MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Expanded field descends on Danville

Mar. 16—DANVILLE — For the first time in tournament history, 20 teams arrive at the Mary Miller Gymnasium with thoughts of winning the NJCAA Division II National Championship.

The expansion of the field has also increased the number of games to 32 and added another day to the festivities.

The 2024 tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Monday with 13th-seeded North Central Missouri, an at-large selection, taking on the 20th-seeded United Tribes Tech out of North Dakota. The first four games on Monday are all part of a new first-round with the winners advancing into the main 16-team field.

For the second year in a row, the Davidson-Davie Storm are the No. 1 seed with a 32-1 record, while South Suburban (31-2) is the No. 2 seed, followed by Ellsworth Community College (27-6) as the third seed and Macomb Community College (28-3) getting the No. 4 seed.

South Suburban is one of five teams in this year's field that has claimed the National Championship. The Bulldogs won the 2022 title, beating the Storm in the title contest.

Other past winners include last year's champion, Milwaukee Area Technical College, seeded sixth in this year's tournament, Des Moines Area Community College, the 2021 champion, Johnson County Community College of Kansas, who claimed the title in 2001 and 2009, and Parkland College, the 1988 champion.

"This field is incredible," said Davidson-Davie coach Matt Ridge, who team has finished twice in 2021 and 2022 and the Storm took fifth last year. "It should be an exciting week of basketball. We are excited to be back."

One of the more intriguing teams in this year's tournament field are the Ellsworth Panthers.

Technically, Ellsworth is making their first-ever appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, but the Panthers actually won the NJCAA title in 1971 when there was only one division, they were third in 1973 and a National qualifier in 1986.

So, this is Ellsworth's first appearance in an NJCAA National Tournament in 38 years.

Not bad for a program that had 10 straight losing seasons before going 22-10 last year.

"A large part of 'our success' this year is due to our culture/core values," said Ellsworth coach Bryan Bender. "We pride ourselves on our uncommon culture and how we do things."

Ellsworth is one of three teams to qualify from North Central District or Region 11, the other two are Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Lakes, both at-large selections.

Other teams making their first-ever appearances in Danville include fifth-seeded National Park College out of Arkansas, Howard Community College out Maryland, Hocking College from Ohio and Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Here is a brief look at each team.

Davidson-Davie (32-1)

The Storm have six players averaging between 9 and 15 points per game. Sophomore Jakob Moore is their top scorer at 15.1 points per contest., while sophomore Nygie Stroman is the team's leading rebounder at 7.9 per contest.

South Suburban (31-2)

The Bulldogs, who have made the most appearances in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament (13), feature the top scorer in Division II basketball. Jemel Jones has scored 1,098 this season for an average 33.3 per game. He also leads South Suburban with 9.9 rebounds per game go go along with 5.8 rebounds.

Ellsworth (27-6)

The Panthers have players from five different states and seven different countries on their roster. Six players average in double figures with redshirt freshman Chimobi Ikegwuruka at 18.5 leading the way to go along with 9.8 rebounds per contest.

Macomb (28-3)

The Monarchs, who were the national runners-up last year, have a new coach this season. Christopher Burns took over Hassan Nizam during the offseason. Sophomore Juwan Maxey, a returner from last year's squad, is the leading scorer for Macomb at 16.3 per game.

National Park College (27-1)

The Nighthawks opened the year with 27 straight victories before falling to South Arkansas (62-60) in the Region 2 final. National Park has four players averaging double figures with sophomore Ja'Bryant Hill (17.6) and Nakavieon White (17-0) leading the way.

Milwaukee Area Tech (28-5)

The Stormers are looking to become the fourth team in NJCAA Division II history to win back-to-back titles. The last to do it was Lincoln College in 2010 and 2011. Sophomore Shelton Williams-Dryden is the top scorer for Milwaukee Area Tech averaging 19.3 per contest to go along with 9.0 rebounds. Sophomore Ke'Varius Taylor is the only returning member of last year's all-tournament team.

Parkland (28-4)

The Cobras will represent the Central District and Region 24 in the National Tournament for the third time in five years. Parkland under second-year coach John Bowler features a balanced attack with eight players averaging 7 or more points per game. Jabryn Anderson is the top scorer at 13.8 per game.

Des Moines Area (28-4)

The Bears, who won the 2021 title, are back in Danville with a team that averages 94.3 points per game, including five players at 10 points or more a contest. Angelo Winkel is the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per game.

Pima (28-4)

The Aztecs are back for the first time since 2019. Pima is the top-scoring team in NJCAA Division II basketball, averaging 103.0 points per game and the Aztecs lead 3-point percentage, making 40.9 percent of their shots behind the arc. Sophomore Dillan Baker leads the Aztecs at 18.0 per contest.

St. Clair County (25-6)

The Skippers will be making their fourth appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. Sophomore Tyler Hamilton is the leading scorer for St. Clair County at 18.1 per game, while sophomore Zaveon Little averages 9.5 rebounds per contest.

Iowa Lakes (26-7)

The Lakers are back from last year's tournament and Iowa Lakes took second back in 1992. Sophomore Kai Evans is the leading scorer for the Lakers at 17.9 points per game.

Johnson County (28-5)

The Cavaliers are another team back from last year's tournament. Johnson County advanced to the National Tournament under the leadership of assistant coach Matt Meinholz as head coach Rand Chappell recovered from a medial procedure. Massi Malterer is the Cavaliers leading scorer at 17.2 points per game.

North Central Missouri (25-6)

The Pirates will be making their third appearance in Danville and their first since 2021. North Central Missouri, one of four at-large teams, were the Region 16 champions but lost to South Arkansas in the district championship. Freshman Tyler King is the leading scorer for the Pirates at 21.3 per game.

Monroe Community College (24-6)

The Tribunes have been a regular in Danville under coach Jerry Burns, but this will be their first appearance since 2016. Monroe holds its opponents to just 36.9 field goal percentage, the best in NJCAA Division II basketball. Sophomore Terrell Williams is the team's leading scorer at 16.0 points per game.

Howard Community College (26-6)

The Dragons are making just their second appearance in the NJCAA Division II Tournament. Their last trip came in 2013. Surprisingly, Howard didn't play a single game at home this season because of the construction of its Kahlert Foundation Complex. The Dragons are 10-0 in neutral site games. Sophomore Andrew Mills is the team's leading scorer at 16.1 per game.

Hocking College (23-6)

The Hawks are another team making their first-ever appearance in Danville this season. Sophomore Dennis Asoro is the leading scorer for Hocking, averaging 15.5 points per game.

South Arkansas (21-8)

The Stars earned their bid into the National Tournament with a region championship over National Park College and then a district championship win over North Central Missouri. Five players average in double figures for South Arkansas with sophomore Troy'reon Ramos leading them at 17.3 per game.

Florida State-Jacksonville (25-8)

The Blue Wave have transition to NJCAA Division II basketball and this will be their first trip to national. Coach John Putryski is a native of Chicago and a graduate from Illinois State University. The Blue Wave have only one player averaging double figures this season. Tarence Guinyard is the top scorer at 21.4 per game.

County College of Morris (21-7)

The Titans are from Randolph, N.J., and this will be their first-ever appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. Morris has six players averaging double figures this season with sophomore Jonathan Edwards leading the way at 23.0 per game.

United Tribes Tech (18-12)

The Thunderbirds from Bismarck, N.D., are making their fourth appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament but this is their first since 2002. United Tribes Tech got hot at the right time winning three straight to qualify. Sophomore Cayden Redfield is the team's leading scorer at 20.5 per game.