Making bold and way-too-early predictions about an upcoming sports season brings a great deal of pleasure to any fan, journalist or spectator. No rosters have been set and nobody knows what to expect, but still, every year, people attempt to foresee what teams improve, fall off the top, or remain a powerhouse.
That tradition continues in this article.
On March 19, 2022, the NCCAA D-I women’s basketball season concluded with Southwestern Christian University beating Oakland City University in the National Championship 68-55. Now, with the season months away, predictions on which teams will continue to dominate and which teams will up their level of play must be made.
College of the Ozarks
The 2021-22 season ended unexpectedly for the Bobcats. As the No. 1 seed in the NCCAA National Championship, they fell to the No. 8 seed Roberts Wesleyan College. But have no fear Ozarks fans. The Bobcats have always been a competitive team and nothing will change as long as Becky Mullis remains at the helm.
Coach Mullis has been the head of the program for the last nine years and has won over 20 games each season. She also earned the NCCAA Division I Women's Basketball Regional Coach of the Year award twice from 2016-2018.
On the downside, the Bobcats lose a former NCCAA Third Team All-American in Jordan Wersinger and a six-foot center who averaged a double-double last season in Annie Noah. They both graduate and take their talents with them soon.
However, the leading scorer for the College of the Ozarks last season returns. Junior guard Kayley Frank scored 14.9 points per game – 18th best in the league. With Frank leading the way, the Bobcats finished 17th in scoring. Additionally, she contributed a team-leading 37 steals last season.
The winning atmosphere at the College of the Ozarks will not be going anywhere as long as Mullis and Frank continue to elevate the team to an elite level.
Oakland City University
The runner-up in last season’s national championship has nothing to worry about going into the 2022-23 season. Over the next few years, the Mighty Oaks will continue to make themselves known as title contenders.
Oakland City is headed by coach Fahkara Malone. In just her second season at the helm, the Mighty Oaks put forth a record of 19-13, improving from their previous record of 8-15. Malone and the Mighty Oaks also won the Mideast Region Championship and finished fifth on the NCCAA’s rankings.
A large part of the team's success came from sophomore guard Emilee Hope. In only her second year, she scored 16.9 points per game (seventh in the league) and led the league in three-point field goal percentage. As Hope grows into her superstar role, her success on the court will likely translate into more wins for the Mighty Oaks.
Hope will not be the only key player returning to Oakland City next year. Junior center Jalaya Dowell led the league in field goal percentage and dominated the glass, averaging 6.8 rebounds per game.
The efficiency of this dynamic duo and the leadership of Malone give the Mighty Oaks a great chance to compete for the title next season.
Kentucky Christian University
The Kentucky Christian University Knights should expect a breakout year. Last season they failed to surface to the top 10 in power ratings and make it to the national tournament, but there’s a chance that will all change next year.
Although they couldn’t break into the top 10, the Knights didn’t have a disappointing season. They finished 18-15 and 14th on the latest power ratings list. The team will only get better considering their entire roster runs off of underclassmen.
This team of young, yet talented hoopers, put up respectable numbers during the 2021-22 season. The team as a whole scored 72.2 points per game last season, shooting 42 percent from the field.
Jenna Blakley, a sophomore forward, led the team in points (15.4), field goal percentage (.487), three-point percentage (.424) and free throw percentage (.829).
Another key player for the Knights is sophomore guard Anna Keeton who contributed 14.5 points per game (20th in the league).
The fifth-year head coach, Lisa Conn, has an entire team under her that can perform at a high level and they have so much time to grow.
Other top teams: Asbury University, Cedarville University, Grace College, Lancaster Bible College, Roberts Wesleyan College, Southwestern Christian University and Sterling College.
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