Dragons men ranked in Top 10 for first time in Division II history
Moorhead - Tuesday was a historic day for the Minnesota State Moorhead men’s basketball team, as it cracked the top 10 in the national poll.
The Dragons earned the No. 8 spot in this week’s National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II poll, the first time the program has been ranked in the top 10 since it moved to NCAA Division II in 1995.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to the polls or anything, but it doesn’t mean anything for us on how we approach things,” said Dragons head coach Chad Walthall.
“We haven’t talked anything about that.”
The Dragons have a 20-1 record, tying the best start in program history with the 1970-71 team, which was ranked as high as No. 4 in the NAIA poll. That 1970-71 squad was the last team that cracked the top 10 in the nation in any division.
“Everyone looks at it and gets a little bit excited,” MSUM senior guard Jordan Riewer said of the ranking. “But at the same time, we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
The Dragons are tied with Augustana for first place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference with 11-1 league marks. They are on an eight-game winning streak heading into this weekend.
MSUM plays host to Minnesota-Crookston on Friday and Bemidji State on Saturday at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse. The Dragons’ only setback was a 60-58 loss at Minnesota-Duluth in mid-December.
MSUM has won four consecutive road games over the past two conference weekends.
Walthall said his team’s maturity has played a role in the sustained success.
“When you win that many games without losing a whole lot, you’re probably going to have a team that is consistent and even keel,” Walthall said.
Improved defense has been key for MSUM, which had a 21-8 record last season. The Dragons ranks second in the NSIC in team defense, allowing 64.0 points per game.
“One of the big things that we’ve improved on in the last four years is defense,” said Riewer, in his fourth year as a starter. “We really pride ourselves in playing defense. … The defense has been great.”
MSUM athletic director Doug Peters has enjoyed watching the success this team has had through 21 games.
“They’re not done, but it is something special and something they worked really hard at to accomplish,” Peters said. “A 20-1 record is not something that happens every day. You need to enjoy it.”