The West Liberty University men’s basketball team has been ranked No. 1 in this year’s Sporting News College Basketball Yearbook. In addition, sophomore guard David Dennis Jr. has been tabbed as an NCAA Division II Preseason All-American in the article written by small-college basketball expert Chuck Mistovich.
In the magazine preview, Mistovich provided team capsules of his projected NCAA Division II Top 10 for the 2016-17 season along with a 25-man Preseason All-America list featuring 5-man first- and second-team units along with a 15-member honorable mention list.
Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers were the only Mountain East Conference squad to crack the Top 10 while Dennis – the MEC Freshman of the Year – and Wheeling Jesuit’s Haywood Highsmith were the only sophomores on the Honorable Mention list. Fairmont State senior Matt Bingaya was also included on the Honorable Mention list.
Having averaged more than 30 wins a season over the past seven years and coming off his third Final Four trip in the past four seasons, Crutchfield enters his 13th year at WLU with the top winning percentage (331-54, .853) in college basketball history among coaches with 10 or more seasons at an NCAA school.
According to Mistovich, the only thing missing from Crutchfield’s trophy case is a national championship trophy.
“That should change this year,” Mistovich writes, “with an explosive group that returns three starters – 6-1 David Dennis (14.0 ppg., 5.7 rpg., 5.8 apg.), 6-2 Devin Hoehn (15.6 ppg., 85 3FGs) and 6-8 Zac Grossenbacher (12.1 ppg., 9.4 rpg.) – along with six reserves who combined to average 26 points and drain nearly 100 3-pointers.”
The WLU roster has also been bolstered by a pair of NCAA Division I transfers.
Dan Monteroso is a 6-3 junior guard currently starring for the Hilltopper football team after three years of football at Purdue. Monteroso was a 3-time All-Ohio basketball standout at nearby St. Clairsville (Ohio) High School whose 2,340 career points rank among the top 20 totals in Ohio schoolboy history. Also coming aboard is 6-5 sophomore wing James Griffin, an Australian native who made a couple of starts and played in 19 games as a true freshman at Marist two years ago before redshirting last season.
A trio of freshman recruits will try to make their mark when preseason drills get under way next month. Clay Guillozet, a 6-3 wing, was a 2-time GWOC Player of the Year at Ohio Division I Greenville High School while 6-3 guard Dalton Bolon averaged 20.7 ppg. and earned All-Ohio Division II honors at Indian Valley High School. Luke Dyer, a 5-10 All-State guard from Clarksburg, W.Va., averaged 17.8 ppg. and made more than 150 career 3-pointers at R.C. Byrd High School.
The Hilltoppers open at home on Nov. 11 against Cheyney (Pa.) in the MEC/PSAC Challenge. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. at the ASRC.
The Sporting News
NCAA Division II
2016-17 Preseason Top 10
1. WEST LIBERTY 31-4
2. St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) 27-5
3. Alaska-Anchorage 21-11
4. Arkansas-Fort Smith 23-9
5. Angelo State (Texas) 25-7
6. Queens (N.C.) 25-7
7. Colorado School of Mines 24-8
8. Saginaw Valley State (Mich.) 25-8
9. West Texas A&M 21-10
10. St. Cloud State (Minn.) 13-16
The Sporting News
Preseason All-America Team
David Chavlovich, 5-11, jr, West Texas A&M
Justin Pitts, 5-9, jr., NW Missouri State
Justin Reyes, 6-4, jr., St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.)
Devin Schmidt, 6-4, sr., Delta State (Miss.)
Suki Wiggs, 6-4, sr., Alaska-Anchorage
Gage Davis, 6-4, so., St. Cloud State (Minn.)
Michael Mallory, 6-1, sr., Southern Connecticut State
John Moon, 7-0, sr., Oklahoma Christian
Michael Smith, 6-4, sr., California Baptist
C.J. Wilson, 5-11, sr., Young Harris (Ga.)
MEC Honorable Mention
Matt Bingaya, 6-4, sr., Fairmont State
DAVID DENNIS, 6-1, SO., WEST LIBERTY
Haywood Highsmith, 6-6, so. Wheeling Jesuit