The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: Championship Game preview: A look at both offenses

This is coming out a day later than I wanted it to, but regardless, it is crazy to think that we have just three days left of the 2022-23 D-III basketball season! What an amazing year…those games in November feel like an eternity ago and part of that is because the women’s season has been extended by a couple weeks as compared to most years, with the D-III national championship being played in a combined setting alongside the D-I Final Four and D-II national championship game.

That matchup features the nation’s top two “vote-getters” in terms of total points received in the year’s 14 Top 25 polls: #1 Christopher Newport and #2 Transylvania. Each carries a flawless record into Saturday’s championship in Dallas, with Transy at 32-0 overall, and CNU, 31-0. Needless to say, this is the #1 vs. #2 battle we always hope for come tournament time, but rarely get, thanks to improbable upsets and geographical seeding.

Splitting this into two parts, I’m planning to take a look at both teams’ offenses today, and follow that up with some notes on the defenses tomorrow. Then, Saturday morning I will have a post live from Dallas before tip-off. So stay tuned for all of that!

Transylvania … on offense


In terms of scoring production, the Pioneers do not lack depth, with four players averaging double figures in points. Second Team All-American Madison Kellione leads the way with 15.3 points per game, followed closely by Kennedi Stacy at 14.1. Dasia Thornton adds 12.2 per contest, and Laken Ball rounds out the group at 10.4. Not surprisingly, those four have started every game of the season for Transy, forming the backbone of the Pioneers’ success.

On the boards

Transy averages just over 15 offensive rebounds per contest, with 484 this season. Thornton leads the way with 111 total. The Pioneers are not great on the offensive glass, but have athletic guards as well as two experienced post players in Thornton and Ball who can pull down an offensive board when needed.


As a team, Transy has shot above 48% from the field in its last two games, and on the season, is 42.5% from the field. The Pioneers have range when necessary, averaging 8.5 3-pointers per game, but tend to work the ball inside whenever possible, taking plenty of mid-range jumpers and shots at the rim. Against CNU’s man-to-man pressure defense, that could obviously change slightly, but it worked for the most part against Smith, who employed a man-to-man defense throughout the national semifinal contest. Transy favored the one-on-one matchup between Thornton and a Smith defender in the post in the semifinal win, which led to 18 points and nine free throws for Thornton. Look for that to be a factor against CNU, especially with the Captains’ limited depth in the post.

Final thoughts

Transylvania isn’t a team that is going to dominate in transition. Rather than pushing the ball upcourt frequently and risking a turnover, the Pioneers tend to be more slow-paced when holding possession, focusing on making good passes and getting the ball to the paint when possible. They aren’t afraid to pass the ball 10 times in order to get the best shot, which, as we saw against Smith, can make for a long day for the opposing defense, especially when that defense is running a man-to-man. Excited to see this disciplined and incredibly efficient offense in person.

Christopher Newport…on offense


CNU may only have two double digit scorers on its roster (one of whom will be unavailable for the title game), but the Captains have exceptional depth and phenomenal shooters up and down the bench. Sondra Fan, a Fourth Team All-American, leads the way with 14.4 points per game. Anaya Simmons, who averaged 13.7 PPG through 26 games injured her knee on the first weekend of the tournament and has been out for the remainder. Gabbi San Diego returned from an injury in the second half of this regular season, and displayed her shooting ability against Tufts in the Elite Eight, putting 32 points on the board. Both Fan and San Diego will be focal points for the CNU offense in Dallas. And while I’m mentioning those two, Gordon Mann of wrote a fantastic piece on their long-lasting connection prior to the national semifinal game against Rhode Island College. Check that out here:

In total, seven of the players expected to be available on Saturday average six points or more per game.

On the boards

The Captains have tallied 469 offensive rebounds per game this season, but 101 of those came from Simmons. Hannah Orloff is the next best rebounder offensively for CNU, with 59 this season. As a team, CNU has a number of guards who have pulled down a handful of offensive boards throughout the season, and that could very likely be the case on Saturday.

Shooting wise

CNU converts on 45.9% of this shooting attempts, the sixth-best mark nationally, and that consistency has contributed greatly to the Captains’ perfect record this season. On average, the Captains tally 30.8 made field goals per game, and while they have a group of guards with plenty of 3-point range, CNU’s aggressive attack on both ends of the floor results in plenty of drives to the basket. The Captains just have this ability to put their heads down and get to the rim, often drawing fouls along the way. They’ve been sent to the free throw line 20+ times in each of the last two games, and expect that to be a source of point production for CNU on Saturday.

Final Thoughts

CNU is a fun team to watch, because the guards and post players work so well together and they have a speed element to their offense that is very tough to defend. RIC held them to a shooting percentage of just 28.1% in the national semifinal, so CNU will obviously be looking for a better offensive showing in this one. They’ll need it against Transy’s defense, and I think we’ll see it. As mentioned above, the Captains’ fearless ability to get to the rim makes for exciting offensive possessions and can generate momentum in a hurry.

That’s a look at both offenses! Hope it was informative and on-point as we get ready for this showdown on Saturday morning. They posted photos of the court today and man, it is a great venue for a basketball game. Looking forward to it!

For any questions/feedback/corrections email me at or DM me on Twitter (@ZayasRiley).

The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: 5 teams who did not receive a Top 25 vote, but deserve recognition

I have started working on some postseason analysis articles, and something I was interested in putting together was the top five teams (in my opinion, mind you) who never received a Top 25 vote this season, but separated themselves for one reason or another. We focus so much on the Top 25 during the season, but there are a number of teams doing great things within their own conferences who don’t quite have national relevance (usually because of a weak conference/weak SOS). So I thought I’d look at five of those teams here. This list isn’t perfect by any means, and in non particular order. But I tried to give some insight into this past season, as well as what the future might look like for the program heading into next season. So here you go…

Ripon (20-7 overall, 14-1 MWC): Interestingly enough, the Red Hawks did not make the NCAA Tournament, but were one of the two teams ranked in Scott Peterson’s Top 50 that did not receive a single Top 25 vote this season. Despite falling to Knox in the MWC Tournament final, Ripon really impressed me this season in the games I watched them play, including in non-conference. The Red Hawks battled UW-La Crosse down to the wire in mid-November, falling 69-62, and took down what ended up being a very solid UW-Stout team, 67-59, on a neutral court. Ripon also played UW-Oshkosh tough, outscoring the Titans in both the third and fourth quarters.

Alison Leslie, Skyylar Brescia, Bonnie Jensen, all averaged double figures in points, and Leslie and Jensen do each have one year of eligibility remaining. Brescia was a fifth-year. So technically, Leslie and Jensen could return for a fifth season, but considering Ripon is a college, there is a good chance neither comes back. Without graduate degrees (from what I understand), it makes it much tougher for players to return for a fifth season. So keep an eye on that.

St. Norbert (24-4, 18-0 NACC): Due to playing in the NACC, SNC was overlooked by and large this season. To be honest, they weren’t a team I really even considered for my ballot, though I did follow the NACC closer than I had in years past, and going 18-0 in any league is very difficult. There were some solid teams in that league too, which kept parity present, and the standings competitive. But SNC was atop the whole time, and like Ripon, ranked in Scott’s Top 50.

They make this list in part because they did schedule very well….the four losses were to UW-Eau Claire (#13 at the time), Carroll (strong bubble team at one point), Randolph-Macon (First four out sort of team) and Hope (in the NCAA Tournament). Add that to a non-conference win over UWSP, along with the flawless conference record, and you have a quality, under-the-radar type of squad.

Don’t get me wrong…losing 71-43 to Carroll isn’t pretty, and the number of NACC games doesn’t leave a lot of room to play in more than one multi-team event, or make a long road trip in non-conference play. But SNC did well with the schedule it had, and also made the NCAA Tournament for the first time as the NACC’s Pool A qualifier.

Five seniors were listed on the roster this past year. Not sure what the outlook is heading into next season, but Kaycee Gierczak (who averaged 14.5 PPG) has two years of eligibility remaining, as does Natalie Cerrato (who played in all 28 games this past year). Two others have one year of eligibility left. Gierczak is the key. If she returns next year, SNC could make waves nationally with a good schedule and record. But like Ripon, St. Norbert is a college, and the fact that Gierczak was already listed as a senior despite this being her third collegiate season (per SNC website) makes me think she is close to graduating. Maybe we see her transfer to another program to continue her studies and basketball. Maybe there is a way she stays. I’m just speculating at this point.

Maine Maritime (22-7, 13-1 NAC): Maine Maritime put together its third 20-win season and tallied the most wins in a season since 2006-07, also reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years. They tallied 2,000 points in a season for the second time in program history, and watching them play, it was clear they had things figured out.

An NCAA Tournament team but probably not a Top 25 team, Maine Maritime fit into that category of being a name to know within Region 1, and a 20+ win team at that, though the SOS and number of notable wins weren’t there. They ranked in the Top 15 nationally in assists per game, and that ball movement paid dividends throughout the conference schedule.

Here is what I really like when it comes to Maine Maritime though. Of their top five starters (4 of whom started 27 games or more), four will presumably be back next season. One was a freshman, two were sophomores, and one was a junior. Only Lauren Plissey, the team’s second-leading scorer, will depart, having been a grad student this season. Obviously players can transfer, and things can come up, but if Maine Maritime can retain those four, including leading scorer Maria Barela, the future could be bright heading into next season.

Eastern Connecticut (22-6, 15-1 LEC): An NCAA Tournament team, EConn entered the national tournament ranked fourth in Region 2, just behind Rhode Island College, who made a Final Four run as the year’s undoubted “Cinderella” team. The fact that EConn lost in the Little East Conference championship put two LEC teams in the NCAA Tournament, and of all the teams on this list, I liked EConn’s resume best. Without winning the Pool A, Ripon, Maine Maritime, and St. Norbert don’t get in. But EConn was taken off the Pool C table within the first 15 rounds from what I understand, in large part because they were the second team in Region 2, just behind Babson, who was picked early.

What I’m trying to say is that while EConn never received a Top 25 vote, the Warriors’ national presence was there, landing them on this list. All four regular season losses were to NCAA Tournament teams (Trinity CT, Babson, Smith, RIC), and the margins were all respectable. In fact, Trinity won narrowly, 59-54, and Babson only beat EConn by eight, 77-69. Along with a win over Middlebury, the Warriors had a fairly strong schedule that prepared them well for LEC play, where they won the regular season conference title.

They nearly won an NCAA Tournament game too, leading 28-23 at halftime against Marietta. The Pioneers came back in the second half for a 51-47 victory in what was likely the final collegiate game for most (if not all) of EConn’s starting five. You never want to say a team is heading into a rebuilding year, having no idea what kind of young talent is up and coming within the program, but if the Warriors do indeed have to replace all five starters (consider all were seniors), it could be a tough start to the 2023-24 season come November.

Case Western Reserve (15-10, 6-8 UAA): The fifth team on my list, and again, these are in no particular order, comes from what may have been the toughest league this season (though my personal opinion would give the WIAC that title). CWRU went toe-to-toe with the likes of NYU, Chicago, WashU, and others in the UAA, and really improved over the course of the season.

The Spartans lost their two “high-quality” non-conference games to Marietta and Baldwin Wallace, but opened UAA play with a one-point win over Carnegie Mellon before adding a 74-64 victory over WashU later in the month. A win over Rochester and another win over WashU (this time in St. Louis) caught my attention, and watching them play via livestream several times, you could see the improvement taking place as they battled each week over the final two months of the season.

Next season, CWRU may be without Isabella Mills, who averaged 18.0 PPG and was the heart and soul of the team. But she does have one year of eligibility left, and everyone else who averaged above 5 PPG is either a junior or below. This could be a program on the rise in the UAA. Kayla Characklis is a name to remember, as she stepped up late in the season, and ended up averaging 11.4 PPG. The forward will be a senior next year.

That’s a wrap on this post. Scott Peterson and I will be doing another YouTube video (though this one will not be livestreamed) recapping the season and taking a look at some various topics in D3 WBB. Once it goes up next week, I’ll put a link here. It should be insightful, and will be interesting to look at some numbers from the preseason now that we are essentially at the season’s end.

Is anyone heading to Dallas next week for the national title game? Hope to see a great crowd. 1 week from tomorrow! Can’t wait. Have a great day.


February 14, 2023: The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: My Week 11 Top 25 ballot…with context

It’s that time of the week! The Week 11 Top 25 Poll is out and I submitted by ballot yesterday afternoon, which I posted to Twitter. It is crazy to believe we only have two ballots left to submit this year…this season has flown by. A few conference tournaments are starting this week, the rest coming next week. Before postseason action begins, here’s how I saw the Week 11 Top 25, with the ranking for each team in the poll listed in parentheses next to the ranking I gave that team in my ballot. As always, drop your thoughts in the comments section below. Also feel free to shoot me a DM on Twitter (@ZayasRiley) or an email at Always appreciate insight from readers! All the info listed below should be spot-on, but apologies in advance for any flaws. This is not a perfect perspective on the Top 25 by any means. Just one voter’s view of things. As we’ve said so many times this season, there is such a vast number of top quality D3 WBB programs that several great teams will be left off ballots each week.

Side Note: Your D3 hoops viewing schedule tonight should include the rematch between DeSales and Stevens, as DeSales seeks to avenge its only loss of the year. 8 pm EST tip-off in that one. Additionally, Hoopsville had yet another phenomenal show last night with a number of great MBB & WBB interviews that you should certainly check out. Link to that archive is here: And Dave will be on air again Thursday, as Hoopsville is the home of the Top 16 reveal from the MBB and WBB national tournament selection committees. These Top 16 are ideally the 16 who would host in the first weekend of the national tournament if the season ended today. Link to that show will be put out in my Thursday morning post.

Getting to the poll…

The Week 11 Top 25 Poll

Biggest risers: Gustavus Adolphus (+7), Baldwin Wallace (+7)

Biggest drops: Trinity CT (-7), Puget Sound (-5)

ADDITIONS: Loras (#24), Millikin (#25)

SUBTRACTIONS: La Verne (#23), Rochester (#25)

I really liked…that Gustavus Adolphus broke into the Top 15. This is a team that will really do some damage in the NCAA Tournament, and currently has a .913 win percentage and a .529 SOS. Not enough for one of those Top 16 seeds probably, but still pretty exceptional. They continue to separate themselves in the MIAC.

I didn’t like…Messiah sliding all the way up to #13. I will say that middle part of the ballot is a challenge at times, with no good options for a team in that 12-15 range. But Messiah seems to be a team relying on its win percentage rather than the quality of opponents played. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good team, I’ve seen them play. But #13 good? I don’t know about that. Most of their “quality” wins came before Dec. 10, so in late February, that’s a hard argument to make, sliding a team up two spots.

My Ballot

1-Christopher Newport (#1)- The Captains rolled past Salisbury on the road in their lone game of the week. They’re at that No. 1 caliber and likely won’t move out of this spot for me, unless a loss makes me reconsider.

2-Trinity TX (#4)- Trinity bounced back from the loss to Colorado College by trouncing Dallas 109-47, and Austin, 84-40. The Tigers play at home from here on out, with two regular season games left (both at home), then the SCAC Tournament on their campus in the week to follow.

3- -NYU #6)- The Violets made a statement this week, and moved up two spots in my ballot. I debated whether or not to mvoe NYU higher than 5th, but with a statement win over Chicago and another over WashU this weekend, I couldn’t keep them that low.

4-Scranton (#3)- The Lady Royals pulled out a road win at Elizabethtown in overtime in a solid effort and also beat Drew, 54-42, this past week. Two nice wins there. These top 8 or so are very close in margin for me. They could honestly be put in any order, and I’d probably agree, somewhat.

5- Smith (#5)- Smith had a really strong week of its own, winning by a somewhat surprising 74-56 winning margin at Springfield, along with an exceptional 80-67 win over Babson. Smith is now 22-1 and watching them multiple times recently, they appear to be a squad that will make a tournament run.

6-Transylvania (#2)-Transy held Mount St. Joseph and Anderson each below 40 points in two more dominant defensive efforts this past week. I really like the way the Pioneers are playing right now, with an experienced roster, and I expect they will be in the Top 16 on Thursday, despite many of the numbers (such as SOS and results v/RROs) being lower than most of the teams in that conversation.

7-Hope (#7)- Hope took down Calvin in a great game on Wednesday, and held Olivet to just 18 points in Saturday’s win. 18 points! The bottom half of the MIAA is really weak, so from a numbers standpoint, that game actually hurts Hope’s SOS a bit. But what can you do? Overall, the Flying Dutch have a very solid resume, and more than pass the eye test for me. Hope is a national title contender, and I like the depth on the roster as well. That depth will help them tremendously come tournament time.

8-UW-Whitewater (#16)- The Warhawks pick up two more high-quality WIAC wins, taking down Oshkosh and Stout, and after having their struggles throughout the course of the conference schedule, became the first WIAC team to clinch at least a share of the conference title.

9-DeSales (#9)- DeSales dominated against Immaculata and Delaware Valley this past week, and should be in the Top 16 despite a very low SOS. I didn’t move DeSales up or down this week.

10-Hardin-Simmons (#8)- The Cowgirls slide up to 10th after putting 120 points on McMurry in their only game of the week. Kendra Whitehead has her team at top level right now, already locked in to host the final two rounds of the ASC Tournament, along with receiving a quarterfinal round bye.

11-Trine (#15)- I had the Thunder four spots higher than where they ended up in the poll. The win at Calvin on Saturday did it for me. Trine looked composed and played very well in a tough road atmosphere against an experienced and talented Calvin squad. That’s a big win there in addition to the other notable victories they have on their resume currently. However, I think #15 is fair…Massey has them #17.

12-Gustavus Adolphus (#14)- This is a team that continues to impress, and it was nice to see them rewarded with a Top 15 ranking this week. I had them 12th as I came away convinced in the Gusties’ standing as one of the nation’s top squads after Wednesday’s dominant 82-56 win over Concordia-Moorhead, who is in the Pool C conversation and Gustavus’ main challenger in the MIAC. Nobody has been able to slow the Gusties in MIAC play.

13- WashU (#22)- You can’t really fault the loss at NYU. That’s a tough place to play and an even tougher team to beat. They end up sliding down two spots for me, but part of that is me putting Gusty higher, rather than purposely dropping WashU lower. It’s somewhat of a mute point, but for the record, NYU certainly didn’t dominate WashU. The stats were fairly similar and WashU actually led by a solid margin throughout the first half and into the third quarter before NYU closed the gap and won by five. WashU also beat Brandeis this past week, moving to 16-6 overall.

14-Trinity CT (#19)- Trinity knew how tough the end of the NESCAC schedule was, but I’m not sure that many people anticipated Trinity going 1-3 to end the regular season. The Bantams were 0-2 against Bates and Tufts this past weekend, and though both games were competitive, Trinity was unable to get the job done on the road. Naturally, that hurts their ranking ability a little bit, especially as the three losses in their final four games moved them out of first place in the league standings. But I still think this is a team equipped for a deep run. Teams will key in on Reilly Campbell so it’ll be about who can step up around her in that post unit that will have an effect on Trinity’s postseason success. Just my $0.02.

15-Ithaca (#10)- Ithaca hasn’t played many top notch opponents within the last month and a half, but a 21-2 record can’t be easily ignored. I just don’t know how good the Bombers are. Outside of Skidmore (#96 Massey), Ithaca hasn’t played a Massey Top 150 team in their last 10 games. Looking forward to seeing them in a high-quality battle come tournament time.

16-Chicago (#18)- Chicago’s loss at NYU bothered me a little bit. I can understand a 10-point loss, even a 20-point loss. After all, NYU is stellar, and you’re on the road. But Chicago losing 80-44 definitely surprised me on Friday evening. Of course that’s not the only reason I dropped them two spots. Part of it was also Gustavus Adolphus playing really well and Ithaca jumping up in my ballot. Chicago is certainly in the Pool C conversation, but it appears that it’ll be a two-way battle between NYU and WashU for the UAA crown.

17-UW-Oshkosh (RV)- Maybe my most controversial (or questionable) selection of the week. I’ll admit, #17 is somewhat high. By my calculations, all eight points UWO received came from me. That’s ok. The Titans went 0-2 this past week, so I didn’t anticipate they would show up on a lot of ballots. But looking at the total body of work, UWO has an outstanding resume. Wins over Wartburg, DePauw, and Ripon are great in non-conference, and in the WIAC, they’ve beaten La Crosse, Stout, and Eau Claire all at least once. Their Pool C chances seem fairly favorable right now as well.

18-Millikin (#25)-Millikin broke back into the Top 25, though seven spots lower than where I had them. The CCIW’s leader is in a tough Region 8, with WashU, Transylvania, and Chicago all in there. But I don’t think Millikin will be contending for a Pool C on Selection Monday (or “Matchup Monday”, I’ve heard both terms used). They won twice on the road at IWU and Carthage this past week, looking very sharp in both. Head coach Olivia Lett has her squad ready for a tournament run.

19-UW-Eau Claire (RV)- The Blugolds aren’t ranked for the second straight week, and like UWO, I can see why. But applying my similar line of thinking and approach to this ballot, UWEC’s SOS and total body of work cannot be overlooked. Massey has the Blugolds #2 nationally in SOS and while I thought the last five games from UWEC were decent but not outstanding by any means, overall, when I compare UWEC to the rest of the teams in competition for these final six spots in my ballot, I don’t see a better resume or a more dangerous tournament team.

20-Puget Sound (#21)- The tough part about teams with resumes like Puget Sound’s is that one loss can cause some significant ramifications. Though the Loggers had been frequently trailing NWC opponents in the first half of games only to dominate in the second half, Pacific found a way to maintain its lead and shock PS on the Loggers’ home court this past week. I had no choice but to drop them five spots, mostly because other teams were just more deserving. I’m more interested to see how much the loss affects regional rankings in Region 10. It shouldn’t be too much, though R10 has been a roller coaster this year.

21-Wartburg (#20)- Wartburg enters my ballot after yet another 2-0 week, with wins over Central and Buena Vista. The Knights will have a challenge on their hands against the next team in my ballot, Loras, in Saturday’s regular season finale, but haven’t lost since Dec. 20. I’ve watched a bit more of them since they broke into the poll last week and this definitely appears to be a team that will be dangerous in March. They’ll almost certainly have a tough first weekend draw, though, so a tournament run will not come easily.

22-Loras (#24)- The Duhawks, also out of the ARC remain in my ballot, and are back in the poll as well. That’s good to see. Loras has taken a pair of losses in conference action, but since losing to Wartburg on Jan. 18, the Duhawks have rattled off six straight victories. It’s a two-way battle between Wartburg and Loras atop the ARC standings and right now, there isn’t a clear favorite.

23-Babson (#17)- Babson slides down five spots in my ballot, in part due to Wartburg and Loras rising and PS and UWEC sliding further down, but still deserving a higher ranking than Babson from perspective. The Beavers were 1-1 this past week, losing by 13 at Smith, while beating Wellesley. I need to see a bit more of Babson if I’m going to rank the Beavers ahead of a team like UWEC or Puget Sound.

24-Baldwin Wallace (#12)- The Yellow Jackets prevailed in a big way on Wednesday night, taking down ONU in overtime, 66-62. It was a well-executed performance from BW, and though I’m not yet sold on the Yellow Jackets, they have the resume of a Top 25 team in my opinion. I will say it feels a bit too high to have BW at #12 in the poll; Massey has them #24 and Scott Peterson’s model has them #31.

25- Ohio Northern (#11)- I wasn’t sure what to do with ONU. They have an .850 win percentage and .585 SOS but at the same time struggled at times against Capital and John Carroll. I thought they were decent against BW, despite coming away with the loss. Maybe I’m being too harsh on ONU, I don’t know. This is the largest point of difference between my ballot and the poll, with a difference of 14 spots. I’ll reevaluate next week, but it’s really difficult with these teams who have been inconsistent in their last 8-10 games and aren’t generally favored as a Top 25 team by computers, but still have some quality wins and a resume worthy to be in the Top 4 of their region.



28-Mary Hardin-Baylor


30-Rhode Island College

Fell Out: Rochester, Calvin

Back In: Wartburg, Baldwin Wallace

Biggest risers: Gustavus Adolphus (+7), Ithaca (+5), Hardin-Simmons (+3), Millikin (+3)

Biggest drops: Puget Sound (-6), Babson (-5), ONU (-3)

I’ll end it here. Some good games tonight that you’ll want to tune into…livestream/live stat links are always on

And while you’re at it, be sure to share The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops if you, whether it be with a fellow D3 fan, coach, student-athlete or someone else who enjoys D3 WBB. Really trying to bring more attention to this level of women’s college hoops with tournament time literally two weeks away. Have a great day! Subscribe to The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops on Substack:


The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: Hope emerges victorious in The Rivalry!

February 9, 2023

By Riley Zayas

What a night it was last evening…we knew it’d be a great slate, and like most Wednesdays. with the WIAC, OAC, CCIW, and MIAA in action, we weren’t disappointed. On top of that, the (alphabetical) NCAA regional rankings came out, so while we don’t know which order teams are in their respective regions, we do know the 7 teams currently ranked in each region. That helps a lot as the final few weeks of the regular season plays out and we start looking ahead at Pool C resumes and all that fun stuff. Check out the regional rankings at here.

Now, to take a look back on last night’s action…

  • “The Rivalry” was in Holland, Michigan, on the campus of Hope College for the second meeting between Hope and Calvin this season. On top of the fact that it is almost undoubtedly the biggest rivalry in D-III, it was also a battle for first place in the MIAA. And both teams played like it. There was such a level of intensity around the matchup that it truly felt like I was watching an NCAA Tournament game unfold. Hope emerged with a 16th straight win in the rivalry, with the win streak dating back to 2017, taking down the Knights, 71-59. Interestingly enough. Calvin shot 42.9% compared to Hope’s 36.9%. But the Flying Dutch won the battle on the boards by 8, and had 10 more offensive rebounds than Calvin leading to 18 second-chance points. That is huge, and as Hope head coach Brian Morehouse talked about in the pregame interview, rebounding always seems to be a key component in these annual matchups between Hope and Calvin. I always love the matchups that take place within the greater contest, between two players at the same position on opposite teams. It’s fascinating to watch each work against the other, and there are plenty of times where it is in those situations that a player has his or her best game of the season. Hope’s Savannah Feenstra went up against Calvin’s Gabby Timmer, and you may not see a better matchup between two posts until tournament time. They each have such a presence around the rim on both ends of the floor that impacts the game whether they touch the ball or not. Timmer finished with a double-double (16 pts, 12 reb) along with 5 blocks before fouling out after 32 minutes of action. Feenstra played 31 minutes, tallying 5 steals in addition to her 16 points and 9 rebounds. Overall, really impressive effort from both teams, and this rivalry never fails to disappoint.
  • The other big Top 25 matchup came a little to the east of Michigan, in Berea, Ohio, where #19 Baldwin Wallace prevailed at home in a thrilling overtime duel against #10 Ohio Northern, 66-62. It was a huge win for Baldwin Wallace, and if anything, just solidified that they still belong in the national conversation. I have been skeptical of BW for a few weeks, and didn’t even have them on my ballot this past Monday. They hadn’t looked sharp in OAC play for a couple of weeks, and there were times last night’s game where they didn’t look too sharp. At one point, with a couple minutes left in the 3rd quarter, ONU went up by 13, 36-23, and I thought, ‘There’s no way ONU loses this game.’ But BW found a way, fighting all the way back, taking a two-point lead with 21 ticks left on the clock. It took a layup with eight seconds left in regulation from Kristen Luersman to even send the game in OT and avoid a BW win right then and there. The Yellow Jackets outscored ONU 11-7 over the five-minute OT period, converting on 3-of-5 shooting attempts compared to ONU’s 3-of-11 mark. 3 BW starters finished with double figures in scoring, and overall, I was really impressed by what I saw from the Yellow Jackets.
  • Getting to WIAC play, the best game of the day (BY FAR) came between UW-La Crosse and UW-Stout. I was on the edge of my seat for at least 20 minutes as the entire fourth quarter played out, then two overtime periods that followed. Not only was it lengthy, leading to several key players on both sides playing at least 10 more minutes than they are used to, but La Crosse had already beaten Stout once this year. Now at home, and needing a win to tie UW-Whitewater for first place atop the league, Stout had plenty of motivation as the lead changed hands and overtime elapsed. Stout ended up pulling out a 95-90 victory in thrilling fashion, breaking the 90-point mark for just the second time in the last two years. The Blue Devils led for only 13% of the game, completing an incredible comeback that saw Stout go from trailing 33-16 at one point in the first half to leading 71-69 with 29 seconds left in the 4th. La Crosse went up 74-71 late in the 4th, but Stout’s Allison Letcher came up with perhaps the shot of the game, connecting on a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left that sent it into OT. After both scored 11 in first OT, Stout outscored the Eagles 10-5 in the second go-around. The tough part for La Crosse is that the game could’ve easily been won at the free throw line at multiple points, and the shots just didn’t fall when they needed to, leaving the door open for Stout. To the Blue Devils’ credit, they excelled against a team that had beaten them badly in the paint back in January. Stout outrebounded La Crosse 44-31. Raegan Sorensen should be the WIAC Player of the Week (especially with a big performance at Whitewater on Saturday), as she poured it in, scoring 30 points in 39 minutes, with a perfect 10-for-10 mark at the FT line, and 8 rebounds.
  • In a MIAC game I thought would turn out close between #21 Gustavus Adolphus and Concordia-Moorhead it was anything but that, as the Gusties prevailed in dominant fashion, 82-56. The more I watch Gustavus Adolphus play, the more I think they’re a higher-ranked team than what they currently are now. They were #19 in my ballot earlier this week, but performances like this make me believe the sky is the limit for a deep squad like this one. Four starters scored in double figures and another 27 points came off the bench. Outside of the FT shooting (just 57.1%), Gusty put what seemed to be a near-perfect performance on the floor, widening the lead to 32 at one point.
  • NJCU didn’t have nearly the same kind of SportsCenter-worthy sequence of events as the men’s game later in the evening (check out this video and you’ll know what I mean), but nonetheless, put up a huge result against Rowan, winning 93-76. The win moves NJCU into a tie for first place in the NJAC with Kean, remarkable considering NJCU opened the year by going 1-7. Rowan, now third in the league, was listed in the regional rankings yesterday, along with Kean, out of the NJAC. NJCU wasn’t in, but perhaps last night’s win will change that. Damaris Rodriguez put up 30 points in 38 minutes for NJCU. She’s really an exciting player to watch.
  • Out in the Midwest, Millikin got back on track, rebounding from Saturday’s loss with a big 82-65 victory at Illinois Wesleyan. The Big Blue are now 18-4, 12-1 in CCIW play, and jumped out to a 27-7 lead by the end of the 1st quarter in this one. That start alone was impressive to me, and a main reason why I kept them ranked in my Top 25 when others dropped them out. They’re capable of those huge scoring runs that can turn a game on its head. Elyse Knudsen had 28 points to lead Millikin’s offense, and as a team, Millikin was 46.4% from 3-point range (13-of-28).
  • Another notable WIAC showdown came between UW-Platteville and UW-Eau Claire, a game UWEC won 65-59. The WIAC Tourney only takes the top six teams, and with just two games left, it would take a lot for Platteville to even qualify for that as the #6 seed. It could happen, but the odds are low, with so few games left. And yet, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that UWP, the same team that beat Whitewater (AT Whitewater) could win the whole tournament if given the chance. They’re just that kind of team, capable of coming out of nowhere and winning in big moments. Watching the game last night play out, I didn’t know if UWEC would lose a third straight, or find a way to win. UWP was in it the whole way, even on the road. In fact, the Pioneers led 50-49 entering the 4th quarter, before UWEC opened the quarter on an 8-3 run. The Blugolds shot 49% from the field in the win.
  • And then, also in WIAC play, UW-Oshkosh hosted UW-Whitewater. Tough UWO outscored Whitewater in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, Whitewater’s early 26-12 lead was a challenging deficit to overcome. Whitewater ended up with a key 67-55 road win, which sets up a battle for first place in the league on Saturday against Stout. I thought the Warhawks looked fairly poised offensively, shooting 45.6% from the field, and 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. I still think people are overlooking Whitewater. This is an experienced team that went all the way to the national title game a year ago, and frankly, could do it again this season. I get the losses that seem uncharacteristic…but at the same time, wins like the one on Saturday over UWEC and yesterday’s road victory over a great Oshkosh team give me confidence that the Warhawks are indeed one of the country’s top teams, even if the win percentage is a little lower than the majority of Top 15 teams.

Thinking maybe I should stop here! Those were the main games that piqued my interest as I watched the slate unfold, and Saturday is shaping up to be another pivotal set of contests. What a great time of the year this is.

I’ll be headed to the UT-Dallas vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor games tonight in a MBB/WBB doubleheader. Looking forward to seeing Joe Shotland and his UTD women’s team in person for the first time this year. Shotland has done a great job in his first season as a head coach, after spending many as an assistant at Trinity (TX). We’ll see how it goes. Monday’s loss for UTD against McMurry probably hurt their chances of being regionally ranked (which also takes away a potential RRO for a few teams, such as Transylvania and Rochester, who both could’ve used another one). But either way, UTD has been playing great basketball, so I’ll be interested to see how they do on the road against a good UMHB team.

I’ll have something short out tomorrow, especially looking ahead to the Friday games in the UAA and NESCAC. Until then, have a great day!


The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: #1 Trinity goes down in exciting weekend of action

By Riley Zayas
February 5, 2023
Well…how do you put this past weekend into words? I don’t think you do. #1 went down this afternoon, 3 Top 25 teams fell in their respective conferences on Saturday, the OAC provided us with some thrilling matchups, and so did the UAA. Don’t forget about the WIAC, where Whitewater made a statement on its home court. And Trinity and Tufts are now locked in battle for 1st place in the NESCAC. Let’s get into it! (I broke this weekend article into categories because there was just so much to cover!)

The Upsets

  • There was no bigger upset than the one of Sunday afternoon in the final game of the week. Colorado College, on its home floor, took down #1 Trinity (TX), 70-64. I was very surprised, thought I thought CC might have a chance with the way they’d be playing as of late. On the other hand, I really thought Trinity was unbeatable. Even giants can fall. But I’d also add that CC is very sound on both ends of the floor, and is a team we’ll likely see in the regional rankings this coming week. On top of that, this loss might be good for Trinity. Remember what Hope said about last year’s loss to Trine that ended “the streak?” The loss took off some of the pressure that had been weighing in the team and allowed them to refocus, reset, and play a bit looser en route to a national title. Trinity didn’t have as much of a streak to defend in this instance, but the comparison seems valid nonetheless. As far as the game itself, CC did an exceptional job defensively, perhaps better than any Trinity has faced so far. CC challenged nearly every shot, and held Trinity to a 1-of-13 mark from three-point range. That’ll hurt you. Ashlyn Milton had just 2 points for Trinity, which also didn’t help. Audrey Bayston was excellent for CC, with 23 points, and converted FTs late when it really mattered, with no lead entirely safe against a team like Trinity. They played team basketball, were engaged defensively, and took quality shots, which allowed them to overcome their 20 turnovers.
  • #14 Baldwin Wallace was my “dubious” pick on Hoopsville this past week, and Otterbein seemed to prove that correct, pulling off a massive victory on senior day at home, 58-55. It was a complete game from Otterbein on its home floor, as BW was held to a shooting percentage of 27.8% while the Cardinals were 40% with 10 more points in the paint than the opposition (28 to 18). This is one of those late-season situations where Otterbein’s win here could really play “spoiler” in BW’s quest for the OAC title and conference tournament hosting privileges. I was really impressed by the toughness displayed by Otterbein, who erased a four-point BW lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter.
  • Moravian was been a team I thought had a shot against #24 Elizabethtown, especially at home, but at 11-9 overall an with a sub-.500 record in the Landmark Conference (4-5), I wasn’t sure how the Greyhounds would fare against a prominent program like Elizabethtown. ETown was 18-2 entering the game with its only losses having to to #4 Scranton, but Moravian added its name to that list in a 75-70 win. It was such a closely-contested game, and a look at the box score reveals just that. Both teams shot above 40%, though Moravian really won the game at the FT line. Moravian was 9-for-9 at the line in the final quarter.
  • Wheaton also pulled off a fairly surprising win over #25 Millikin, who I have been voting for in each of the last four polls. It more because of the 85-66 margin than anything else, especially since Millikin was 11-0 in the CCIW entering that one. Wheaton shot the ball so well, and ended up with four players in double figures in points. Wheaton seems to be one of the midwest’s more overlooked teams.

The upsets that were…then weren’t

  • It looked like Capital had #13 Ohio Northern all but defeated, leading 42-29 at halftime. It had the makings of the day’s biggest upset, especially with Capital at home. But ONU pulled off a scoring run to a degree that I haven’t seen this season. Down 65-56 with just over three minutes to play, the Polar Bears rattled off a 14-0 run that closed the game, winning 69-65. It was incredible. Every shot seemed to fall, and on the other end, Capital’s hot shooting quickly fizzled out.
  • UC Santa Cruz led #3 Christopher Newport by five at halftime, and though this wouldn’t have been a “big-time” upset, it would’ve been a surprise regardless. Though it was competitive through the second half, a few key UCSC players got into foul trouble, and CNU looked so much sharper over the final two quarters, winning 73-62. In fact, the Captains held UCSC to just 4 points in the entire 3rd quarter. I’m anticipating a rematch in the C2C Tournament Championship here in a few weeks.


  • If you’re looking for a statement-making type game, a good one is probably a battle between the two highest ranked teams in the conference. #23 UW-Whitewater took it to #17 UW-Eau Claire in a huge way, dominating in an 84-52 win. The Warhawks closed the game by outscoring the Blugolds 44-26 in the second half. It started on the defensive end, as Whitewater held UWEC to a shooting percentage of 32%, the second straight game in which the Blugolds, normally a high-scoring squad, struggled offensively. I was really impressed by the way Whitewater got its outside shooters in position for 3s, as they went 10-of-21 from beyond the arc. UWEC will drop quite a bit in the Top 25, after an 0-2 week.
  • After taking its first loss in the NESCAC on Friday, Trinity (CT) responded with a 60-47 win at Middlebury on Saturday, showing that the Bantams are very much here to stay. Middlebury shot just 27%, as Trinity looked very solid on the defensive end. A wide disparity in the number of free throws for the two teams wasn’t there either, which seemed to help. Reilly Campbell posted yet another double-double, with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
  • WashU, who successfully completed a season sweep of Rochester on Friday, found a late surge en route to a very solid 78-61 win over Emory on Sunday afternoon. I continue to be impressed by the Bears, and if they’re not ranked this week, I’ll be shocked. Despite three Emory players scoring in double figures, led by Claire Brock with 18, WashU pulled away in the 4th quarter, outscoring the Eagles 24-11. Watching the Bears’ big run in the opening minutes of the 4th, it’s no surprise why WashU has won so many big matchups in the UAA. They are able to generate momentum in a matter of seconds, and before you know it, they’re up by double digits. Maya Arnott had 26 points, and 12 boards in the win for WashU.

Other games of note that really provided some excitement this weekend

  • Rowan won in crunch time at Kean on Saturday, 78-76, to tie for 1st place in the NJAC. Those are the kind of unranked matchups that may not catch a lot of national attention, but at this point in the year, determine a lot when it comes to regional rankings and the Pool C conversation. A big third quarter powered Rowan to the win, though I honestly liked a lot of what I saw from Kean. Kean was 12-of-34 from 3-point range, won the rebounding battle by +6, and had 9 more assists. But where Rowan was really strong was in its bench. 45 of their points came off the bench, compared to just 4 for Kean.
  • Sofia Gonzalez stepped up for Tufts on Saturday in a key win at Bowdoin to keep the Jumbos tied for 1st in the NESCAC, scoring 23 points. The 66-54 victory saw Tufts really elevate its intensity defensively, as Bowdoin shot just 28%. The Jumbos were also 6-of-14 from 3-point range.
  • UW-Stout came up with a fierce comeback at UW-Platteville, and ended up winning by 9 (70-61), despite trailing by 3 entering the 4th quarter. 4 of Stout’s 5 starters scored in double figures, led by Haylee Yaeger (17). Anna Mutch had 16, Raegan Sorensen had 15, and Amanda Giesen tallied 12. Stout’s 9-0 run midway through the 4th gave way to a 62-55 lead with 3 minutes left that put the Blue Devils in control for the final few minutes. The one glaring stat in this one: Stout had 17 second-chance points, Platteville had just 3.
  • The MIAC continues to be a fun conference to watch…Carelton, just 5-12 in league play, pulled off an overtime win against Bethel, who was 11-6 in the MIAC. It was a thrilling game regardless of where the two teams stood in the standings. Bethel led by as many as 11 with 6:26 to go, before the Royals went ice cold offensively and did not score for the rest of regulation. Carleton took advantage, with an 11-0 run, capped by a pair of free throws with seven seconds left from Jasmine Choi, that tied the score. Both sides played strong defense in OT, though Carleton scored first and never relinquished the lead.
  • #10 Chicago bounced back from the home loss to Emory on Friday with a 9-point win over #18 Rochester on Sunday. The 87-75 victory saw Chicago outscore the Yellowjackets 30-20 in a high-scoring 4th quarter. The crazy thing was that both teams seemed to be trading shot for shot throughout the game’s entirety; Chicago shot 50%, Rochester shot 46%. The key for Chicago in the win was attacking Rochester in the post. They had 52 points there, and weren’t forced to shoot for the perimeter as much as usual, it seemed. Chicago’s outside shooting isn’t necessarily a weakness, but a 3-pointer will almost always be a lower-percentage shot than a short-range jumper or layup in the paint. It’s hard to compare teams because not everyone has the same personnel or style of play, but that is one thing I thought Emory did a fantastic job in Friday’s win over Chicago. They forced the Maroons into 25 3-point tries (and they made just 7 of them), while Chicago had just 15 3-point attempts today (and still only made 4). If you’re going to beat Chicago, you have to stop the ball from getting into the post.

That’s probably long enough for today, haha. This weekend was truly packed with impressive results, and now I have the task of putting together a Top 25 ballot. I had said in past articles on the Top 25 that the easiest spot for me to fill in each week was #1. Not this week. #1-25 will be tough all the way around. So many teams are playing excellent basketball right now. Anyway, thanks for following along. Hope you have a great start to your week!