

10. Delaware Valley (15-10, 10-6 MAC Freedom)

It was a close call between a handful of squads for the 10th and final spot in the power rankings, but Delaware Valley earned the nod on the basis of its impressive late-season win over No. 4 DeSales, as well as a head-to-head January win over its closest competitor for No. 10, Cairn (16-11, 9-5 CSAC). Led by the efforts of Penn Wood alum and redshirt senior Pernell Ghee (14.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), the Aggies had a strong close to the season, winning seven of their final nine games, before falling to Lycoming in the first round of MAC Freedom postseason play.

9. Lycoming (17-11 (10-6 MAC Freedom)

Lycoming didn’t have quite the hot finish DelVal did, splitting its last six regular season games, but the Warriors made it all the way to Sunday’s MAC Freedom title game — which they lost by three to Stevens — after a semifinal round 65-61 upset of the league’s top seed, DeSales. The Warriors, who also own a notable 19-point November win over No. 1 Susquehanna, found their strength on the glass, outrebounding opponents by an average of 5.6 boards this season. Their leader in that effort was junior center Dyson Harward, who averaged a double-double with 13 ppg and 11.8 rpg, both team highs. 

8. Alvernia (18-7, 11-5 MAC Commonwealth) 

Alvernia is another program that has played its best basketball in the final weeks of the 2021-22 season. The Golden Wolves dropped their regular season finale to Hood College and went down early in MAC Commonwealth postseason play, falling by 18 to lower-seeded Widener, but entered those two contests on a streak of 10 victories that stretched back to January 19. Led this season by a trio of standout scorers — seniors Malik Green (17.4 ppg) and Keon Taylor (16.7), and sophomore Jakob Kelly (14.5) — Alvernia also owns a head-to-head victory over No. 6 Eastern.

7. Lancaster Bible (20-7, 15-1 United East)

After somewhat of a lackluster start in non-conference play — Lancaster Bible lost, in one stretch, seven of 10 games to fall to 5-7 entering January — the Chargers ripped through United East play with just one blemish, a 93-76 loss to conference champion Penn State Harrisburg. Lancaster Bible’s only other loss in the 2022 calendar year came against the same squad Saturday in the United East championship game. In between those two defeats, though, LBC ripped off 12 straight wins by an average of 19 points to earn a spot amongst the area’s D-III top 10. The Chargers were led by a standout senior season from guard Jordan Shewbridge, who poured in 19.3 points per game while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.

Sam Gallardo dribbles a basketball

Sam Gallardo (above, in Jan.) is Eastern's second leading scorer, shooting nearly 45% from beyond the arc. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

6. Eastern (21-5, 14-2 MAC Commonwealth)

Despite coming up just short of a conference title, losing by four to Hood College on Sunday in the MAC Commonwealth championship game, Eastern still put together a very impressive 2021-22 regular season and earned its way into the NCAA Tourney. The Eagles own two regular-season wins over Hood, they didn’t lose a home game all season until the conference final, and they own a head-to-head win over No. 7 Lancaster Bible. It’s been a pretty balanced effort for Eastern this season with five different double-digit scorers, each of which also averages at least four rebounds. While senior guard Draig Cooley leads the Eagles with 13.6 ppg, junior guard Sam Gallardo (12.2 ppg) has shot a blistering 44 percent from deep.

NCAA Tournament: vs. Rochester (17-8) in Marietta, Ohio, Mar. 4 at 4:50 p.m.

5. Neumann (21-7, 10-2 Atlantic East)

Neumann hit its stride when it mattered most this year. After going 7-6 in November and December, the Knights lost just one more game the rest of the season — by 24 to Marymount on January 22 — and ended the year on an 11-game win streak. The last three of those 11 etched Neumann into history as United East champions; the Knights avenged their January loss to Marymount, knocking off the Saints 61-59 in the conference title game. All year, it’s been 6-foot-7 sophomore and Pocono Mountain West alum Jalen Vaughns leading the way with 22.1 ppg and 9.7 rpg on the season. 

NCAA Tournament: vs. Williams College (17-4) in Alliance, Ohio, Mar. 4 at 3:20 p.m.

4. DeSales (22-5, 14-2 MAC Freedom)

DeSales fell earlier than expected in postseason play, getting picked off in the MAC Freedom semifinals by Lycoming, but the Bulldogs’ impressive body of work is enough to earn them a top-five area standing. After opening the season on a 12-game winning streak, DeSales faltered a little bit down the stretch, splitting its last four regular season contests, but the Bulldogs’ 2021-22 resume still features nine blowout wins of 20 points or more, and a MAC Freedom regular season title to boot. DeSales’ success this season was a group effort, with eight players averaging between five and 13 points. Senior forward Timmy Edwards led the way with 12.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg, while senior guard Matt Kachelries averaged an impressive 5.9 assists to lead the Bulldogs. 

NCAA Tournament: vs. Babson (18-7) in Ashland, Va., Mar. 4 at 4:30 p.m.

3. Swarthmore (22-5, 15-3 Centennial)

It was hard not to put the area’s lone nationally-ranked program at No. 1; Swarthmore sits at No. 20 in the national rankings and has spent most of the year among the nation’s Top 25. That being said, the top two teams on this list have two things Swarthmore doesn’t have — conference titles. The Garnet fell to a fellow Top 25 squad, No. 10 Johns Hopkins, in the Centennial Conference championship game Saturday, 80-66. Swarthmore also picked up the majority of its losses in the latter part of the season, losing twice in late January and once in early February. Otherwise, though, it’s been lights out; entering the conference title game, Swarthmore had won seven of eight, including a win over Johns Hopkins. After being the national runner-up in the most recent Division III NCAA Tournament (2019), the Garnet will hope to ride the efforts of sophomore guard Vinny DeAngelo (16.4 ppg, 2.7 apg) and junior guard George Visconti (14.0 ppg) to another deep postseason run.

NCAA Tournament: vs. Keene State (20-6) in Swarthmore, Pa., Mar. 4 at 5:35 p.m.

2. Penn State Harrisburg (23-3, 14-2 United East)

The United East champs have been impressive from start to finish; of the Lions’ three losses, two came by single digits, and the third — a 15-point Feb. 19 regular-season loss to Lancaster Bible — was swiftly avenged just a week later in the United East championship game. The conference title game wasn’t even close, either; Penn State Harrisburg got its revenge by an astounding 33 points. The Lions will kick off March against St. Joseph’s (Conn.), which may ring a bell to college basketball fans as the program run by Hall-of-Fame coach Jim Calhoun from 2018-2021.

NCAA Tournament: vs. St. Joseph’s (Conn.) (26-1) in Worcester, Mass., Mar. 4 at 3:50 p.m.

The Susquehanna men's basketball team holds a Landmark Conference championship banner

The River Hawks defeated the defending Landmark Conference champs to win this season's title. (Phot courtesy Susquehanna Athletics)

1. Susquehanna (23-4, 13-1 Landmark)

For perspective on Susquehanna, the River Hawks have four losses, and three came in their first eight games. Susquehanna hasn’t lost since Jan. 12, enters NCAA Tournament play on a streak of 13 wins and recently capped off its red-hot finish with a Landmark Conference title. While Susquehanna didn’t knock off Swarthmore in its December meeting with the Garnet, it does own wins over a handful of strong area teams, including Neumann and Ursinus. Senior guard Lukas Yurasits has been a force all year for the River Hawks, shooting the lights out to the tune of 41 percent from three-point range while scoring a team-leading 15.3 ppg. Susquehanna will take on a foe familiar to Philadelphia basketball fans, facing Rowan (N.J.) in NCAA Tournament opening round play. 

NCAA Tournament: vs. Rowan (23-5) in Newport News, Va., Mar. 4 at 5 p.m.

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