2023 is officially upon us! Hope you had a great final day of 2022 on Saturday. 2022 D3hoops.com National Player of the Year Kenedy Shelton (formerly Schoonveld) made the comment Saturday on Instagram that the year feels like it went in two parts for her, as the national championship run for Hope feels quite long ago, actually. It’s easy to forget that even as we discuss all the ups and downs in this first half of the current season, we witnessed a thrilling month of February and the NCAA Tournament that followed back in March. 2022 was a year filled with so many memories. Let’s hope 2023 has the same in store.
So on the final day of 2022 and the first day of 2023, what stood out to me? Here’s a few thoughts…
- DeSales is almost a lock for my Top 10 at this point, but the Bulldogs put a performance on the floor yesterday against CCNY that was nothing short of remarkable. It’s also one of the most lopsided scores I’ve seen this season. DeSales trounced CCNY, 82-18. Yes, you read that right. A 64-point victory for the nation’s #12 team. Everyone who played scored for DeSales and interestingly enough, the stats were not all that eye-popping on the offensive end. They shot a respectable 42.7% from the field, struggled from beyond the arc (1-of-19 on three-pointers), and were just 55% at the free throw line on 20 attempts. But defensively, CCNY had just one scorer with multiple made shots, as they were just 7-of-40 shooting. CCNY turned the ball over 37 times, and scored just two points in the entire fourth quarter.
- #6 Amherst lost its second game of the week, a very uncharacteristic showing from a team that is normally very consistent defensively. After falling to Concordia-Moorhead on Thursday, the Mammoths fell to Chapman, 69-64, on Sunday. Chapman turned the ball over just six times, which is impressive against a defense of Amherst’s caliber, and though the Mammoths had the lead entering the fourth quarter, Chapman put 18 points on the board in the final quarter. Amherst had just 12. We’ll see how Amherst begins conference play against Williams on Friday. The tough thing about the NESCAC schedule is you play on back-to-back days every week, so your game prep and the way you go about keeping your roster healthy is different than teams in other top conferences where a Wednesday/Saturday or Thursday/Saturday schedule is typical. I’ve always wondered whether playing consecutive days during conference play (SCAC often does it too) is more of a benefit or a challenge.
- Eastern Connecticut is somewhat on my radar, not necessarily as a Top 25 candidate, but as the likely favorite to win the Little East Conference. The Warriors are 9-3, 3-0 in LEC play, and those three losses have come to Babson, Trinity (CT), and Smith. Not bad. They took down Middlebury in double overtime on Saturday for their fifth straight victory. Anna Barry might end up being the LEC Player of the Year, and put up a very strong stat line on Saturday, with 16 points and 22 rebounds in 48 minutes. Talk about a career day. She added three steals and three blocks.
- I was actually a little bit surprised by the 67-49 road win for Colorado College over Schreiner on Saturday. Maybe CC caught Schreiner on a bad day, but this was a Schreiner team that took down a respectable D-II program just before Christmas. The offensive rhythm was not there at all for the Mountaineers, who had just eight points in the fourth quarter. I really liked how CC attacked the boards, outrebounding Schreiner 55-29. Still, Schreiner managed to force 22 turnovers, a handful coming from the Mountaineers’ full-court press, which is very well run. CC just broke the press enough times that it didn’t play as big of a factor as it had in previous games for Schreiner.
- I know I’ve already said this, but keep an eye on UW-River Falls in the WIAC. Under interim head coach Shelby Lyman, the Falcons are 11-2, having turned the corner in the big three-point win over UW-Whitewater back in December. Now, beating UW-Superior as they did Saturday is not the same as beating a WIAC power, but the way that UWRF is playing is eye-opening. When you watch them, there is a great balance between the posts and the guards, which really spreads the defense out. Macy Nilsen has to be in the WIAC Player of the Year discussion, She’s averaging 14.2 PPG, and 6.4 RPG averaging around 24 minutes per game. Then there’s Julia Siedel, who had 11 points, and Zoey Buchan, who had 13, in Saturday’s 16-point win over UW-Superior. UWRF has so much depth on the roster, it really plays to their advantage.
- Admittedly, I dropped Millikin out of my ballot fairly quickly (though I left them in for a week longer than most voters) when the Big Blue struggled in the early part of the season. Now, you look, and think, how are they not ranked? Give it another week, and I think we’ll be seeing Millikin receiving significant votes again. The Big Blue is 10-3, 4-0 in CCIW play. Bailey Coffman is back after a horrific jaw break a day after a big-time performance in an exhibition against E. Illinois in early November. It was nice to see her back on the floor, and she can really give Millikin an advantage in the post. Coffman played 16 minutes in Saturday’s 81-63 win over Greenville, scoring eight points.
- Looking ahead to today’s action, I think the game of the day is in Belton, where #16 Mary Hardin-Baylor faces #18 UC Santa Cruz at 3 pm EST. Now, because we haven’t voted since before Christmas, it’s likely both teams would be in the 20-25 range right now, but ranked nonetheless. These are two talented squads, who both need this game for regional ranking purposes. It took a lot to keep this game on the schedule, with all the flight craziness late last week. Initially, this contest was scheduled for Friday, but instead it was moved to Monday, making it the game to watch this afternoon. The guard play will be huge. Arieona Rosborough, Payton Hicks, Lauren Baker, and Jaycie Brisco are all guards who can score and get to the lane quickly. Tess Oakley-Stilson and Aubrey Wagner are UCSC’s top guards. The Banana Slugs have the advantage in the post, so I’ll be interested to see how UMHB defends that. Plus, UCSC is so experienced, this group has developed a cohesion that UMHB is working on forming, but just hasn’t had as much time.
- But don’t forget about the showdown in Ithaca, where #24 Ithaca battles Hamilton in what should be a really good game. Tipping at 2 p.m. EST , this pits Ithaca, who hasn’t played a game since Dec. 7, against Hamilton, who had #8 Baldwin Wallace on the ropes this past Friday on the road. Ithaca needs to find its rhythm early, as you don’t want to fall behind by too much to a team like Hamilton. Hamilton is one of those teams who could potentially end the year outside of the Top 25, just because there is so much parity, but could absolutely become the Cinderella team of the NCAA Tournament. There are just so many playmakers on that roster, if the defense is a little better than it was against BW in the second half, Hamilton should have a good chance to win some big games down the stretch this season. Winning today would be big for Hamilton especially, since the Continentals play in a very deep NESCAC and RRO wins will come in handy once tournament time rolls around. Not to mention, a few key victories, such as one today, could put Hamilton into the Top 25.
If you’re wondering where my Top 25 ballot is, which I typically publish on here every Monday, the voting has been delayed by a day due to New Year’s, so I’ll have that tomorrow. Games from today will be accounted into that ballot (I would think), so I’m waiting on a few results (ref. above) before making my final ballot. There’s going to be so much movement between the last poll and this one. Anyway, enjoy your day as we move into 2023 and keep supporting D3 women’s hoops!
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