Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
For the first time all year, the PSAC stranglehold on the top of the CoBL Division II poll has been broken.
Ever since our preseason rankings, teams from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference have occupied the top three spots in the rankings, but no longer. One scorching-hot team from the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) has finally broken the streak.
Read on to find out who, and see if a loss by previous No. 1 Shippensburg was enough to knock the formerly-unbeaten Raiders from the top spot they’ve held since our first regular-season rankings in December:
Others to Watch: Holy Family (8-14, 6-7 CACC), Lock Haven (10-9, 6-9 PSAC) Mansfield (7-11, 6-9 PSAC), Millersville (7-12, 5-9 PSAC), USciences (9-12, 7-6 CACC), West Chester (9-11, 7-8 PSAC)
7. Bloomsburg Huskies (Last Week: 7)
Record: 11-8 (7-8 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Kutztown (L, 98-92), vs. East Stroudsburg (L, 99-85), @ Lock Haven (W, 93-76), @ Cheyney (W, 73-63)
Star Watch: Christian Mortellite (Jr./SF) -- 23.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg
Update: Mortellite, the No. 11 scorer in all of Division II (fourth among non-seniors), broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this season with a 33-point effort against Lock Haven; he’s now scored at least 22 points in seven straight games and only has fewer than 20 twice all season long. Junior wing forward Carnell McGirt, out of Roman Catholic via Valley Forge junior college, had a string of 10 straight double-digit performances snapped against Cheyney, but is up to 12.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg on the season.
Next Two Weeks: vs. West Chester (Feb. 1, 7:30 PM), vs. Shippensburg (Feb. 4, 3 PM), @ Millersville (Feb. 8, 7:30 PM)
6. Philadelphia University Rams (6)
Record: 14-7 (10-2 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (L, 76-73), vs. Chestnut Hill (W, 75-64), vs. Dominican (W, 75-65)
Star Watch: Brendan Kilpatrick (Sr./F) -- 14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Update: With junior Eric Long (9.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg) out for the year with a torn ACL, the Rams don’t typically have a ton of size on the court, making the 6-5 Kilpatrick indispensable. The Vermont transfer, who’s missed a dozen games this year with injury problems of his own, has played the last four games, scoring double-digits each time, including 21 points (and 12 redbounds) in the win over CHC. Tough two weeks ahead, playing CACC South leader Goldey-Beacom and a hot USciences squad on the road as well, with a young and talented Caldwell squad visiting town later next week.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Goldey-Beacom (Feb. 1, 8 PM), @ Concordia (Feb. 4, 3 PM), @ USciences (Feb. 7, 8 PM), vs. Caldwell (Feb. 11, 4 PM)
5. East Stroudsburg Warriors (3)
Record: 14-6 (12-3 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Shippensburg (L, 86-82), @ Bloomsburg (W, 99-85), vs. Mansfield (W, 66-57), @ Lock Haven (L, 89-82)
Star Watch: Chris Bing (R-Soph./F) -- 7.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Update: It’s three losses in the last six games for Jeff Wilson’s Warriors, and though defeats to Kutztown as well as Ship and LHU certainly aren’t a terrible trio of losses, it does mean that ESU is currently the third-best of the three programs that are the clear class of the PSAC East -- Bloomsburg and West Chester, in fourth, are a full five games behind. Bing, a 6-8, 230-pound forward, has started to become a real double-double threat as he’s playing the best basketball of his life right now; he scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds (both career highs) against Shippensburg, and had 10 points/10 rebounds against Lock Haven.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Cheyney (Feb. 1, 8 PM), vs. Millersville (Feb. 4, 3 PM), @ West Chester (Feb. 11, 3 PM)
4. Wilmington Wildcats (4)
Record: 14-7 (9-3 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. USciences (W, 79-70), @ Holy Family (W, 83-70), @ Concordia (L, 80-78)
Star Watch: Tyaire Ponzo-Meek (Sr./G) -- 19.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.2 apg
Update: Like all good basketball teams, Wilmington is tough on its home court, going 7-2 when playing host this season; that bodes well with its next three games taking place in Wilmington before that trip to Post nearly two weeks from now. In addition to Ponzo-Meek, whose best outing this week was 24 points and three rebounds/assists/steals against Concordia, it was a terrific two weeks for fifth-year senior forward Tajee Almon, who averages 6.9 ppg and 7.1 rpg but put up double-doubles against USciences (16 points/12 rebounds) and Holy Family (13 points/16 rebounds). Chasing Philly U for the second spot in the South Division with seven games to play, each win becomes critical at this point.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Georgian Court (Feb. 1, 8 PM), vs. Nyack (Feb. 4, 3 PM), vs. Holy Family (Feb. 7, 8 PM), @ Post (Feb. 11, 3 PM)
3. Goldey-Beacom Lightning (5)
Record: 17-3 (11-2 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Georgian Court (W, 81-53), vs. Chestnut Hill (W, 89-72), @ Roberts Wesleyan (W, 95-66), vs. Holy Family (W, 86-68), @ Nyack (W, 115-74)
Star Watch: Riyan Williams (Sr./G) -- 14.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
Update: Goldey figured to have an improved team from last year’s 10-18 finish, with a lot of talent returning, but what first-year head coach T.J. Dekmar has done with the Lightning has surpassed all expectations. They’re 17-2 against Division II competition with a loss to Delaware (by only eight) in the season opener, and roll into Philly U on Wednesday on a 10-game win streak that is the longest in program history. The win over Nyack was particularly impressive, with six Goldey-Beacom players scoring 17 or more points, led by Williams’ 22. The Lightning only got stronger this month as senior guard Sameen Swint returned to the lineup on Jan. 7; the double-digit scorer from a year ago looks like he’s rounding into shape with 13 points against Holy Family and 18 against Nyack.
Next Two Weeks: @ Philadelphia University (Feb. 1, 8 PM), vs. Post (Feb. 4, 2017), vs. Bloomfield (Feb. 11, 3 PM)
2. Kutztown Golden Bears (2)
Record: 16-2 (12-2 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Bloomsburg (W, 98-92), @ Millersville (W, 81-67), vs. West Chester (W, 110-85)
Star Watch: Anthony Lee (RS-Soph./G) -- 16.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Update: The win streak has reached eight in a row for Bernie Driscoll’s Bears, who haven’t lost since the calendar hit 2017; their only two losses are to nationally ranked programs in IUP and Shippensburg. Lee, a 6-2 guard out of Abington, is already nearing 700 points in his second year of eligibility, just 15 shy after going for 24 against Bloomsburg, 17 against Millersville and 29 (on 10-12 shooting) in the big win over West Chester. Freshman forward Max Wagner, a Pennridge grad, had his best game of his young college career against Bloomsburg, scoring eight points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 17 minutes, all three of which are his best marks of the season.
Next Two Weeks: @ Shippensburg (Feb. 1, 8 PM), vs. Lock Haven (Feb. 4, 3 PM), vs. Mansfield (Feb. 8, 7:30 PM), @ Cheyney (Feb. 11, 3 PM)
1. Shippensburg Raiders (1)
Record: 18-1 (14-1 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. East Stroudsburg (W, 86-82 OT), @ Cheyney (W, 99-89), vs. Pitt-Johnstown (W, 84-72), @ Millersville (L, 82-65)
Star Watch: Justin McCarthur (Jr./G) -- 15.8 ppg, 3.3 apg
Update: Millersville, under the direction of first-year head coach Casey Stitzel, certainly pulled the upset of the season thus far, spoiling Ship’s 18-game winning streak that had the Raiders up to No. 5 in the national Division II rankings. An uncharacteristic 6-for-26 (23.1 percent) showing from 3-point range cost Shippensburg, but one rough night from the floor isn’t enough to knock them off the top spot, at least not yet. McCarther, a 6-0 guard from Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg), scored 24 each against ESU and Cheyney and then had 23 against UPJ. In addition to playing each other on Wednesday, Ship and Kutztown have two of three similar opponents these two weeks, so there will be plenty to measure each other against for our final regular-season rankings on Feb. 13.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Kutztown (Feb. 1, 8 PM), @ Bloomsburg (Feb. 4, 3 PM), vs. Lock Haven (Feb. 8, 8 PM), vs. Mansfield (Feb. 11, 3 PM)