Our hope, with this article, is to simply point out a few teams each week who are on the rise! Most of our “Stock Risers” will be teams who are outside the Top 25. These are not necessarily a bid to get teams into the Top 25, but more so a chance to highlight teams who are not only playing well, but who can also make some noise in their leagues and quite possibly earn a spot into the NAIA tourney! We will also put a focus on a player or two each week who may not be a household name quite yet, but who is a player, in our opinion, who people need to start to know!
Week 4 Stock Risers
Ave Maria (FL) (6-0)
This could honestly be a nod to the entire Sun Conference as they have had a great non-conference season picking up some really nice wins. They Gyenes of Ave Maria sit at 6-0 and have a win over No. 25 Florida College under their belt which makes them a team whose stock is rising fast. The Gyenes also swept their two games in the SUN/SSAC Challenge with wins over Middle Georgia State and Stillman. They won’t play a “countable” game again until they tip-off in one of the biggest NAIA Classics “The Show” in Kingsport, Tennessee. The Gyenes will face off against two tough teams in Pikeville (KY) and Indiana East. It’s been a terrific start to the season and is why Head Coach, Jamon Copeland was our NAIA Hoops Report Coach of the Week this past week.
Dickinson State (3-2)
We try to get this article out on Thursdays, but with Dickinson State playing last night we wanted to hold off to see how they did against Montana Tech. They play another big game tonight against Providence (MT), but after last night’s win, we wanted to make sure we highlighted the Blue Hawks. This is a team who has a couple losses but last night’s win against No. 6 Montana Tech was their second Top 25 win on the season. They did lose to Montana Tech earlier this year, so it’s not like their losses are bad ones. Kose Egbule currently leads the team in pts (13.2) and rebounds (9.2) per game. This is a team who is basically playing the entire Frontier Conference (a sign for the future??) in non-conference play. While they have a couple nice wins already, they still need to add to their resume. The North Star Athletic Association is a one bid league (NSAA Tourney Champ) and they haven’t gotten an at-large bid since the merger. Mayville State will be the favorite come league play, but maybe this is the year the NSAA gets two bids?
McPherson (KS) (5-0)
The Bulldogs moved to 5-0 and 1-0 in KCAC play with the win over Bethel (KS) last night. It’s still super early, and McPherson’s schedule gets tougher right after Thanksgiving as the Bulldogs will head host a Kansas Wesleyan team that was ranked in the preseason polls and then travel to new KCAC member, Evangel. However, McPherson, after a home win against Bethel (KS), is looking like a team that could finish better than their 8th place predicted finish in the preseason coaches’ poll! The key to their early season success?!? Defense. The Bulldogs currently are inside the Top 15 in the NAIA in defensive points allowed (62.2) and are 5th in defensive 3pt FG% by only allowing teams to shoot 23.3% from the field! We are not saying the Bulldogs are ready to make an appearance inside the Top 25, but if the Bulldogs can continue to defend at a high level, this is a team who can put themselves in a good position to compete a top the KCAC Standings!
Players Who we are bullish on
Matt Stilwill (Briar Cliff)
Listen, if you’re going to be a 6’2 guard and rep the No. 55, then you better ball out. And well, Matt is doing just that this season as he currently leads the NAIA in scoring at 30.3ppg and has Briar Cliff sitting at 6-0. Matt has four games this season with 30 or more points and currently has sone so in three straight games. He is also coming off his best game this season with a 46pt outburst against Midland. He is an All-GPAC performer, so it’s not that he is off anyone’s radar by any means, but this is a kid who has seen his stock go from an HM All-GPAC player, to at least early on, is in the conversation for GPAC Player of the Year and an All-American!
Brody Whitaker (Marian)
Brody is no stranger to Crossroads teams, as he is coming off a really good season as Marian’s sixth man where he averaged 11ppg. This season though, Brody is taking his game to new heights. He already has two 30pt games and is currently 8th in the NAIA in ppg at 24.0. Brody also is second on the team in rebounds per game (7.2) and third in assists per game (2.4). He has really seen his stock go up through the first five games as he has stepped into a big role for the Knights!