Informational note: The NCAA-II South Region is comprised of 44 teams in 3 conferences, including the 17-team Gulf South Conference, the 12-team Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the 9-team Sunshine State Conference, and 6 independent teams). The top 8 teams in the final regional rankings will make the NCAA regional tournament, which will be held at the campus of the #1 ranked team the week after conference tournaments in March.
With the real South Region rankings due out tomorrow (for the first time this season), I thought I would list my top 15 teams in the region at this point. We’ll see what the voters think tomorrow, and it’s what they think that ultimately matters, since the top 8 (of 10 ranked) teams go to the NCAA Tournament after the last poll in March.
1. Delta State (13-1 overall, 7-1 vs. South Region, 4-0 GSC West)
If you pay attention to the national polls, this is probably surprising. Since you probably don’t, I’ll explain why. It’s actually quite simple: the Statesmen have played a tougher schedule than nationwide #1 Montevallo has. Additionally, their loss was to a considerably better team than Montevallo’s was (North Alabama vs. Stillman). Of course, I’ve seen Delta State play this year, and I haven’t seen Montevallo, but I assure you this is an objective viewpoint. So, it’s close, but #14 Delta State takes my top spot over #1 Montevallo.
2. Montevallo (16-1, 8-1, 4-0 GSC East)
The Falcons are the nation’s #1 team according to the coaches’ poll, and I fully expect them to be #1 in the region when the rankings come out. I just don’t think their ranking is justified at this point. When they start beating up on good D-II teams and D-I teams (or if Delta State loses a few), I might re-think this ranking.
3. Lynn (12-3, 9-2, 4-0 Sunshine State Conference)
I’ll admit that Lynn’s 5-2 non-conference, in-region record is not as impressive when you realize that the five wins were against the Puerto Rico teams and Palm Beach Atlantic, but the two losses were to very solid teams in UAM and Florida Gulf Coast. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now with that unblemished record in the SSC, which is a pretty good conference.
4. Arkansas-Monticello (9-6, 4-2, 2-2 GSC West)
You won’t see them ranked this high at first, but this is a very solid team that has played a ridiculous non-conference schedule. They’re slacking off right now, and if that continues, of course they will plummet from here. For now, though, they are still a top team with 5-6 legit scorers and skill players. They’ve already been put through the ringer, and they should be fine in the GSC West, which seems to be having a down year aside from DSU.
5. Tampa (12-3, 6-1, 3-1 SSC)
They don’t really have many impressive non-conference wins, but again, I’m giving the SSC the benefit of the doubt. Like UAM, they could be on the move down if they don’t keep up a strong conference record.
6. West Georgia (12-4, 9-3, 2-2 GSC East)
The Braves loaded up their schedule with in-region games, which could prove to give them an advantage in the rankings. Going 4-0 against the SIAC isn’t all that impressive, but 2-0 against the SSC and a split with Henderson State gives them enough solid wins to justify this ranking.
7. Eckerd (12-3, 8-2, 2-2 SSC)
Eckerd was off to a blistering start before faltering a bit in conference play. Their 6 in-region, non-conference wins were all against the Puerto Rico teams and D-II newcomer Palm Beach Atlantic, although they were all somewhat impressive victories. The fight between them, Tampa, and Lynn should be interesting to watch, but they had also better watch out for Nova Southeastern, which is knocking on the door of the SSC elite.
8. Alabama-Huntsville (14-2, 6-2, 3-1 GSC East)
I’m not all that impressed with UAH, given their schedule. Their losses are to Harding and Montevallo, which is a good sign, but aside from Harding, they’ve only beaten two SIAC teams. They’ll need to pad their record a bit more with GSC East wins to impress me, but I think they may be ranked higher than this in the real poll.
9. Nova Southeastern (9-4, 8-1, 3-1 SSC)
This team is somewhat of a surprise, but it’s hard to ignore a 4-0 record against the GSC. They could probably justify a ranking in the top 5 with that 8-1 record and those GSC wins, but I’m holding out to see how they fare against the teams I see as being the SSC powers (Lynn, Tampa, Eckerd) before I elevate them to that status. Lynn was their only region loss, and they have beaten Eckerd.
10. Benedict (8-3, 8-1, 8-0 SIAC)
I’m not very high on the SIAC as a whole, so I’m not fooled by the 8-0 conference record. Their region loss was to 5-11 Lincoln Memorial of the GSC East, so there’s reason to be wary here. The other conferences just need to hope that they keep up this conference run and win the SIAC tournament, so that they’re the only team from that conference that makes the NCAAs.
Here are numbers 11-25 in my rankings, followed by my prediction for how the voters will see the top 10 in the actual rankings.
11. Florida Gulf Coast (9-7, 7-6, independent)
12. North Alabama (11-6, 9-6, 2-2 GSC East)
13. Florida Southern (11-4, 6-3, 2-2 SSC)
14. Valdosta State (10-6, 6-4, 2-3 GSC East)
15. Rollins (9-5, 4-3, 3-2 SSC)
16. Central Arkansas (11-4, 4-4, 4-1 GSC West)
17. Harding (9-5, 4-4, 1-3 GSC West)
18. Barry (9-5, 5-3, 2-3 SSC)
19. Paine (7-4, 6-2, 6-2 SIAC)
20. Albany State (6-4, 6-3, 6-1 SIAC)
21. Lincoln Memorial (5-11, 4-1, 3-1 GSC East)
22. West Alabama (8-6, 6-6, 1-3 GSC East)
23. Ouachita Baptist (10-7, 2-4, 2-2 GSC West)
24. Christian Brothers (8-6, 5-5, 2-2 GSC West)
25. Morehouse (8-6, 5-4, 4-4 SIAC)
Tomorrow’s predicted top 10:
2. Delta State
7. Nova Southeastern
9. West Georgia