D3 Women's Update: Preview of 5 Excellent Conferences
The clock keeps ticking with just a few more months before the NCAA 2022-23 season arrives.
Most conferences in Women’s Division III showed immense promise last year and proved their resilience in returning from the pandemic.
Let’s take a peek into five conferences that exude excellence.
1. Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA)
The MIAA will deliver some of the best women’s basketball played to date this upcoming season. Hope, Trine, Calvin, and Albion, the top 4 teams in the conference last year, demonstrate why the MIAA is a threat to any team looking for a championship.
At the end of last season, Hope and Trine became the number 1 and 2 ranked teams in the nation.
In a close match in the 2022 NCAA Tournament semifinals, Hope barely edged out Trine and went on to capture the championship.
Despite graduating many senior starters, Trine can not be counted out.
They have some gems in new seniors Alyssa Argyle and Sam Underhill, who each averaged around 6 points a game in 18 minutes of play. Both will have the opportunity to come alive this year and help lead the team.
And you can only expect another killer tournament run from Hope.
“Our goals remain the same each year,” Brian Morehouse, the head coach of Hope College, said. “Win the non-conference tournaments, win the MIAA, and win the league tournament. It should be a huge challenge given the depth of our league this year.”
Morehouse struggled to recall a time when the MIAA had ever been as deep with stacked teams as it is now.
Like Trine, some of Hope’s best players graduated this past year, but they have a talented field of freshmen and sophomores to propel the team forward. Abi Tarrant, a rising sophomore, put up fantastic numbers for the amount of playing time she received.
The Calvin Knights and Albion Britons have work cut out for them against two national championship contenders. If the teams get past Hope and Trine during MIAA play, they could be hoisting the next NCAA trophy.
The Britons are loaded with juniors and seniors this year, with a few standouts. Daniah Beavers, a junior, is one of the strongest players for Albion. The 6’3” center consistently puts points on the board, elevating the Britons past competition.
Elena Walker, a senior for the Britons, is an incredibly powerful guard. Named All-MIAA Second Team, she put impressive accomplishments to her name, including a 25-point game against Adrian.
2. New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC)
If last season was an indicator of things to come, NESCAC will be pumping out tournament-ready teams.
Tufts University, ranked number 10 by the end of the season, finished at the top of the conference with a 22-5 record and fell short of Amherst in the NCAA tournament's third round. Losing a one-score game, 45-48, Tufts is ready to come back and fight for a title this year.
Like Tufts, Bates College faced a third-round exit, losing to New York University.
Amherst, ranked number 4, battled their way to the semifinals before a loss to the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks. After Amherst’s 25-4 total record, there are some large expectations to meet.
Sophomore Reeya Patel and freshman Anling Vera, some of Amherst’s younger players, are sure to dazzle this season and become the new core of the Mammoths.
Both players put up stunning career highs this past year. Patel pummeled Wesleyan with 27 points, and Vera rained threes on Bowdoin, giving her a career-high of 26 points.
Despite disheartening NCAA tournament losses from teams within the conference, the NESCAC produces squads that have the drive and ability to win it all this upcoming season.
3. American Southwest Conference (ASC)
Between #16 Mary Hardin-Baylor, East Texas Baptist, and Hardin Simmons, the ASC is in for a ride this year.
In a bout of inter-conference drama, Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Crusaders eliminated East Texas Baptist in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Mary Hardin-Baylor then came up short of a trip to the quarterfinals, losing to #5 Transylvania by 5 points.
The Crusaders are full of championship-winning talent this upcoming year.
“After three straight Sweet Sixteen appearances, our goal this season is to advance to a Final Four,” Mark Morefield, head coach of Mary-Hardin Baylor, said. “We want to take each day one at a time and grow as a team and a culture.”
Keep an eye on sophomore Arieona Rosborough after her jaw-dropping career highs from freshman year. Tallying 26-points against Sul Ross State, it’s hard to fathom the heights she will reach this year.
Hardin Simmons proved in their close first-round loss to Trinity (TX) that they can hold their own against some of the best teams in the nation. Trinity proceeded to the quarter-finals before getting knocked out.
East Texas Baptist has the drive for another shot at glory if they keep the momentum that they are riding right now. Achieving a 15-3 record in conference play this past year, the Tigers can dominate the conference again this year if they stay prowling for a tournament win.
They have remained hungry for victory after repeated trips to the tournament and an Elite Eight loss in 2018.
Losing a few of their powerful seniors this year, the Tigers will now look to its new talent to help get them past their competition.
Jade Goynes, a sophomore, received an All-ASC honorable mention and was named to the ASC All-Freshman team last year. If the team keeps bringing in talent of this caliber, they have an exciting future.
4. American Rivers Conference (ARC)
Between Simpson and Wartburg, the ARC is housing teams with the potential for a deep tournament run.
Simpson, coming off a season of undefeated conference play, faced an early second-round exit in the NCAA tournament after a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
The Simpson squad was heavy with freshmen and sophomores, with 12 out of 25 members being freshmen, giving much room for development as time progresses.
Regan Freland is a player to watch going into her junior year. In her sophomore year with Simpson, she averaged 10.3 points per game, a number sure to go up with training this off-season.
Cassie Nash is a favorite to help lead the team after her 14.8 points per game average and a substantial 57.9% field goal percentage.
Despite a first-round loss for Wartburg, the team remains incredibly strong. Finishing last season with an impressive 13-3 record in conference play, they look to keep pushing through their challenging games and return to the Big Dance.
Wartburg has weapons in Jaedon Murphy and Sara Faber.
Murphy had an average of 15.3 points per game last season, starting every game, and was named to the first all-ARC team.
Faber played a game for the books against Loras, putting up 26 points. She averaged 10.8 points per game this past season and was named to the second all-ARC team.
Loras College is not to be slept on. Coming in 3rd in the ARC, the Duhawks pulled off a 12-4 record in their conference. If they up the ante a bit, we could see them go dancing this season.
5. College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW)
Milikin, ranked number 18 by the end of the tournament, runs the CCIW. However, Illinois Wesleyan is slowly encroaching on Milikin’s supremacy.
Illinois Wesleyan was just shy of being ranked, receiving 41 votes from D3Hoops. Number 25 Wisconsin Lutheran received 48 votes, showing the narrow margin that Illinois Wesleyan missed being ranked.
Both Milikin and Illinois Wesleyan finished with a 14-2 record in conference play and proceeded to the tournament. Losing in the third round to #1 Hope, Milikin’s fantastic season came to a close.
The Illinois Wesleyan Titans wowed spectators with an upset, beating #24 DePauw by one point. The Titans exited the tournament in the second round after a loss to #3 Wisconsin-Whitewater, who went onto the finals.
Lauren Huber was the Titans’ standout newcomer. Dropping a 31-point game against Rose-Hulman, she’s sure to keep spectators enthralled. She was named to the first All-CCIW team, the first freshman in the program’s history to receive that honor.
The team has proven to the conference and themselves that they belong in the rankings and will surely bring dynamic games in the 2022-23 season.
“We open at Hope, the defending national champs, and then play Whitewater,” Mia Smith, the head coach of Illinois Wesleyan said. “How our youths handle those types of games will set the tone for our season. We will be ready or we will need to continue working.”
The Carroll University Pioneers, despite missing the tournament, were still ranked highly within the conference.
The CCIW had Carroll ranked the second-best team in the conference for offense and the best defensively. Their offense was second only to Milikin.
Achieving a 19-7 overall record last year, it is within the realm of reason to believe that Carroll could step up and make it to the tournament this season.
The sophomore Pioneers are looking ridiculously strong. In Olivia Rangel’s last three games as a freshman, she put up 22, 27, and 24 points respectively.
Chloe Halverson, another sophomore this year, had a 6.5 points per game average, but she really came alive at the end of the season. Dropping 16 points on North Central and 17 on North Park in February, she’s starting to find her stride.
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