Brian Mull

Undefeated D2 Teams Trying To Make History

Author: Brian Mull
NW Missouri State Wins NCAA D2 Championship

With the unveiling of the NCAA Division II tournament bracket roughly six weeks away, only three undefeated teams remain.

 

No. 1 Northwest Missouri State (18-0), No. 2 Fairmont State (18-0) and 18-0 Shippensburg (Pa.) are chasing the improbable college basketball dream of perfection.

 

Many college basketball fans remember the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, who won the national championship under coach Bobby Knight, as the last Division I team to record an unbeaten season (32-0).

 

What’s more obscure is the identity of the last team to pull the trick in Division II. The answer to the question is Findlay (OH), which rolled to a 36-0 record and national title in 2009. As if the feat wasn’t remarkable enough, the Oilers also accomplished something else that was unparalleled. They went wire-to-wire, starting the preseason in the fall of 2008 on the top line and finishing it there in spring 2009 after holding off pesky underdog Cal Poly Pomona 53-51 in the national championship game.

 

Findlay’s Ron Niekamp was named the national Coach of the Year. He retired in the spring of 2011 after 26 seasons at the helm.

 

“We had two times in 2009 when being undefeated was really a burden, and that was early in the season and again at the end,” Niekamp told Fox Sports Ohio in 2015 as Kentucky chased DI perfection. “Early in the year I thought our guys were already chasing 36-0, and that’s a bad deal. I think we had good players trying to do too much individually at times. Guys felt they had to be impressive every night and were trying too hard, and it showed. But we managed to keep winning.”

 

There have been two other perfect teams since 1965. Bakersfield (now a DI member) went 33-0 in 1992-93 and Fort Hays St. was 34-0 in 1995-96. Both won the national title, of course.

 

Queens (NC) fell from the land of unbeaten last week on its home floor in Charlotte. The Royals lost to South Atlantic Conference rival Wingate 71-64 on Wednesday and needed overtime on the road Saturday to avoid a two-game skid, toppling Anderson (SC) 94-92 thanks to two free throws by Jalin Alexander with six seconds remaining. Alexander is the squad’s leading scorer with 14.7 points per game.

 

Queens dipped to No. 8 in this week’s NABC Division II poll. The Royals are 17-1 and 11-1 in the SAC, holding a two-game edge over Lincoln Memorial and Carson-Newman.

 

West Liberty fell out of the undefeated conversation in early December, losing to Mountain East Conference rival Fairmont St. 86-81. Still, all of the Hilltoppers’ season-long goals remain well within reach. They improved to 17-1 overall and 11-1 in the MEC over the weekend by dispatching Notre Dame College 93-75. At this point, it’s only breaking news when the Hilltoppers lose. Maybe it’s time to give coach Jim Crutchfield the credit he’s earned. Since 2010, West Liberty has a higher winning percentage than any Division II program. The Hilltoppers are a mind-blowing 235-22 (.914) during those eight seasons, making them the only college program in the nation at any level to have won 90 percent of its games in that span. Remarkable, indeed.

 

Consider this: only three other DII programs have won 80 percent of their games since 2010. Lincoln Memorial (.846), Indiana PA (.824) and Bellarmine (.818). All three programs are ranked in this week’s top 25.

 

Author Brian Mull is a freelance writer who covers Div. II basketball for NCAA.com.

 

 

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