INDIANAPOLIS – After closing out the regular-season on a 12-game winning streak, the West Liberty University men’s basketball team heads into this week’s Mountain East Conference Tournament as the No. 1-ranked NCAA Division II squad in the Atlantic Region.
Coach Ben Howlett’s Hilltoppers (26-2) occupied that spot for the second consecutive week on Wednesday when the NCAA Division II Regional Ranking Committees released their last set of regular-season weekly rankings for the 2021-22 season.
These are the rankings used to select the qualifiers for the eight-team NCAA Division II regional tournaments. Each league’s tournament champion receives an automatic regional bid with the top five remaining teams filling out the 8-team fields. The team voted No. 1 in the final set of regional rankings is designated as the regional tournament host.
West Liberty, the defending Atlantic Region champion, once maintained a slim edge over No. 2 Indiana, Pa. (25-2), the top-ranked team from the PSAC. California, Pa. (19-8) moved up one spot to No. 3 despite taking its seventh and eighth losses of the season last week. West Virginia State (23-6) vaulted four spots to No. 4 off a pair of impressive wins with Mercyhurst (24-5) rounding out the top five.
Fairmont State (21-6) fell three spots to No. 6 after a loss to unranked Frostburg State. Pitt-Johnstown (19-8) was seventh, followed by Millersville (22-5), Virginia Union (23-7) and Charleston (21-6).
The only team to have clinched an Atlantic Region Tournament berth didn’t make this week’s Top 10. Fayetteville State (23-6) defeated Virginia Union, 65-62, in the CIAA Tournament championship game to earn the league’s automatic bid.
The final set of rankings will be compiled this weekend after all conference tournaments have been completed. The 2021-22 NCAA Division II Tournament field will be announced late Sunday night. The Atlantic Region Tournament will be held March 12-15 with the 2021-22 NCAA Division II Elite Eight scheduled for March 22-26 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
The Hilltoppers open Mountain East Conference Tournament play in Friday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal when they take on the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between No. 8 seed Glenville State and No. 9 seed Wheeling.
NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Rankings
(Through games of Sunday, Feb. 27)
Div. II In-Region
Team Record Record
1. WEST LIBERTY 26-2 24-2
2. Indiana (Pa.) 25-2 25-2
3. California (Pa.) 19-8 19-8
4. W.Va. State 23-6 21-6
5. Mercyhurst 22-5 22-5
6. Fairmont State 21-6 20-6
7. Pitt-Johnstown 19-8 19-8
8. Millersville 22-5 22-5
9. Virginia Union 23-7 23-7
10. Charleston 21-6 21-6