Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The Division III regular season is just about a month from being over, and conference races are at their high point, with a number of area programs closing in on regular-season titles and setting themselves up for the all-too-brief postseason.
Here’s our latest rankings of the area’s D-III hoops men’s programs:
(Ed. Note: A reminder that CoBL's Division III coverage area includes from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, up to State College and over to the Lehigh Valley).
DeSales and Ryan Boylan are keeping a strong season going, staying at No. 2 in the latest CoBL rankings. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Others to watch
Bryn Athyn (8-9, 2-4 CSAC), Cairn (10-7, 5-1 CSAC), Delaware Valley (9-9, 4-5 MAC Freedom), Franklin & Marshall (9-8, 4-6 Centennial), Gwynedd Mercy (8-9, 2-2 Atlantic East), Lancaster Bible (10-6, 6-1 United East), Lycoming (11-7, 6-3 MAC Freedom), PSU-Harrisburg (7-9, 4-3 United East), Rosemont (7-10, 5-1 CSAC), Susquehanna (9-8, 4-2 Landmark)
10. PSU-Abington Nittany Lions (LR: 6)
Record: 11-5 (5-2 United East)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Lancaster Bible (L, 80-73 OT), vs. Wells College (L, 67-65), vs. Gallaudet (W, 79-66)
Ryan Van Zelst’s Lions are juuuust hanging in there after going 1-2 the last couple weeks, which sets up a busy couple weeks ahead in which they’ll play six games over 12 days, including a pair of back-to-backs on the road. It hasn’t helped that leading scorer Darrion Harris (15.7 ppg) has missed six games due to a couple different injuries, so more of the onus has been on Boyertown’s Alex Salata III (15.7 ppg) and Chester alum Brian Randolph III (13.9 ppg, who’s scored in double figures in nine straight and all but two games this season. Still, it’s been a successful season thus far in Van Zelst’s first campaign in Abington.
Next Up: vs. Penn College (Jan. 24), @ Morrisville State (Jan. 27), @ Wells (Jan. 28), vs. PSU-Berks (Jan. 31), @ St. Mary’s (Feb. 3), @ Gallaudet (Feb. 4)
9. Eastern Eagles (LR: 10)
Record: 13-5 (6-3 MAC Commonwealth)
Last Two Weeks: Jan. 11 (W, 70-55), vs. Stevenson (W, 76-60), @ Lebanon Valley (W, 78-66), @ York (L, 89-78)
The Eagles are 3-3 in their last six games after a strong start to the season, but two of them have been on the road to quality teams (York, Alvernia) and the third was in OT. The schedule gets a little kinder these next two weeks with three of four at home, but that trip to Widener and visit from Alvernia are a couple more mines in the field. They’ve gotten freshman forward Zubair Lee (10.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg) back on track lately, as he scored 17, 17 and 16 points in the three games this week, adding 11 rebounds against Lebanon for his third double-double of the season.
Next Up: vs. Hood (Jan. 28), vs. Alvernia (Feb. 1), @ Widener (Feb. 4)
8. Ursinus Bears (Last Ranking: 9)
Record: 11-6 (6-4 Centennial)
Last Two Weeks: @ Dickinson (W, 80-72), vs. Haverford (W, 89-79), @ Johns Hopkins (L, 67-51), @ Swarthmore (L, 63-61), vs. McDaniel (W, 81-62)
The Bears took a couple losses this week, but to two teams ranked in the top 12 in the country, the latter by only a last-second shot by Swat to spoil the Bears’ upset bid. The Centennial is unrelenting, so Ursinus has to play three of its next five on the road, with one of those two home games a visit from Swarthmore; if they’re still ranked in two weeks, they’ll certainly have earned it. Ryan Hughes (18.3 ppg) has scored in double figures in every game this season, with seven 20+ outings, to pass the 1,500-point mark; senior guard Kyle Maurer (9.4 ppg) has scored in double figures in five straight and seven of their last eight games.
Next Up: @ Franklin & Marshall (Jan. 26), vs. Dickinson (Jan. 28), @ Haverford (Feb. 1), @ Gettysburg (Feb. 4), vs. Swarthmore (Feb. 7)
7. Muhlenberg Mules (LR: 8)
Record: 11-6 (6-4 Centennial)
Last Two Weeks: @ Gettysburg (L, 74-59), vs. Dickinson (W, 84-68), @ Washington College (W, 90-63), @ Haverford (W, 82-61), vs. Johns Hopkins (L, 77-65)
Right there in the upper half of the Centennial pack with Ursinus are the Mules, who have two juice home games coming up this week with Swarthmore and Gettysburg coming to Allentown; if they can split those at minimum and then take out two road games, they’ll be feeling good about their chances to make the league playoffs with four games left in the season. Junior guard Giovanni Rubino (17.6 ppg) has scored in double figures in seven straight and all but two games this season.
Next Up: vs. Swarthmore (Jan. 26), vs. Gettysburg (Jan. 28), @ Dickinson (Feb. 1), @ McDaniel (Feb. 4)
6. Gettysburg Bullets (LR: OTW)
Record: 10-7 (7-3 Centennial)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Muhlenberg (W, 74-59), vs. Franklin & Marshall (W, 67-55), @ Swarthmore (L, 81-71), @ Dickinson (W, 81-65), vs. Washington College (W, 89-63)
The only new team in the poll this week, Gettysburg jumps right into the No. 6 slot as it’s won six of its last seven games, including wins over Muhlenberg, F&M and Ursinus, the only loss to Swarthmore on the road by a respectable 10 points. A brutal two weeks ahead with four quality games, three on the road, including at a ranked Johns Hopkins. Sophomore guard and Garnet Valley product Carl Schaller (12.8 ppg) leads a balanced Bullets attack with six players averaging more than 7.5 ppg; he’s scored 20+ in two of his last four games, and has hit double figures in 10 of his last 11.
Next Up: @ Johns Hopkins (Jan. 26), @ Muhlenberg (Jan. 28), @ Franklin & Marshall (Feb. 1), vs. Ursinus (Feb. 4)
5. Alvernia Golden Wolves (LR: 3)
Record: 13-5 (7-2 MAC Commonwealth)
Last Two Weeks: @ Messiah (W, 66-65) vs. Hood (L, 87-86), @ Arcadia (L, 74-69), vs. Stevenson (W, 77-71)
Alvernia’s lead in the Commonwealth is down to just one game over Eastern and Widener after taking a couple losses the last two weeks; the Golden Wolves were down 19 at home to Hood and rallied to get within four with two minutes to play, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Malik Green did all he could with a 42-point outing, just a week after he put up a 19-point, 21-rebound game against Lebanon Valley; the senior out of Simon Gratz is averaging 17.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg this season, leading his team in both categories. A tough two weeks ahead with trips to Widener and Eastern, plus that always-fun crosstown rivalry game with Albright, which they took the first leg of, 79-70 in December.
Next Up: @ Widener (Jan. 25), vs. York (Jan. 28), @ Eastern (Feb. 1), @ Albright (Feb. 4)
4. Widener Pride (LR: 5)
Record: 11-5 (6-3 MAC Commonwealth)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Lebanon Valley (W, 72-59), @ York (W, 65-61), @ Salisbury (W, 76-72), vs. Albright (L, 91-89), @ Messiah (W, 73-68)
Now we’re getting into the programs who are really playing well of late, as the Pride continue to rise up the rankings with wins in six of their last seven. They have the rare late-January non-league game coming up at Mary Washington, but home games against Alvernia and Eastern are good chances to add a couple quality wins in a friendly environment. Fifth-year wing Dominic Dunn put up a 28-point, 12-rebound double-double against Albright, the fourth time this season he’s scored at least that many; he’s leading the team in scoring (17.9 ppg) and is second in rebounding (7.8 rpg).
Next Up: vs. Alvernia (Jan. 25), @ Mary Washington (Jan. 28), @ Stevenson (Feb. 1), vs. Eastern (Feb. 4)
3. Neumann Knights (LR: 4)
Record: 14-4 (4-1 Atlantic East)
Last Two Weeks: @ Marymount (Jan. 11), @ Immaculata (Jan. 14), vs. Gwynedd Mercy (Jan. 18), vs. Centenary (Jan. 21)
The Knights are rolling, with just one loss since the end of November, to a Marymount squad that at 5-1 sits a half-game above them in the Atlantic East standings. Junior wing Jalen Vaughns (24.1 ppg, 10.0) continues to have a monster season, scoring at least 17 points in every single game, though his string of five straight double-doubles was snapped as he ‘only’ grabbed eight rebounds against IU and nine against Gwynedd. Friends’ Central product TJ Lewis (13.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg) has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight, with 18+ in five of those games, the sophomore guard playing the best ball of his career.
Next Up: @ Cabrini (Jan. 25), @ Marywood (Feb. 1), vs. Immaculata (Feb. 4)
2. DeSales Bulldogs (LR: 2)
Record: 15-3 (9-0 MAC Freedom)
Last Two Weeks: @ Shenandoah (L, 61-58), @ Delaware Valley (W, 70-61), vs. Arcadia (W, 74-58), @ Stevens (W, 66-57), vs. FDU-Florham (W, 75-44)
The loss to Shendandoah is puzzling, as the Hornets are just 4-13 this season, but it was a non-league road game on a Monday, and they bounced back with four straight in the Freedom, so we don’t really think it matters too much except to their win streak, which would have been at 14 if not for the slipup. They have remarkable balance, with seven players averaging between 7.1 and 11.1 ppg, and are out-rebounding opponents by nearly nine boards/game (37.8-29.3). Three games up on the rest of the Freedom, Scott Coval’s squad can basically seal the conference regular-season title the next two weeks.
Next Up: @ King’s (Jan. 25), vs. Lycoming (Jan. 28), @ Wilkes (Feb. 1), @ Misericordia (Feb. 4)
1. Swarthmore Garnet (LR: 1)
Record: 16-1 (10-0 Centennial)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Johns Hopkins (W, 53-46), @ Washington College (W, 97-74), vs. Gettysburg (W, 81-71), vs. Ursinus (W, 63-61), vs. Dickinson (W, 70-50)
The Garnet have reeled off 13 straight wins, a single bucket against Widener costing them an unbeaten season thus far, and they’re earning it with some tough wins the last couple weeks, including that 53-46 rock fight against No. 11 Hopkins on Jan. 10, which saw freshman Cal Hanson step up with a career-high 16 points. They’ve got a couple difficult road games this weekend at Muhlenberg and Hopkins, so they could use continued strong play from Sun Valley product Vinny DeAngelo (17.3 ppg), who had 30 points on 9-17 shooting against Gettysburg.
Next Up: @ Muhlenberg (Jan. 26), @ Johns Hopkins (Jan. 28), vs. Washington College (Feb. 1), vs. Franklin & Marshall (Feb. 4)