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2022-23 CoBL Division III Men's Power Rankings (Nov. 7)

11/07/2022, 10:45am EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The start of the college basketball season is upon us, from Division I to Division III. And as always, there’s some great hoops to be played at the small-college level, with many of the area’s programs right in the mix for a division or league title.

Some of the squads in the southeastern quadrant of the state — from Philadelphia to State College, Harrisburg to the Lehigh Valley, and maybe a bit beyond — have experienced some significant turnover since the end of last season, leaving a few programs that were on the rise last year hopeful they can continue that momentum into 2023.

Here’s our initial Top 10 of the 2022-23 season; we’ll have an update on our power rankings in early December:


Others to watch

Delaware Valley (15-10, 10-6 MAC Freedom), DeSales Bulldogs (22-6, 14-2 MAC Freedom), Gwynedd Mercy (15-11, 7-5 Atlantic East), Haverford Fords (13-12, 9-9 Centennial), PSU-Harrisburg Nittany Lions (24-4, 14-2), Rosemont Ravens (11-12, 10-5 CSAC), Susquehanna River Hawks (24-6, 14-1), Widener Pride (13-14, 6-10 MAC Commonwealth)


10. Arcadia Knights
Head Coach: Adam Van Zelst, 4th season
Last Year: 12-14 (11-5 MAC Freedom)
Key Departures: Samuel Majekodunmi (11.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Gabe Kier (8.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), D.J. Gardner (7.5 ppg),
Key Returners: Jalen Watkins (13.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg), Justin Money (11.5 ppg), Nas Johnson (6.9 ppg)

Van Zelst’s third Arcadia squad clearly got better as the year went on, ripping off six straight wins before entering the playoffs while going 10-4 overall in games played after Jan. 1. After Watkins and Money, two seniors, they’re awfully young; Van Zelst has no juniors, six sophomores and eight freshmen on the roster. There’s a ton of local talent that should be playing bigger roles this year, like sophomores Johnson (Father Judge) and Dom Vazquez (Archbishop Ryan), while freshman Chris Williams (La Salle HS) will see big minutes early. How their young forwards grow alongside the veteran Watkins (Mastery North) will be a significant factor in their continued improvement.
First Five: @ Susquehanna (Nov. 9), vs. Cabrini (Nov. 12), @ Gwynedd Mercy (Nov. 15), @ Drexel (Nov. 18), @ PSU-Abington (Nov. 22)

9. Ursinus Bears
Head Coach: Kevin Small, 22nd season
Last Year: 13-13 (9-9 Centennial)
Key Departures: Sean Neylon (12.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Key Returners: Ryan Hughes (18.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Trevor Wall (14.0 ppg), Kyle Maurer (10.3 ppg), Cole Grubbs (5.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg)

The Bears have a solid mix of experience and youth under Small, who led the Bears to the Final Four in 2008 and has been trying to bring his program back to that platform since, with varying levels of success. They have a terrific fifth-year senior to rely on in Hughes, a 6-4 guard from Middletown (Pa.) who hit 50% of his shots and 35% of his 3-pointers last year; Wall, a 6-2 junior from St. Joe’s Prep, is a very capable No. 2 scorer who shot .468/.403/.833 in his first year of college hoops after the whole squad missed the 2020-21 season due to COVID. Keep an eye on the 6-10, 250-pound Grubbs, a Richmond (Va.) native who started all but one game a year ago and averaged 2.0 blocks per contest.

First Five: @ FDU-Florham (Nov. 8), @ Rosemont (Nov. 12), vs. TCNJ (Nov. 15), vs. Widener (Nov. 19), vs. Franklin & Marshall (Nov. 22)

Eastern head coach Dan Pruessner is trying to follow up a historic 2021-22 season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

8. Eastern Eagles
Head Coach: Dan Pruessner
, 4th season
Last Year: 21-6 (14-2 MAC Commonwealth)
Key Departures: Draig Cooley (13.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg), William Blet (12.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
Key Returners: Sam Gallardo (12.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Kaeshawn Ward (11.5 ppg), Jaron Fairweather (11.2 ppg)
The Eagles went 0-9 during the pandemic season but quickly put that behind them with the program’s first 20-win season since 1991-92 (20-3), setting a new program standard with its 21st win. They do lose their top two scorers in the 6-3 Cooley and 6-8 Blet, the latter of whom was one of the more unique players around with his combination of size, skill and athleticism. Junior Eljay Morris, a 6-5 wing from London, comes in after two years at Emmanuel College (Mass.), and they also add the Lee twins, Zubair and Zayd, a pair of 6-7 forwards out of Eastern (N.J.) who spent the last year at Phelps School.
First Five: @ Salisbury (Nov. 8), vs. Wilson (Nov. 11 @ Gettysburg), vs. Gettysburg/Wilkes (Nov. 12), vs. Cabrini (Nov. 15), vs. Lancaster Bible (Nov. 17)

7. Gettysburg Bullets
Head Coach: B.J. Dunne, 5th season
Last Year: 15-10 (11-7 Centennial)
Key Departures: Avery Close (12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Key Returners: Carl Schaller (11.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Colin Farrell (9.2 ppg), Elijah Williams (7.6 ppg), Ryan McKeon (7.6 ppg)
The Bullets were picked third in the Centennial Conference preseason poll, a sign that the rest of the league expects a mostly-young Bullets squad from last year to take a collective step forward, even after the graduation of Close; the Phoenixville product finished his college career 14 points shy of 1,000 (thanks to the COVID year) and is now playing professionally in England. Now it’ll be up to the terrific sophomore duo of Schaller (Garnet Valley) and Farrell, plus their 6-9 classmate Rassoul Abakar, who averaged 5.6 ppg and 4.2 rpg a year ago. Add in the 6-7 McKeon and 6-6 Williams, and Dunne has size and length all over the court.

First Five: vs. Wilkes (Nov. 11), vs. Eastern/Wilson (Nov. 12), @ Stevenson (Nov. 16), vs. Eastern Mennonite (Nov. 19), vs. Johns Hopkins (Nov. 22)

6. Cairn Highlanders
Head Coach: Jason O’Connell, 9th season
Last Year: 16-12 (9-5 CSAC)
Key Departures: N/A
Key Returners: Jesse Rivera (13.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Kameron Clark (13.2 ppg, 13.7 rpg), Dashaun Cain (10.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Josh Forker (7.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Matt Lucas (7.8 ppg), Wes Murray (7.7 ppg)

Expectations are high at Cairn, which returns its entire rotation from a team that made it to CSAC championship game for the third consecutive year in the spring. They’re led by the duo of fifth-years in the 6-0 Rivera (Central Bucks East) and Clark, a 6-6, 240-pound center from Ewing (N.J.) and one of the top rebounders in the country; Cain’s also in his fifth year with the program, and they have a deep seven-man junior class as well. O’Connell also added three transfers with D-III starting experience in Mizz Nyagwegwe (Eastern Mennonite) and Derian and Owen Bradford (Valley Forge), so he’s got no shortage of veteran experience to draw on as they hunt their first 20-win season in 32 years.

First Five: @ Franklin & Marshall (Nov. 11), vs. Alvernia/Hampden-Sydney (Nov. 12 @ F&M), vs. Manor College (Nov. 15), vs. PSU-Brandywine (Nov. 17), vs. PSU-Berks (Nov. 21)

5. Lancaster Bible Chargers
Head Coach: Jon Mack, 4th season
Last Year: 23-8 (15-1 United East)
Key Departures: Tyler Hilton (9.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
Key Returners: Jordan Shewbridge (19.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Grant Sareyka (15.0 ppg), Adam Stoltzfus (10.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Seth Beers (8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

Another team with a lot of returners — the Chargers bring back their top three scorers and four of their starters from last year’s successful season, plus add Matt Illodigwe (Lycoming) for a season, giving them another double-digit scorer. The one thing they don’t have a ton of is size; 6-7 junior Andrew Zentner and the 6-6 Stoltzfus are the only two above 6-3, but they averaged more than 80 ppg last year and shot 36% from 3-point range, forcing more than 16 turnovers/game. Shrewbridge has had quite the career, starting 99 games and averaging 16.9 ppg (1,736 career) entering the season; he’ll almost certainly pass the career scoring record (1,979) and become the program’s first 2,000-point scorer.

First Five: vs. Eastern Mennonite (Nov. 11 @ Bridgewater), @ Bridgewater (Nov. 12), @ Eastern (Nov. 17), vs. Neumann (Nov. 30), vs. Penn College (Dec. 3)

4. Alvernia Golden Wolves
Head Coach: Mike Miller, 19th season
Last Year: 18-8 (11-5 MAC Commonwealth)
Key Departures: Keon Taylor (16.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Avery Walker (10.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg),
Key Returners: Malik Green (17.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Jakob Kelly (14.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Mickeel Allen (7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

The Wolves’ peak under Miller thus far has been in 2012-13, when they won 24 games and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but they tipped to under .500 before the pandemic before bouncing back. Now hopes are high once again in Reading, as Alvernia returns three starters and five who averaged double-digit minutes from a team that ripped off a 10-game January-February win streak last year to show just how good it could be. Green, a 6-4 wing from Philly (Simon Gratz) is back to lead the way, and they’ll also benefit from the arrival of West Chester transfer Malik Slay (Downingtown East), a significant boost to the backcourt.

First Five: @ Neumann (Nov. 8), vs. Hampden-Sydney (Nov. 11 @ Franklin & Marshall), vs. Cairn/F&M (Nov. 12), vs. Wilkes (Nov. 19), vs. Gwynedd Mercy (Nov. 22)

3. Lycoming Warriors
Head Coach: Mark Linebaugh, 1st season
Last Year: 17-11 (10-6 Landmark)
Key Departures: Matt Illodigwe (10.5 ppg)
Key Returners: Dyson Harward (13.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg), Steven Hamilton (12.8 ppg), Mo Terry (11.3 ppg), DeAundre Manuel (10.4 ppg)

The preseason Landmark conference favorites, Lycoming has 10 juniors and seniors, so there’s no lack of experience. The Warriors underwent a coaching change in the offseason, as Mike McGarvey left for a spot on the Lafayette staff after four years, but the entire roster stayed for Linebaugh, who’s got Division I experience of his own thanks to four years on the Rice staff before going to Dickinson. Four of their five starters return, including the 6-7 senior Harward and 6-0 junior Hamilton, a Phoenixville grad; they return six of their top seven scorers overall (all upperclassmen), including super-sub Mavin James (6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), who also averaged 20-plus minutes.

First Five: vs. Clarks Summit (Nov. 11), vs. John Jay (Nov. 12), vs. Penn College (Nov. 16), vs. Johns Hopkins (Nov. 19), vs. Susquehanna (Nov. 22)

2. Neumann Knights
Head Coach: Jim Rullo, 10th season
Last Year: 21-8 (10-2 Atlantic East)
Key Departures: KJ Speller (8.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Key Returners: Jalen Vaughns (22.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg), Tony James (11.2 ppg, 6.4), TJ Lewis (9.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Ryan Starr (7.1 ppg)
The Knights won 22-plus games for three straight years (2016-18) but had a rough season before the pandemic (8-18), making last year quite a welcome bounce-back indeed. The Knights won 12 out of 13 games between Dec. 30 and Feb. 26, though a 95-57 loss to Williams in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament was a wake-up call that there’s still more work to be done. Rullo’s got four of his five starters returning, led by the 6-7 Vaughns, who as a sophomore emerged as one of the best small-college players around, scoring in double figures in every game with 14 double-doubles. Joining the backcourt of James, Lewis and Starr for a grad year is former St. Joe’s Prep standout Kyle Thompson, who had been on the roster at La Salle as a preferred walk-on.
First Five: @ Alvernia (Nov. 8), vs. New Jersey City (Nov. 11 @ Lebanon Valley), vs. TBD (Nov. 12), @ TCNJ Tournament (Nov. 18-19)

Swarthmore forward Michael Caprise is one of the top returning players for the Garnet. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

1. Swarthmore Garnet
Head Coach: Landry Kosmalski, 11th season
Last Year: 22-6 (15-3 Centennial)
Key Departures: Conor Harkins (14.1 ppg), Ryan Ingram (4.1 ppg)
Key Returners: Vinny DeAngelo (16.4 ppg), George Visconti (14.1 ppg), Michael Caprise (8.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg)
The most successful Division III program in the area over the last six years, the Garnet haven’t won fewer than 22 games in a season since 2014-15, as Kosmalski has built up a burgeoning powerhouse in Delaware County. They graduate two starters in Harkins and Ingram, both of whom started more than 70 games in their Swat careers, but return three others in DeAngelo (Sun Valley), Visconti and Caprise, who are joined by a six-man class that hails from five different states; Gonzaga (D.C.) grad Eddie Paquette could be in line for a rotation spot from the get-go, and some of their juniors + seniors will have to step up to keep it rolling. Recent history tells us that’s something more likely than not to occur, and so they start the year in the top spot.

First Five: @ Rowan (Nov. 8), vs. Bowdoin (Nov. 12), vs. Wesleyan (Nov. 13), @ Widener (Nov. 16), @ DeSales (Nov. 19

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