Tyrell Long (above) and West Chester are the only remaining unbeaten D-II program in the area. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Just over a month into the season, one thing is clear: there’s some terrific basketball being played in the PSAC East. The four top teams in our bi-weekly D-II rankings still hail from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, but that won’t last -- at some point, they’ll start playing each other. We’ve also got one new arrival to the rankings as well as a few other movers and shakers.
Without further ado, our updated Division II Super 7:
Others to Watch: Bloomsburg (5-4, 1-4 PSAC), Goldey-Beacom (5-6, 1-1 CACC), Lincoln (6-6, 1-2 CIAA), Lock Haven (3-6, 1-4 PSAC), Mansfield (4-4, 3-2 PSAC)
7. Wilmilngton Wildcats (OTW)
Record: 7-5 (2-1 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Holy Family (W, 97-63), @ Goldey-Beacom (W, 61-59), @ American Int’l (W, 69-61), vs. Franklin Pierce (@ AIC, L, 77-76), @ Jefferson (L, 84-81 OT)
Star Watch: Jermaine Head (R-Soph./G)
Update: The Wildcats make their first appearance in the rankings this season despite losing their last two games, though those game by a total of four points against two good opponents away from home; seven of their first 12 games have been road/neutral contests. As expected, senior guard Nick Richards has been Wilmington’s leading scorer at 20.9 ppg, but it’s Head, a 6-0 redshirt sophomore out of Joppatowne (Md.), who’s been crucial as a secondary guy who can also go off; he scored a total of 57 points in the two close losses, and has surpassed 25 points four separate times already this season en route to a 17.5 ppg average.
Next Two Weeks: vs. USciences (Dec. 30, 3 PM)
6. University of the Sciences Devils (6)
Record: 7-4 (3-0 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Georgian Court (W, 61-58), vs. Chestnut Hill (W, 64-56), @ S. Conn. St. (L, 64-54)
Star Watch: Flo Da-Silva (Sr./G)
Update: Dave Pauley’s Devils have bounced back from losing three of four in mid-November, now running their win streak to four after two hard-fought conference wins. Da-Silva, a 5-11 guard out of Bishop Eustace, continues to stuff the stat sheets: against CHC, he put up 16 points (on 7-12 shooting), 10 rebounds, seven steals and four assists after going for 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals against Georgian Court. On the season, he’s averaging 12.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.9 apg and 3.7 spg, and might just be the toughest matchup in the entire CACC -- and he plans on going to med school, like his brother Sho, a former star for USci. Talk about a well-rounded student-athlete. Trip up to face a NE-10 opponent in Southern Conn. State (5-5, 3-3) before the main stretch of league play begins with a trip to Wilmington; it’ll be nearly a month between home games by the time they host Jefferson on Jan. 6.
Next Two Weeks: @ Wilmington (Dec. 30, 3 PM)
5. Thomas Jefferson Rams (Last Week: 7)
Record: 9-5 (4-0 CACC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Chestnut Hill (W, 66-61), @ Holy Family (W, 54-52), @ NYIT (W, 89-73), vs. Wilmington (W, 84-81 OT)
Star Watch: Kaison Randolph (Sr./SF)
Update: The Rams are well past a five-game losing streak (including one to Temple in an exhibition game that doesn’t count in the standings), having won seven of eight, including its first four league games of the year after holding off Wilmington in OT on Tuesday afternoon. Randolph has stepped up his play of late, with double-doubles in the NYIT and Wilmington wins, and has scored in double figures in five straight. Freshman guard Alex Gorton also had a strong two games, with a combined 43 points against NYIT and Wilmington; his 41 percent rate from 3-point range is by far the best on the team; Randolph is second at 32.3 percent. They’ll look to keep it going against a G-B squad that’s won six of its past eight, including putting up 113 points in a win over Adelphi last week.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Goldey-Beacom (Dec. 30, 3 PM)
4. Shippensburg Raiders (4)
Record: 7-2 (4-1 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. California (Pa.) (W, 84-59), vs. Wilson (W, 92-66),
Star Watch: Dustin Sleva (Sr./F)
Update: The Raiders took care of business in their only D-II matchup the last two weeks, out-rebounding Cal 48-28 while holding the Vulcans to 40.7 percent (24-of-59) overall and 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from 3-point range. Sleva, the Raiders’ All-American candidate, dropped 25 points on 10-19 shooting (4-9 3PT) with 13 rebounds; Justin McCarthur (18) and John Castello (15) joined him in double figures in the win. They didn’t have many problems with Wilson, a D-III program, going on a 15-0 run to close out halftime with a 20-point lead and cruising. But now league play will be starting with a trip to Mercyhurst; in fact, three of the next four league games Ship plays are on the road after playing their last trio at home. A loss or two in there and the Raiders could find themselves with a few games to make up on the three teams ahead of them near the midpoint of the season.
Next Two Weeks: @ Mercyhurst (Dec. 30, 3 PM)
3. East Stroudsburg Warriors (1)
Record: 7-2 (4-1 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: @ Molloy (W, 95-74), vs. Gannon (L, 71-64), vs. Saint Rose (L, 80-78)
Star Watch: Kobi Nwandu (Soph./SF)
Update: The loss to Gannon -- the first time all year ESU had scored under 95 points, much less under 65 -- was enough to knock ESU from the top spot, and when it became two straight on Tuesday night that cost them another rung. Marc Rodriguez hit a game-tying triple with 16 seconds left, but Saint Rose’s Mical-Ryan Boyd had a bucket with four seconds left to win it. The Warriors have time to clean their wounds, but things won’t get easier as they’re beginning the main stretch of PSAC conference play with a Mansfield bunch that’s looking for a win over a top-four team to prove itself before a visit from Shippensburg ends a four-game home streak. As usual, Jeff Wilson’s Warriors are remarkably balanced: nobody is playing more than 25.0 mpg, and the top seven players are all between 7.1 and 15.1 ppg (senior forward Steve Harris); Nwandu, a 6-6 wing out of Northeastern York (Pa.), is just behind Harris at 15.0 ppg.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Mansfield (Dec. 30, 3 PM)
2. Kutztown Golden Bears (3)
Record: 8-1 (4-1 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Bowie State (W, 87-79), vs. Seton Hill (W, 84-64)
Star Watch: Anthony Lee (R-Jr./G)
Update: The Golden Bears’ win streak is now at six in a row, helped out by the fact that the last four have all been at the friendly confines of KU’s Keystone Arena, where they’re 6-0 so far this season. Beating Bowie State wrapped up Kutztown’s four non-league games with a perfect record, and now it’s all PSAC play from here on out; after a three-week layoff, Bernie Driscoll will lead his team down to West Chester for a big-time divisional clash that marks the first time either WCU or KU will play one of these top four conference teams. Lee, a 6-3 wing out of Abington and the Golden Bears’ leading scorer (21.1 ppg), hit the 20-point mark in both games, with 21 against Bowie State and 23 against Seton Hill; he was 15-of-25 from the floor, 6-of-12 from 3-point range and 8-of-9 from the foul line along the way.
Next Two Weeks: @ West Chester (Dec. 30, 3 PM)
1. West Chester Rams (2)
Record: 9-0 (5-0 PSAC)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Mercyhurst (W, 58-50), @ Bowie State (W, 94-85)
Star Watch: Tyrell Long (Sr./SF)
Update: The Rams have been rising through our rankings over the first six weeks of the season, and now they’re up top as the only unbeaten left. On top of that, they’ve moved up to No. 20 in the latest national poll, and are already within five wins of their total from a year ago. Long, a 6-5 wing out of Philly’s Bishop McDevitt, was the leading scorer in both their games recently with 14 against Mercyhurst and 22 against Bowie State. WCU also benefited from the season debut of freshman wing Evan-Eric Longino; the Germantown Academy product scored a total of 28 points over the two wins. The victories also showed how this WCU squad can win multiple ways -- in grind-it-out victories as well as shootouts. The Kutztown game coming up just before the New Year is certainly the Rams’ toughest league test yet
Next Two Weeks: vs. Kutztown (Dec. 30, 3 PM)