BEAVERTON, Ore. With all five starters returning from a second consecutive 30-win season and Elite Eight run, West Liberty's high-flying Hilltoppers are No. 1 in the Division II Bulletin's 2012-13 men's basketball preseason rankings.
The Division II Bulletin has released an annual Preseason Top 25 each year since 1991 and is celebrating its 22nd anniversary during the 2012-13 season.
Head coach Jim Crutchfield, who ranks No. 1 among all NCAA men's coaches in winning percentage (207-43, .828), brings back his entire regular rotation from last year's 32-3 squad which followed up its third straight West Virginia Conference championship by defending its NCAA Division II Atlantic Region crown and earning a second straight trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight national championships.
His Hilltoppers return all five starters, led by All-America senior guard Alex Falk (18.0 ppg.), All-WVIAC junior backcourter Cedric Harris (15.8 ppg.) and 2012 WVIAC Freshman of the Year C.J. Hester (14.4 ppg.). Rounding out the returning starters are senior guard Tim Hausfeld (12.3 ppg.) and senior forward Chris Morrow (12.9 ppg.).
Additional depth and scoring punch will be provided by sophomore guard Shawn Dyer, who averaged 11.5 ppg. in a reserve role last winter, along with junior forwards Keene Cockburn and Nick Brown, who saw significant action in all but a handful of games. Also expected to make their presence felt this season are promising redshirt freshmen Kelvin "Bubby" Goodwin and Mike Lamberti.
Franklin Pierce (N.H.) is No. 2 in the Division II Bulletin rankings with Findlay (Ohio), Washburn (Kan.) and Metro State (Colo.) rounding out the top five. Alabama-Huntsville is No. 6, followed by Colorado School of Mines, defending national champion Western Washington, Bellarmine (Ky.) and Seattle Pacific. The University of Charleston, which earned an NCAA Division II Atlantic Region bid after carrying West Liberty to overtime in the WVIAC Tournament championship game, was among several schools listed as "Teams to Watch."
The national spotlight will shine on the Hilltoppers early as West Liberty travels to No. 3 Findlay on Nov. 14 in what shapes up as an important early-season showdown. The Oilers, then ranked No. 7 in the nation, dribbled into the ASRC last November and handed the No. 6-ranked Hilltoppers an 84-80 overtime loss. That loss snapped West Liberty's 48-game regular-season winning streak and a 49-game home winning streak.
The Hilltoppers open the 2012-13 campaign on Nov. 9 when they tip off against Urbana (Ohio) in the opening game of the Don Callan Invitational at Cedarville (Ohio) University.