OSKALOOSA — Despite the combining of the two divisions, the Statesmen men’s basketball team is still considered one of the best in the nation as the NAIA released its preseason men’s basketball poll Wednesday.
William Penn (30-3 last year) sits at No. 4 in the ranking with 512 points. It is the fifth year in a row that the program has been inside the top five in the preseason poll, including being as high as No. 2 in 2018-2019. WPU’s streak of being ranked in the top 25 has now been extended to 45 consecutive polls.
The 2020-2021 campaign is the first year of the NAIA’s merge back into one division for basketball. It is the first time the sport has been in one division since 1990-1991.
The Statesmen, who return two All-Americans in seniors Kevion Blaylock (Houston, Texas, Information Technology) (third team) and Karmari Newman (Detroit, Mich., Digital Communications) (honorable mention) in addition to numerous other high-profile returners, are one of just two representatives from the Heart of America Athletic Conference in the rating. Newcomer Park is unofficially 38th with 35 points.
Georgetown (Ky.), the 2018-2019 Division I national champion (no champion was determined last year due to COVID-19), sits at No. 1 with 578 points and 12 first-place votes. Mid-America Christian (Okla.), also formerly of D-I, is second with three first-place nods, while former D-II Indiana Wesleyan (No. 2 in last year’s final D-II poll) is third with five first-place votes. Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) (former D-I) rounds out the top five with one first-place vote.
The top 25 leans heavily to the former higher division with 16 former D-I programs listed (eight in the top 10), compared to only nine former D-II schools.
William Penn’s season begins on Nov. 3 against Waldorf in non-conference action.
NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Preseason Rating - Oct. 14, 2020 (Number in parentheses is first-place votes)
1. Georgetown (Ky.) (12)
2. Mid-America Christian (Okla.) (3)
3. Indiana Wesleyan (5)
4. William Penn
5. Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) (1)
6. LSU Shreveport (La.)
8. College of Idaho
9. Arizona Christian
10. John Brown (Ark.)
11. Providence (Mont.)
12. Marian (Ind.)
13. LSU Alexandria (La.)
14. Ottawa (Kan.)
15. Cumberlands (Ky.)
16. Loyola (La.)
17. Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)
18. Dalton State (Ga.)
19. The Master’s (Calif.)
20. Xavier (La.)
21. Carroll (Mont.)
22. SAGU (Texas)
23. Oregon Tech
24. Union (Ky.)
25. Antelope Valley (Calif.)
Others Receiving Votes: Thomas More (Ky.) 108, Westmont (Calif.) 107, Southeastern (Fla.) 97, Oklahoma Wesleyan 91, Saint Francis (Ind.) 67, Indiana Tech 55, Central Baptist (Ark.) 43, Washington Adventist (Md.) 39, Holy Cross (Ind.) 39, Faulkner (Ala.) 39, Bellevue (Neb.) 36, Indiana East (Ind.) 36, Park (Mo.) 35, Northwestern 31, Talladega (Ala.) 16, Dillard (La.) 9, Harris-Stowe State (Mo.) 7, Southern Oregon 4, Shawnee State (Ohio) 4, Cornerstone (Mich.) 4, Dordt 4.