West Liberty Ranked 12th, Jesuit Rises to 14th in Poll

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The West Liberty University men’s basketball team will be the highest-ranked team in this week’s NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament after slotting in at No. 12 when the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) released the season’s final Top 25 poll on Tuesday.

Mountain East Conference Coach of the Year Ben Howlett’s Hilltoppers (26-3) hammered West Virginia State, 133-106, in an MEC Tournament quarterfinal on Friday only to wind up as upset victims on Saturday when Charleston eked out a 97-95 overtime win in the semifinals.

Nevertheless, West Liberty earned its ninth consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament bid and will be the No. 4 seed in this weekend’s regional, hosted by Virginia State University. The No. 12 ranking extended WLU’s record run of consecutive poll appearances to 126 weeks – a streak dating all the way back to Feb. 2, 2010.

In fact, the two highest ranked teams in the regional field hail from the MEC as Wheeling Jesuit (26-5) jumped from No. 21 to No. 14 after claiming the first MEC Tournament title in school history.

Virginia State (24-4), the region’s No. 1 seed and tournament host, slipped two spots to No. 17 after being upset in the CIAA Tournament semifinals. No. 2 seed East Stroudsburg (24-5), the PSAC Tournament champion, and No. 6 seed West Chester (21-6) were among teams receiving votes.

The top four slots in the national poll remained unchanged with Lincoln Memorial, Tenn. (30-1) collecting 13 of the 16 first-place votes to easily retain the No. 1 spot. Ferris State, Mich. (32-1), Western Oregon (29-1) and Bellarmine, Ky. (28-2) followed once again with defending national champion Northwest Missouri State (27-3) squeezing back into the top five.