Hilltoppers Are No. 2 in Region

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The West Liberty University men’s basketball team moved to No. 2 on Wednesday when the NCAA Division II Ranking Committee released its third set of weekly Atlantic Region rankings.

Virginia State (21-3) squeezed past the Hilltoppers (25-2) to take over the No. 1 spot. The Trojans won twice last week and carry a 6-game winning streak into this week’s CIAA Tournament while West Liberty, which had won 25 of its first 26 games, dropped an 84-74 decision to Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday in a battle of nationally- and regionally-ranked powers.

There was quite a bit of movement in the rankings behind the two front-runners.

West Chester (20-5) moved up one spot to No. 3 with East Stroudsburg (21-5) vaulting all the way from No. 7 to No. 4 on the strength of two quality wins. Wheeling Jesuit (22-5) also jumped three spots to No. 5 on the strength of its upset win against the Black and Gold.

Indiana, Pa. (22-7) dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 with Shippensburg (20-6) plummeting three spots to No 7 after a double-digit loss at West Chester. Kutztown (19-6), Fairmont State (21-7) and Gannon (20-8) rounded out the 10-team list.

The regional rankings help determine the qualifiers for next week’s NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament. Each league’s tournament champion receives an automatic regional bid with the top five remaining teams in the final set of regional rankings filling out the eight-team field. The highest-ranked team serves as host squad for the regional tournament.

The regional rankings figure to get one more shuffle this week with all three leagues in the region — the MEC, CIAA and PSAC — holding their conference tournaments. The NCAA will announce pairings and sites for all eight regional tournaments late Sunday night.

The Atlantic Region Tournament is scheduled for March 10-13 with the 2018 NCAA Division II Elite Eight to be held March 20-24 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.