The Crossroads League has been one of the perennial powers across the NAIA landscape and the NAIA moving to one division made no dent in the leagues armor as the Crossroads League put four teams into the Round of 16 in Kansas City last season. Unfortunately for them, St Francis, Indiana Wesleyan and Bethel (IN) were all in the same group of four with St Francis coming out of the grouping victorious. Marian was able to avoid their league mates, but ran into a tough Loyola team and lost.
The league lost 2x NAIA Player of the Year, Kyle Mangas and All-Americans Cameron Wolter, Trevion Crews and Jevon Knox. With loss comes great opportunity as the league will turn the page on arguably one of the best Senior classes in league history. One of the guys who will be looking to step into bigger shoes (if that is possible) is 7’0 Seth Maxwell (Indiana Wesleyan) who was voted preseason CL Player of the Year. Back also is Antwaan Cushingberry, one of the most electric small guards in the NAIA.
As mentioned, the Crossroads League was once again one of the best in the NAIA last season and should be once again this season. After the stellar post season performance they had last season, the CL Coaches Preseason Poll puts the early bullseye on their backs.
Crossroads League Preseason Poll
1. Saint Francis (IN)
2. Indiana Wesleyan
7. Mount Vernon Nazarene
9,. Spring Arbor
2020-21 Champions and Qualifiers
Regular Season Champions
Crossroads League Tournament Champion
National Tournament Qualifiers:
Saint Francis (IN) – Lost 77-82 to Shawnee State in the NAIA Semifinals.
Bethel (IN) – Lost 81-89 to Saint Francis (IN) in the NAIA Quarterfinals.
Indiana Wesleyan – Lost 77-83 to Bethel (IN) in the Round of 16.
Marian – Lost 62-69 to Loyola in the Round of 16.
Conference POY Watch List:
Seth Maxwell, 7’0 Indiana Wesleyan. 17.1ppg, 7.1rpg, 2.72bpg. 2020-21 HM All-American. Voted 2021-22 Preseason CL Player of the Year.
Antwaan Cushingberry 5’8, St. Francis. 18.08ppg, 4.5rpg, 4.9apg. 2020-21 1st Team All-CL. 3rd Team All-American. Cush really put on a show last year in Kansas City going for 28, 21 and 22pts in the Cougars three games.
Christian Stewart 6’0, Marian. 15.5ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.5apg. 2020-21 1st Team All-CL. With Cameron Wolter gone look for Stewart to help offset that production and his numbers to climb again.
Jason Hubbard 6’6, Taylor. 19.21ppg, 7.8rpg. 2020-21 1st Team All-CL. The Senior is coming off of a GREAT year and will look to build of of it this season.
Zach Goodline 6’1, Huntington. 17.3ppg, 4.5rpg, 5apg. 2020-21 1st Team All-CL.
Sean Jenkins, 6’4, Marian. D1 transfer from Presbyterian.
Jacob Wiley 6’7, Marian. D1 Transfer from Ill-Chicago.
Dan Largey 6’5, Indiana Wesleyan. D2 Transfer from Palm Beach Atlantic.
Lincoln Hale 6’4, Indiana Wesleyan. Highly touted incoming Freshman.
Favorites to Win CL:
St Francis – Fresh off of a NAIA Fab Four season, USF comes into this season now as the hunted, not the hunters. Returning nearly everyone from last season is big. The Cougars played their best basketball at the end of last season, winning ten of their last twelve games. Antwaan Cushingberry and David Eljah return to lead the Cougars and will be looking towards a Crossroads Title this season.
Indiana Wesleyan – A team that spent most of the year as the top team in the NAIA, but fell a little short of their goals by losing in the Round of 16. Even though they return nearly everyone, they still will need to fill the holes left behind by Kyle Mangas and Dylan Alderson. Newcomer Dan Largey will help and we keep hearing that incoming Freshman Lincoln Hale could play good minutes early as well. A team very capable of returning to Kansas City one again.
Marian – The biggest question mark with the Knights is who fills the shoes of Cameron Wolter, but the Knights didn’t mess around on bringing in size in the form of D1 transfers 6’7 Jacob Wiley and 6’10 Nolan Foster. They have the guards on the perimeter to be really good. If they can find a go to big, which they always seem to have one, then this Marian team will be just fine.
Huntington – Zach Goodline and Caleb Middlesworth helped the Foresters to a 16-11 record in Head Coach Kory Alford’s first season. As the tides change a bit in the Crossroads League, there are some opportunities for some teams to take a leap into the Top 4 teams in the league. Finishing in the Top 4 of the Crossroads League puts you in a prime spot to qualify for the NAIA National Tournament. With nearly everyone back, the Foresters seem primed to make that jump.
Grace – This Grace team, outside of Hayden Deaton, was pretty young last season. Yet they still showed how capable they were with some HUGE wins. Unfortunately, with young teams, you tend to now always play with any consistency. The Lancers will miss Deaton this season, but the young Lancers got a lot of great experience next season and will be looking to take that next step up this year. Coach Scott Moore has the pieces in tow, now we will see if this young team, led by Freshman Cade Gibbs are ready to compete night in and night out with some of the best teams in the NAIA!
Bethel – They lose 1st Team All-American Trevion Crews but the Pilots still have some offensive fire power back in Jared DeHart, Zac Owens and Nathan Aerts. This was a team that fought injuries most of last season and now will get guys back healthy. Crews willed this team to victory on many nights and will be missed, but don’t sleep on this Pilot team.
xUnfortunately, I will be watching online as I had to get back to work for a project deadline.
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