CBT's D2 Women's Update
In the words of the great Jon Rothstein, “This is March.” This month, fans will be treated to four thrilling weeks of buzzer-beaters, shocking upsets and nail-biting finishes. As the Division-II women’s basketball tournament draws near, let's take a closer look at some of the teams who can make some noise in the brackets, from the contenders to the Cinderellas.
1) Glenville State: No surprise here. The Pioneers are the unquestioned favorites to win it all. The team boasts a 29-1 record and has throttled opponents by an average of 34.1 points per game. Head coach Kim Stephens’ team ranks in the top five nationally in several categories, but the dominance starts with the offense. The Pioneers have reached the century mark in points 11 times this season and boast the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense at 97.1 points a game — a remarkable 14.8 points ahead of the second-best scoring offense. However, Glenville State can also get after it on the defensive end, as it has held opponents under 60 points on 12 occasions and has forced 14.7 steals a game. That ranks third in the nation.
2) Grand Valley State: Head coach Mike Williams has experienced a historic season. Williams earned career victory number 300 and a GLIAC conference championship following a 54-44 victory over Davenport on Feb. 17. Next, the Lakers ended the regular season on a 20-game winning streak, the longest regular-season streak in program history. Powering the Lakers is their suffocating defense, which is holding opponents to a nation-leading 48.9 points a contest on 33.3 percent shooting. On the offensive end, Grand Valley State is led by a trio of double-digit scorers, with junior guard Emily Spitzley, freshman guard/forward Rylie Bisballe, and freshman guard Ellie Droste averaging 12.9, 11.9 and 11.7 points a game, respectively.
3) Union: The Lady Bulldogs will spearhead the South Region with a 26-2 record and perfect 18-0 record in the Gulf South Conference. It’s the team’s first perfect conference record since joining the GSC in 2014 as well as the conference’s first perfect record since 2010-11. Head coach Mark Campbell’s team secured two quality victories over top-20 opponents, defeating No. 6 Central Missouri 79-75 Nov. 20 and No. 16 Lee 79-69 Dec. 2. Union poses a threat to the field with its lethal three-point shooting, as it leads the nation with a 39.9 percent three-point field goal percentage. Graduate and freshman guards Emily Beard and Bethany Dillard could frustrate opposing defenses with their elite shooting, as the tandem ranks third and 11th in the nation in three-point shooting at 44.6 and 43.2 percent.
Teams that can make a run:
1) Lubbock Christian: The reigning NCAA champions must be on this list. Head coach Steve Gomez’s team may not be as dominant as last year’s 23-0 squad, but the Chaps have put together another impressive resume that could strike fear in opposing team’s eyes. The 26-6 Chaps have earned three victories over top-20 opponents, most notably defeating then-No.1 Lander 76-72 on Nov. 19. Lubbock Christian is once again led by its stellar defense, which ranks fourth in the nation with just 52.4 points per game allowed on 37.8 percent shooting. Graduate guard Allie Schulte paces the offense in scoring for the second consecutive season, averaging 11.8 points a game along with 3.6 boards and 3.2 assists per game. Graduate guard Ashton Duncan follows Schulte with 10.6 points and 2.3 rebounds a contest.
2) Southwestern Oklahoma State: After falling to Harding 77-69 on Jan. 22, the Lady Bulldogs got hot at the right time, collecting 11 straight wins to enter postseason play. This streak earned head coach Kelsi Musick’s team the Great American Conference regular season crown for the fourth consecutive season. Leading the Lady Bulldogs through this hot streak is sophomore forward Makyra Tramble, who earned GAC player of the year for the second consecutive season after stuffing the stat sheets with 19.6 points, 5.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game. Tramble spearheads a formidable Lady Bulldogs offense that ranks third in the nation with both 82.2 points and 9.7 three-point makes a contest.
3) Kutztown: While Kutztown had its 2020-21 season canceled due to COVID-19, the Golden Bears have made the most of their return to the court, earning a program-record 25 regular season wins and a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference regular season championship. Head coach Janet Malouf’s team will be a tough out in the NCAA tournament due to stifling defense, which has held opponents to under 50 points in 14 games this season. These performances have enabled the Golden Bears to rank first in the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 32.3 percent. On the offensive end, Kutztown is led by a duo of double-digit scorers, with senior guard Rylee Derr and junior forward Casey Remolde averaging 13.3 and 11.4 points per game, respectively on a combined 41.2 percent shooting.
4) Walsh: The 26-4 Cavaliers will enter the dance with a trio of veteran standouts who produce on both ends of the floor, a recipe for postseason success. Walsh’s production starts with senior guard/forward Sha Carter. The Southfield, Michigan, native was named Great Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year after reaching double figures in scoring in 27 regular-season games and compiling 19 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and more than 2 steals a contest. These efforts propelled her to reach 2,000 points in her career on Feb. 24 — making her the first Cavalier to ever reach that feat. Complimenting Carter for the Cavaliers is graduate forward Mayci Sales, who recorded eight double-doubles in the regular season along with a block a contest, and senior guard Morgan McMillen, who leads the nation with a 48 percent three-point field goal percentage.
1) Barton: Although Barton is just the No. 6 seed in the Southeast region, the 28-1 Bulldogs feature a formidable frontcourt that has dominated its opponents in the paint. Barton’s frontcourt success starts with senior center Shanika Peterkin, who will enter the tournament as one of the top centers in the nation. Peterkin earned Conference Carolinas Player and Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season after posting a team-high 18 points and 2.8 blocks per game along with 10.6 rebounds a contest. Joining Peterkin in the paint is fellow senior center Jami Tham, who has recorded 13 double-doubles and nine 20-plus point games.
2) Savannah St: Savannah State also has just two losses on the season, despite earning the No. 8 seed in the South region. The 27-2 Tigers own the No. 7 scoring offense in the nation at 80.9 points a game and have reached the century mark twice this season, including a resounding 123-46 victory over Morris College on Feb. 10. Leading this offensive explosion is senior guard Le’Andrea Gillis, who ranks 18th in the nation with a 42.1 percent three-point field goal percentage and is averaging 14.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a contest. Head coach Cedric Barker’s team has used this offensive production to outscore its opponents by 20.1 points a game, third in the nation only to Glenville St and Barton.
3) Wayne St: After failing to make the NCAA tournament in 2020-21, the Warriors have paved their way into the big dance with elite interior play. Head coach Carrie Lohr’s team has collected a nation-leading 31.6 defensive rebounds a game, earning them a plus-8.8-rebounding margin. Senior forward Sam Cherney has emerged as a formidable presence inside the paint on both ends of the floor, as she averaged a double-double this season with both 11.9 points and rebounds a contest. She added a GLIAC-leading 2.5 blocks a game. Joining the party on offense is fellow senior forward Grace George, who recorded a team-leading 13.6 points along with 5.7 rebounds a game.
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