#1 Northwest Missouri State Bearcats
Head Coach: Ben McCollum
Record: 35-0 (No. 1 nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 91-62 win over Minnesota State; 70-59 win over Southern Nazarene; 82-70 win over Missouri Southern.
Projected starters: Trevor Hudgins, G, fr., 6-0, 180; Diego Bernard, G, fr., 6-0, 170; Joey Witthus, G, sr., 6-7, 220; Ryan Welty, F, jr., 6-8, 190; Ryan Hawkins F, soph., 6-7, 220.
Leading scorer: Joey Witthus — 21.5 per game
Leading rebounder: Ryan Hawkins — 8.7 per game
Key to a deep run: The Bearcats enter the Elite Eight with a nation-best 21.5
scoring margin. They are the third-best scoring defense in the nation and have
proven to be one of the most efficient scoring offenses in Division-2..
What McCollum had to say: "When you have had success, you have to get used to that (pressure). If you don't like it then don't have success."
#8 Mercyhurst Lakers
Head Coach: Gary Manchel
Record: 26-7 (not ranked nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 63-60 OT win over Fairmont State; 75-65 win over #2 Indiana (Pa.); 82-70 win over #9 West Liberty
Projected starters: MiyKah McIntosh, G, fr., 5-11, 165; Derrick Ellis Jr., G, soph., 5-11, 180; Nelson Maxwell, G, sr., 6-0, 175; Jason Massey, G, sr., 6-4, 210; Patrick Smith, F, sr., 6-5, 240.
Leading scorer: Jason Massey — 16 per game
Leading rebounder: Patrick Smith — 9.3 per game
Key to a deep run: Senior guard Nelson Maxwell is a Division-1 transfer from Cleveland State and is the Lakers’ second-leading scorer. Maxwell had been in a slump with seven total points in three games, but broke out for a team-high 16 in the regional final against West Liberty. The 50 percent three-point marksman will likely be guarded by Northwest freshman Diego Bernard.
What Manchel had to say: "I thought we had a great weekend beating the No. 2 and No. 9 teams, then they reward us with a 35-0 team, so I've been popping some aspirin watching (Northwest) on tape the last three or four days."
#4 Nova Southeastern Sharks
Head Coach: Jim Crutchfield
Record: 29-3 (No. 5 nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 80-66 win over Miles; 89-80 win over West Alabama; 89-74 over Lynn.
Projected starters: Nick Smith, G, soph., 6-1, 190; David Dennis, G, sr., 6-1, 180; Mikkel Kolstad, G, jr., 6-4, 205; Mark Matthews, G/F, jr., 6-6, 220; Dwayne Gibson, G/F, sr., 6-5, 225.
Leading scorer: Mark Matthews — 20.3 per game
Leading rebounder: Mark Matthews — 9.5 per game
Key to a deep run: The Sharks are explosive offensively averaging 97.1 per game. Matthews — a D-1 transfer from Florida Gulf Coast — is on his fourth school in three seasons played, but is the leader of their explosive offense and allows them to play their small-ball lineup with his athleticism.
What Crutchfield had to say: "I think guys — once they start winning, they believe they can win. There is a different mentality to our team right now."
#5 St. Anselm Hawks
Head Coach: Keith Dickson
Record: 25-5 (No. 20 nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 81-71 win over Molloy; 70-69 win over New Haven; 74-49 win over St. Thomas Aquinas.
Projected Starters: Cody Ball, G, sr., 6-3, 190; Danny Evans, G, jr., 6-4, 200; Tim Guers, G, sr., 6-3, 195; Chris Paul, F, soph., 6-6, 200; Gustav Suhr-Jessen, F; soph., 6-7, 220.
Leading scorer: Tim Guers — 21.5 per game
Leading rebounder: Tim Guers — 7.6 per game
Key to a deep run: The Hawks average 83.1 points per game. Guers has played all but one game and in the one he missed Merrimack beat the Hawks 61-39. If a team can take Guers away, the Hawks will struggle.
What Dickson had to say: "We haven't been here since 2000, so there is a 19-year gap between our first time and our second time. You can't take these appearances lightly."
#2 West Texas A&M Buffs
Head Coach: Tom Brown
Record: 34-3 (No. 3 nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 109-95 win over New Mexico Highlands; 77-61 over Texas A&M-Commerce, 89-70 over #4 St. Edward’s.
Projected Starters: Brandon Hall, G, sr., 5-11; Qua Grant, G, fr., 6-0; Gach Gach, G, sr., 6-4; Joel Murray, G, fr., 5-11; Ryan Quaid, G, sr., 6-6.
Leading scorer: Ryan Quaid — 15.9 per game
Leading rebounder: Ryan Quaid — 7.7 per game
Key to a deep run: The Buffs feature one of the most balanced lineups in the tournament with all five starters averaging double figures. Although every starter has shot at least 100 threes this season, other than Grant at 37 percent, nobody reaches the 33 percent mark. The Buffs will need to get to the rim to win this tournament.
What Brown had to say: "When you are one of eight teams still playing it is a lot of fun. ... We were here las year and hopefully we learned a few things."
#7 Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles
Head Coach: Rodney Watson
Record: 25-8 (not ranked nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 66-60 win over Ashland; 62-61 win over #15 Lewis; 76-69 over #7 Bellarmine
Projected Starters: Mateo Rivera, G, soph, 6-2, 190; Alex Stein, G, sr., 6-3, 190; Kobe Caldwell, G/F, jr., 6-5, 200; Jacob Norman, F, sr., 6-5, 210; Emmanuel Little, F, soph., 6-6, 215.
Leading scorer: Alex Stein — 20.6 per game
Leading rebounder: Emmanuel Little — 7.2 per game
Key to a deep run: The Screaming Eagles have something that no one else has in the Elite Eight — home-court advantage. It is hard to imagine Bearcat Nation if this event was held in Maryville. As the host-school that a big advantage for Southern Indiana.
What Watson had to say: "Whether you are from the east coast, the west coast or seven miles down the road — it is very tough to get here."
#3 Queens Royals
Head Coach: Bart Lundy
Record: 31-4 (No. 10 nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 76-72 win over Emmanuel; 96-93 win over #24 Catawba; 91-78 win over #16 Augusta
Projected Starters: Daniel Carr, G, jr., 6-0, 180; Kenny Dye, G, fr., 5-11, 175; Van Turner, G, jr., 6-2, 180; Shaun Willett, F, sr., 6-4, 210; Lewis Diankulu, C, sr., 6-7, 220.
Leading scorer: Shaun Willett — 19.7 per game
Leading rebounder: Shaun Willett — 11.6 per game
Key to a deep run: The Royals are one of the few teams in this tournament whose offense runs through the post with Willett and Diankulu. Queens will need to command the paint to get where they want to go.
What Lundy had to say: "We had a lot of new pieces and we couldn't be more proud — maybe more of this group than any I've coached in my years as a head coach."
#6 Point Loma Sea Lions
Head Coach: Ryan Looney
Record: 29-4 (No. 6 nationally)
Road to the Elite Eight: 70-58 win over Western Oregon; 73-50 win over UC San Diego; 60-54 win over #18 St. Martin’s.
Projected Starters: Josh Rodriguez, G, sr., 5-10, 180; Tanner Nelson, G, sr., 6-3, 205; Daulton Hommes, G, jr. 6-8, 215; Preston Beverly, F, sr., 6-7, 220; Ziggy Satterthwaite, C, sr., 6-6, 230.
Leading scorer: Daulton Hommes — 21.8 per game
Leading rebounder: Preston Beverly — 7.8 per game
Key to a deep run: In a tournament with a bunch of under-sized teams, Hommes is a matchup-nightmare as a 6-8 guard. He is a 47 percent shooter from behind the arc and until they, potentially, get to the championship game against Ryan Welty and Northwest, there isn’t a perimeter defender with the length of Hommes.
What Looney had to say: "Our team is happy to be here. We are only going to get excited if we win. ... It has been a magical run for our team."