MATTHEWS, N.C. - The West Liberty University men's basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the nation and two Hilltopper standouts were named Preseason All-Americans on Tuesday when the annual Basketball Times College Preview edition hit the newsstands.
With 2011 Basketball Times NCAA Division II Coach of the Year Jim Crutchfield now leading all NCAA men's coaches in winning percentage (207-43, .828), the lofty national ranking comes as no surprise.
Not only does Crutchfield welcome back all five starters from a 32-3 squad coming off its second straight trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, he has the top eight scorers returning from a high-powered Hilltoppers team that led the nation in scoring (102.4 ppg.) for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Leading the way are a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Basketball Times Preseason All-Americans Alex Falk and Cedric Harris. Joining Falk (18.0 ppg.), a 6-foot-4 senior, and Harris (15.8 ppg.), a 6-0 junior, as returning starters are 6-4 sophomore C.J. Hester (14.4 ppg.) - last year's WVIAC Freshman of the Year - 6-6 senior Chris Morrow (12.9 ppg.) and 5-7 senior Tim Hausfeld (12.3 ppg.).
A trio of returning lettermen - 6-0 Shawn Dyer, 6-5 Keene Cockburn and 6-7 Nick Brown - combined for more than 25 points a game last year and the rich get even richer with Crutchfield having added some talented redshirts and a handful of top-notch recruits to the mix.
"We are deeper this year, no doubt," Crutchfield told Basketball Times national writer Chuck Mistovich. "We return the seven guys who finished in our rotation at the end of last year. Nick Brown started early and was injured most of year, and is moving up in the rotation, and redshirt freshman Bubby Goodwin is playing as well as anyone. All of a sudden, I have more guys than I normally put in the rotation."
2012-13 Basketball Times
NCAA Division II Preseason Top 20
School (2012 record)
1. WEST LIBERTY (32-3)
2. Bellarmine, Ky. (29-4)
3. Washburn, Kan. (25-8)
4. Ala.-Huntsville (29-4)
5. Lincoln Memorial, Tenn. (26-6)
6. Metropolitan State, Colo. (25-7)
7. Winston-Salem, N.C. (21-9)
8. Western Washington (31-5)
9. Arkansas Tech (26-6)
10. Tarleton State, Tex. (27-6)
11. Cal Poly-Pomona, Calif. (19-8)
12. Midwestern State, Tex. (29-4)
13. Saint Leo, Fla. (18-12)
14. SW Minnesota State (19-11)
15. Barton, N.C. (20-10)
16. Indiana, Pa. (23-6)
17. Drury, Mo. (17-11)
18. West Texas A&M (19-9)
19. St. Cloud State, Minn. (20-9)
20. Shaw, N.C. (27-4)
Bellarmine (Ky.), the 2011 national champion which was upset in the Elite Eight semifinals a year ago, is No. 2 with Washburn (Kan.), Alabama-Huntsville and Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) rounding out the first five. Metropolitan State (Colo.), Winston-Salem (N.C.), defending national champion Western Washington, Arkansas Tech and Tarleton State (Texas) comprise the rest of the top 10.
No other West Virginia Conference teams cracked the preseason Top 20 but Shepherd's Chad Moore, Pitt-Johnstown's Nick Novak and Fairmont State's Isaac Thornton joined Falk and Harris on the 24-man Basketball Times Preseason All-America Team.
The Hilltoppers open on the road Nov. 9 when they tip off against Urbana (Ohio) in the Don Callan Invitational at Cedarville (Ohio) University.