Hilltoppers men return to No. 1 spot in national hoops poll
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The unbeaten West Liberty University men’s basketball team found itself in a familiar spot Tuesday afternoon when the Hilltoppers moved up to No. 1 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) weekly NCAA Division II Top 25 poll.
West Liberty (5-0), which hasn’t played since a 128-69 romp past West Virginia State on Nov. 25, received 12 of the 16 first-place votes and 391 points to move up from the No. 2 spot it had occupied in recent weeks. This marks the fourth consecutive year Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers have been ranked No. 1 in the nation at some point during the season and is the 21st No. 1 ranking for the Black and Gold. It’s also the 28th consecutive top 5 ranking for the Hilltoppers, who have won 116 of their last 120 regular-season games.
West Liberty finished the 2011 and 2013 campaigns as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nationwide coaches’ balloting and has now been ranked in 53 consecutive NABC Top 25s dating back to the 2009-10 season. That’s the longest active streak in the nation.
After beating three NCAA Division I opponents in the Preseason NIT, Metro State (Colo.) was knocked out of the No. 1 spot in its return to NCAA Division II play on Saturday night. The Roadrunners fell, 72-69, at then-No. 7-ranked Western Washington.
That opened the door for West Liberty to take over the No. 1 spot with Bellarmine (Ky.) picking up three of the four remaining first-place votes to move up to No. 2. Defending national champion Drury (Mo.) is No. 3 this week with Florida Southern and Western Washington rounding out the top five.
Metro State checks in at No. 6 with Atlantic Region power Indiana (Pa.) moving up three spots from No. 10 to No. 7. Findlay stayed at No. 8 with Minnesota State and Dixie State (Utah) completing the Top 10.
No. 17 East Stroudsburg (Pa.) was the only other Atlantic Region team to receive a vote in this week’s poll.
The Hilltoppers are scheduled to end their 10-day Thanksgiving hiatus on Thursday when the make the trek north to South Euclid, Ohio and an MEC test against Notre Dame (OH). Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.