As with all of our Top 25 lists, this isn’t the official NAIA Top 25! This is simply us watching as many games as we do and putting together who we think are the best and why. We believe that this group of voters watches more NAIA basketball from across the NAIA then most people. It is hard, for even the actual NAIA Top 25 voters to watch enough games across the country to get a good gauge on who is deserving, as they are coaches, who are busy preparing their teams for their own games. While the official Top 25 is still always pretty solid, this is a FUN write up that we enjoy doing. The way that the NAIA is currently structured, it is very hard to only have 25 teams be ranked. There are so many teams in that 20-40 range that could take claim to a spot inside the Polls. It is especially tough in the preseason, to get a Top 25 figured out AND even tougher this season with several conferences and/or teams returning back to action this year after not playing games last season due to Covid protocols. We are sure to overlook some teams who will storm onto the scene early on and prove their worth, but for now this is who we have settled in on as our NHR Top 25!


  1. Southwestern Assemblies of God (TX) – We have teased this one out several times during the offseason and while we normally give the nod to the defending National Champions, this SAGU team is just too good, on paper, to NOT give them the early #1 spot. Not only do we have the upmost respect for how good of a coach Delton Deal is, but this is a Lion team, coming off of a NAIA Fab Four run from last season, and who, returns nearly everyone. The list of returns includes 1st Team All-American and Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Joshua Kashila as well as 3rd Team All-American big man Joel Polius. If that isn’t enough to convince you they deserve this spot, how about the fact that 2019-2020 1st Team All-American, Nykolas Mason, returns after sitting out last season. While there is a ton of talent in the NAIA this season, this is as good of a trio as there is in the NAIA. The Lions also return a trio of starters from last season in Nathan Bailey, Isaiah Boling as well as Noah Boling. This is a deep team, with size and plenty of talent.
  2. St. Francis (IN) – This St. Francis team returns nearly everyone from a NAIA Fab Four appearance last season, where they gave the defending National Champions, Shawnee State, one of their best games of the Championships. 3rd Team All-American, Antwaan Cushingberry, leads the way for the Cougars, but this is a well balanced and talented team. The only starter the Cougars lose is Lance Dollison, but the Cougars have a couple nice youngsters, coming off of injury, that should step right in and not see the Cougars miss a beat.
  3. Shawnee State (OH) – The defending National Champs lose a lot in All-Americans, EJ Onu and James Jones. Jones was the final site MVP last year, while Onu just signed a G-League contract after being a 1st Team All-American and Mid-South Conference Player of the Year. While the Bears lose their top two scorers from last season, they do return a trio of other top scorers in Miles Smith, Amier Gilmore and Donoven Carlisle. They also get starting point guard, Jakiel Wells back. Wells, just a Sophomore, doesn’t look to score a ton, but does so much for others and competes on both sides of the ball. The Bears also have transfers, Elijah Bishop (Columbus St CC), Dre Boyd (John A Logan CC), Courtese Cooper (Southern Utah) and Khalil Donte’ Johnson who they will be looking to step into big roles early!
  4. Loyola-New Orleans (LA) – The Wolfpack won’t have a true home game this season as their gym gets repaired due to damage from Hurricane Ida. With that, they have found gyms around the New Orleans area to host games at, so at least they aren’t having to play true road games every time. With that being said, they return two 3x All-American in Myles Burns and Zach Wrightsil. Two of the more electric players in the NAIA. They will return every player from a NAIA Final Eight team last year. They had a super small bench last year and it seemed as though they ran out of gas a bit during the grueling nature that is known as the NAIA National Championships. The Wolfpack are MUCH deeper this season though and will be looking to make an even deeper run.
  5. Carroll (MT) – One of the worst parts about the NAIA is that we don’t get nationally broadcast games on cable outlets, so people miss out a lot on several great teams and players from out West. Carroll was one of those teams, last season. Heck, we had one major news outlet who didn’t know who 2x All-American Jovan Sljivancanin was while covering the NAIA National Championships. We say that to let everyone know that this Carroll team shouldn’t be taken lightly this season. Sljivancanin returns with fellow All-American Shamrock Campbell to lead a very tough and well coached Carroll group. The Fighting Saints do lose Dennis Flowers III, who transferred to Arizona Christian, but return 4 of their remaining 5 starters from last season.
  6. Jamestown (ND) – The Jimmies were picked 2nd in the GPAC Preseason Coaches Poll, just 1 point and one, 1st place vote behind Morningside (IA). Both programs are great, but we are giving the early nod to Jamestown though. This is a team that made it to the NAIA Final Eight behind the stellar play of stud big man, Mason Walters, and the great shooting ability of Marc Kjos. Head Coach Danny Neville has done a great job of building this team around Mason. If you want to have a presence inside, you better have big time shooters around him to help take away the pressure. The Jimmies have that and even though the losses of Jack Tally and Brock Schrom hurt a bit. The Jimmies still have plenty of talent and depth to make another run.
  7. William Penn (IA) – If we are being honest, this Statesmen team got embarrassed by Carroll in the NAIA Round of 16 last season. They did play that game without All-American Kamari Newman, but this was a Statesmen team that had National Title aspirations last year and fell short. The performance must have left a bad taste in their mouths though, because they return a majority of their team including 1st Team All-American Kevion Blaylock to pair with Newman. Also back are Super Seniors, Q Cager, Ahmad Pender and Josh Watkins. All three have been staples in the program for a few years now. Cager is one of the more underrated PG’s in the country and him and fellow PG Chanze Cruesoe are the engines that make this team go. They will need newcomers Frederick Jackson and Reyhan Cobb to fill the shoes in the post, but if they can get them and the Freshman they have playing good minutes early, to step up, this is a group that can get back to being dangerous.
  8. Science and Arts (Okla) – The Drovers return All-American and leading scorer Cameron Hines to go along with seven of their top eight players from last season. Stephon Hall and Hines are a lot of fun to watch in the Drovers backcourt and USAO adds 6’10 D1 Transfer (Troy), Rory Pantophlet to the roster for this season as well. This was a Drover team that got upset in the 2nd round of the NAIA Championships, but one that is loaded with talent again and will be battle tested in the Sooner Athletic Conference.
  9. Morningside (IA) – Again, the Mustangs were picked to win the GPAC over Jamestown and this isn’t a discredit to them to have them ranked below the Jimmies. More so, this is a credit to how good the GPAC is. Morningside does lose legendary head coach Jim Sykes, as he moves into an AD role. Replacing him will be Trent Miler, who moves up from his Associate Head Coaching position and he also was a really good player at Morningside as he still is the all-time leader in assists (514) and steals (235) in a career. The good part for the Mustangs is that they too, return nearly everyone from a team that won the GPAC last season and advanced to the NAIA Round of 16. Super Seniors and All-Americans Trey Brown and Zach Imig have been wrecking havoc in the GPAC their entire careers. University of Iowa transfer, Aidan Vanderloo really came on strong down the stretch last season and fellow starters, Will Poterbaum and Collin Hill, also add some great experience to the lineup.
  10. Talladega (AL) – The Tornadoes are arguably, on paper, the most talented team in the NAIA. They return Super Senior and All-American, Darryl Baker, as well as starters Edwin Louis, Kamron Brice and Amir Yusuf. They add big time scoring D2 transfer Cam Potts (Lincoln), D1 Transfers Jervay Green (Nebraska), Davion Thomas (Troy), Camron Reece (Akron). Dega joins a new conference this season as they leave the GCAC for the Southern States Athletic Conference. They were picked to finish second behind another talented group at Loyola. Head Coach Chris Wright and his staff have done a great job putting this team together, if they can get this group playing together they could be serious title contenders!
  11. Indiana Wesleyan – Gone is 4x Crossroads League Player of the Year and 2x NAIA National Player of the Year Kyle Mangas. The cupboards are hardly bare though as 7’0 All-American, Seth Maxwell returns to lead a group of 11 returners and 3 starters who return off a team that was #1 in the NAIA almost from wire to wire. They also pick up Dan Largey a D2 Transfer from Palm Beach Atlantic who averaged 17ppg over the past two seasons. While they lost in the Round of 16 last season, this is a IWU team that is well coached and is hungry to win another National Title.
  12. LSU-Shreveport – This is a team that was originally inside of our Top 10, but dropped down a few slots after finding out that 1st Team All-American, Kadavion Evans. They do have most of their remaining roster back though, including 3rd Team All-American, Leondre Washington. Washington led the Pilots in scoring last season and there is a chance that we see Kadavion Evans at the break. For now though, this is still a loaded Shreveport team that now is deeper and bigger than last season.
  13. Bethel (KS) – We may be a little aggressive with this rating, but we love the make up of the Threshers. 1st Team All-American Jaylon Scott is one of the best players in the NAIA. This team returns nearly everyone from last years team that lost in the Round of 16 to Shawnee State last season. Coach Jason Artaz has the Threshers stock way up and will look to build off of that this season.
  14. Arizona Christian – The Firestorm lose 2nd Team All-American and leading scorer, De’Ron Kyle, but still return four starters including, Honorable Mention All-American Angelo Johnson. Coach Jeff Rudder also went out and grabbed Carroll transfer, Derek Flowers III. Flowers, just a Sophomore, was an instrumental part of a Carroll squad that actually knocked out ACU last season to advance to Kansas City. They have the fire power to make a deeper run this season and with nine Seniors, they have a veteran group who will want to head out on top!
  15. Thomas More (KY) – A team that will be moving NCAA D2 soon, but for now the Saints set their eyes on a NAIA National Championship. They return everyone off of a team that lost in the Round of 32. All-American Reid Jolly alongside of Ryan Batte help power the Thomas More offense, but this is a Saints team that plays well off one another.
  16. Georgetown (KY) – It was a bit of a weird year for the Tigers. A program that is historically a National Power, was a bit young last season and played like it at times. The bad news for the rest of the NAIA, is that those youngsters got plenty of game experience last season. All-American Kyran Jones (Sophomore), Derrin Boyd (Freshman), Jaquay Wales (Freshman) all started every game last season when healthy. Head Coach Chris Briggs is one of the best coaches in the NAIA with already two national titles under his belt. They went out and bring in D1 Transfers Lavar Batts (UNC Ashville), Drew Lamont (Wyoming) and D2 transfer Jermaine Patterson who was at both Queens and Lander. We expect Coach Briggs to have the Tigers back inside the Top 10 at some point this season.
  17. Marian (IN) – Losing 2nd Team All-American Cameron Wolter is a big loss. The Knights though, return all four remaining starters including former 1st Team All-Crossroads players Christian Stewart and Christian Harvey. They also bring in D1 Trasnfers, Jacob Wiley (Ill-Chicago), Sean Jenkings (Presbyterian) and Nolan Foster (Ohio U). The Knights have stayed consistent as one of the best teams in the NAIA. Last year they lost in the Round of 16, but even without Wolter, they have the talent to get back to Kansas City.
  18. Stillman (AL) – Stillman is coming off a NAIA Sweet 16 where they got edged out by two points to St. Francis. They return all five starters, including two All-Americans in Trey Petty and Devin Merriweather. The duo are two of the best guards in the NAIA and are really fun to watch. While it’s the guards that do most of the scoring, Stillman has a group of Bigs who rotate in and out and have shown to the capability of having big games.
  19. Benedictine (KS) – Another team that is rich in returners. A group that includes 2nd Team All-American, Jaiden Bristol. The Ravens, last season, were up five points late on St. Francis (IN) in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament, before going ice cold down the stretch. This is a good, veteran group who plays great pack line defense and really executes their stuff on offense. The Heart should be a better league this year then last, but the Ravens have the veteran leadership to win the league.
  20. Oregon Tech – One of the toughest teams to know where to rank as they weren’t apart of the regular NAIA season last year. The Hustlin’ Owls went 6-2 in the Spring CCC season losing @ Corban and @ Eastern Oregon by a combined 4pts. The Owls have a rich history though and Head Coach Justin Parnell has never finished below 3rd place in the CCC in his five seasons as head coach. OiT has Two All-Conference players returning, in Harrison Steiger and Garrett Albrecht, from a team that was primed for a deep NAIA DII run before Covid shut down the National Tournament. Both players help to bring high level experience to the Owls. Kaison Faust also returns after leading the Owls in scoring with 11.9ppg this past Spring. The Owls were already deep with size, but went out and snatched up 6’10 Oregon State transfer, Joey Potts, as well. This seems like a good spot for a team that comes from a league with great championship pedigree.
  21. WVU Tech – You know the saying…WVU Tech basketball, it’s like a long weekend at your in-laws. Yes, we know who the saying is originally for, but Head Coach James Long brought the same mentality over to Beckley with him and it’s paid off. The Golden Bears are a tough minded group that returns every player from a National Tournament appearance last season. While the team is led by the trio of Tamon Scruggs, Darrin Martin and Andreas Jonsson, it’s newcomer, Gunner Short, who may just help this Golden Bear offense take off this season! Gunner is a Rio Grande transfer who averaged over 17ppg in 2019-2020. The defending River States Conference Champions won their opening round game in the NAIA National Tournament last season before bowing out to eventual National Champions, Shawnee State.
  22. Xavier (LA) – Even though their new league mates voted them in a tie for 3rd in the Red River Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, this is a team that is better then that. The Gold Rush return GCAC Player of the Year and 1st Team All-American, Rayshawn Mart, one of the best two-way players in the NAIA. They return their top three scorers in Mart, Makye Richard and Corey Dunning. They also add a couple nice transfer pieces in Charles Dickson, who averaged 17ppg at Southwestern Christian and 6’10 D1 Transfer Jalen King. The Gold Rush won the GCAC Tournament last year, went on to knock off Cumberlands (KY) in the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament and then lost by 1 point to SAGU in the second round. XULA will once again be really good!
  23. Indiana Tech – Back are 6’9 Josh Kline, 6’6 Grant Smith and 6’6 Rog Stein. The trio help to make up one of the biggest starting lineups across the NAIA. Fellow starters, Max Perez and Cory McKinney are back as well. For the Warriors to make the next big jump this season, they will need to find some added depth behind their starting five. They are though, coming off a blowout win over Olivet Nazarene in the opening round of the NAIA Tournament and battled tough with Marian in the Round of 32 and Kline, Smith and Stein are a very tough trio that provides plenty of mismatches.
  24. Oklahoma Wesleyan – One of the best 3 point shooting teams in the NAIA caught fire during the first two rounds of the NAIA National Tournament and rode the momentum into the Round of 16. They ran into a very good Lewis-Clark St team though and the run came to an end. Brooks Haddock is no longer an Eagle, but All-American Kaleb Stokes is back to lead four returning starters. Someone will need to step up to fill the void left by Brooks Haddock, but the Eagles are always tough.
  25. St. Thomas (FL) – This is the team that will cause an uproar I am sure and we are okay with it. We have been known to take shots on teams in our preseason rankings and we haven’t been wrong in the past two years on it. We know this St. Thomas team was selected 3rd in the Sun Conference Preseason Coaches Poll. We know that both Warner and Keiser made the NAIA National Tournament last season. Truth be told, The Sun Conference will be a better league then it has been the past few seasons and new head coach Patrick Crarey II has a terrific roster full of talent. Not only are the Bobcats top four scorers back from a season ago, but they also bring in talents like Jonas Parker, D2 Transfer from Montevallo, Augustus Stone (West Virginia St), James Harris (Harding) and Cameron Corcoran D1 transfer from Florida International. If anyone can take this many new faces and do something with them, it’s Coach Crarey, who is one of the best in the NAIA!

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