Four-time defending NCAA Division II Atlantic Region champion West Liberty stood head and shoulders above the Atlantic Region field when this season’s first set of Atlantic Region rankings were released by the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Ranking Committee.
Coach Jim Crutchfield’s No. 7-ranked Hilltoppers (22-2) were a clear No. 1 in the region as the only team with fewer than five NCAA Division II losses on the season.
West Liberty has already clinched its second straight Mountain East Conference championship – the Hilltoppers’ sixth consecutive league title – and is one of five MEC teams to earn a spot in the initial ranking of the region’s top 10 teams.
Fairmont State (17-8), one of only two teams to beat WLU this season, squeezed ahead of perennial Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference power Indiana, Pa. (20-5) for the No. 2 spot with two other PSAC teams – Gannon (17-8) and Mercyhurst (18-7) rounding out the top five.
Slippery Rock (16-7) was No. 6 with Bowie State (19-7) – the lone Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association representative – at No. 7. Glenville State (17-8), Charleston (14-9) and Concord (16-8) complete the top 10.
The regional rankings will be released each through the end of the regular season with the final set of rankings compiled at the conclusion of conference tournament play.
The top eight teams on that list will receive bids to the 2014-15 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament, to be hosted by the region’s highest-ranked team.
West Liberty won last year’s regional as the No. 2 seed at East Stroudsburg and made it to the national championship game only to drop a heartbreaker to Central Missouri.
The Hilltoppers had served as a regional host in each of the previous four seasons and have a perfect 14-0 record in regional games at the ASRC.
West Liberty returns to action night at West Virginia Wesleyan. Tipoff is set for in Buckhannon.
NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Rankings
(Through games of Sunday, Feb. 15)
Div. II In-Region
Team Record Record
1. WEST LIBERTY 22-2 22-2
2. Fairmont State 17-8 17-8
3. Indiana (Pa.) 20-5 20-5
4. Gannon 17-8 17-8
5. Mercyhurst 18-7 18-7
6. Slippery Rock 16-7 16-7
7. Bowie State 19-7 18-6
8. Glenville State 17-8 17-8
9. Charleston 14-9 14-9
10. Concord 16-8 16-7