Last season, Barry (Fla.) tasted the one of the sweetest destination in Division II basketball, getting to the NCAA D2 Tournament’s Elite 8. Now this season, sights are set on returning to the Elite 8 and taking a bigger bite. The Bucs appear to have all the pieces necessary to reach their destination.
The plan starts with one of the best point guards in the country, Elvar Fridriksson. In a first-place matchup in the Sunshine State Conference last weekend, Fridriksson poured in a career-high 30 points, dished five assists and snared five rebounds. The Bucs beat Eckerd 84-72 and increased their lead to two games in the SSC, which is typically one of the strongest conferences in the nation. They were No. 13 last week and have been ranked in the top 20 of the NABC Coaches Poll since the outset.
Fridriksson, who started every game as a freshman at LIU-Brooklyn, finished second in D2 in assists last season. He’s continued his playmaking duties this year (fifth with 7.7 assists per game) but also been more aggressive looking for his own shot. Fridriksson has already attempted five more free throws than all of last season – and hit 88 percent.
He has ample help fueling an attack which is sixth in the nation in scoring with 93.6 points per game. Adrian Gonzalez, a crafty 6-5 forward with an old school game, leads the Bucs with 20.5 ppg.
The Elite 8 will be held Mar. 22-25 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
California Baptist keeps rolling. The Lancers are throttling the competition in the PacWest this season. They’ve won 11 games in a row since a December loss to Dixie State and must not be overlooked when national championship contenders are discussed.
Michael Smith is also in line for national honors, individually. The versatile forward averages 24.3 points and 6.6 rebounds for California Baptist, which is 19-1 overall and 11-1 in the conference. He’s not alone, either. Kalidou Diouf leads the nation in field goal percentage (71.3) and chips in 15 points per game, giving the Lancers a formidable frontcourt.
Fairmont State is 20-0 overall, 14-0 in the Mountain East Conference and No. 2 in the nation. But will the Falcons be unbeaten by the end of the weekend? The Falcons welcome Wheeling Jesuit (17-3, 11-3) on Wednesday. They needed overtime to knock off their MEC rivals in the first meeting.
On Saturday, the Falcons hit the road to face familiar foe West Liberty, which has ruled the MEC in recent seasons. The high-flying Hilltoppers are rolling again – 19-1 overall and 13-1 in the conference. They were No. 3 in last week’s poll, so the game sets up as one of the most important in DII basketball this season. Points should come easily. Fairmont averages 99.8 ppg (3rd in DII) and West Liberty produces 99.1 ppg.
Speaking of scoring, Phil Taylor of Shorter (Ga.) College continues to generate buckets at a rapid rate. He leads the nation by a wide margin with 34.2 points per game and has scored 1,259 points in only 45 games at Shorter, for a career average of 28.6 ppg.
Author Brian Mull is a freelance writer who covers Div. II basketball for NCAA.com.
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