ETBU women’s basketball will be in midst of national spotlight, faces LSU tonight in Tigers’ first game since winning national title

By Riley Zayas, The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops

Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023

It was early April, and ETBU head coach Blake Arbogast and his staff found themselves at the 2023 Women’s Final Four in Dallas. LSU stole the show in Sunday’s championship game, taking down Iowa for the D-I national title on Sunday afternoon, winning under the direction of second-year head coach Kim Mulkey.

Of the eight teams in attendance–four from the D-I ranks, and two from the D-II and D-III ranks (the D-II and D-III championship games were played at the D-I Final Four in a unique setup)–LSU was the closest in proximity to the Lone Star State. After all, Baton Rouge sits just four hours and 20 minutes from Marshall, Texas, the home of ETBU.

At this point in the spring, Arbogast and his staff had struck out in pretty much all of their original queries for D-I opponents for the 2023-24 schedule, from Stephen F. Austin to Lamar, due to a variety of factors. Throughout his three-year tenure in Marshall, Arbogast had made it a point to get at least one D-I opponent on the schedule each season, giving his team a unique opportunity to face stiff competition and get the “D-I experience” in an early season exhibition.

So he decided to take a shot at getting the reigning national champions on the slate.

“Me and my staff were out at the Final Four, enjoying it, and LSU wins,” Arbogast said. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to see if they [have a date available for an exhibition].’ So I sent Mulkey an email. I didn’t think much of it.”

It was several weeks before a response found its way into his inbox. He was doubtful initially, as the days turned into weeks. But a reply from Baton Rouge came through, sure enough.

“A couple weeks go by and I originally thought, ‘Oh well, you have to shoot your shot. That’s alright.’ And then on my anniversary with my wife, I got an email from one of Mulkey’s assistants who handles scheduling, saying that they had October 26th open, asking if we could make that work.

“I said, ‘Absolutely,’ and then called my assistant and said, ‘Hey, clear October 26th. Clear whatever we had that day…because we’re going to LSU.’”

The high-level scheduling was initially met with a hint of surprise when Arbogast first mentioned it to his team. After all, per research done by ETBU’s Sports Information Department, this marks the first time in women’s college basketball history dating back to 2000 that a D-III team has faced the reigning D-I national champ to begin the season.

LSU is undoubtedly the biggest brand in women’s college basketball currently, as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, led by a recognizable figure in Mulkey, who previously led the program at Baylor for 21 seasons. And then there’s the roster LSU has put together, with three of the Top 5 NIL earners in women’s college hoops per That would be Angel Reese (No. 1), Flau’jae Johnson (No. 2), and Hailey Van Lith, a transfer from Louisville (No. 5). Van Lith was a key contributor to the USA 3-on-3 Women’s National Team that won gold at the FIBA 3×3 World Cup this past summer, and Reese was part of the USA Women’s National Team that finished as runners-up in the FIBA AmeriCup in July.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Arbogast added. “LSU had players who were representing our country this past summer and brought home medals and hardware as the best in the world. So it’s a great opportunity, not only for ETBU and our girls, but for D-III women’s basketball, truthfully.”

That isn’t to say putting together the scouting report has been easy. Not when you’re prepping for the nation’s top-ranked team, with a very experienced roster, who will be playing on its home court for the first time since winning it all in April. But that is a challenge Arbogast and his staff have embraced. If anything, it’s good practice considering three of ETBU’s first four non-conference opponents in the regular season are likely Top 25 teams (Trinity (TX), Elizabethtown, Christopher Newport).

“We’re excited. It’s honestly tricky when we’re doing a scouting report on the best of the best, since you’re trying to find flaws and things like that. So it’s been fun from a coaching perspective too. We’re going to go in there and try to represent the university, ourselves, and D-III the best we can.”

For the players on the ETBU roster, it is a similar feeling of excitement. In several cases, it is an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with players they have been watching on national television for years, and a team that played in front of 20,000 in an NBA arena just over six months ago.

“One of our transfers is actually from Louisiana, and idolizes Hailey Van Lith,” Arbogast said. “So she’s excited to be on the same floor as her. And we have a post player, who, for all of last year, couldn’t stop talking about Angel Reese. So I’m like, ‘Alright, well here you go.’”

When it comes to getting the nation’s No. 1 D-I team on the schedule for a preseason exhibition, or traveling to the home court of last year’s D-III national runner-up, ETBU has not shied away from difficult matchups early in the season. Much of that is a credit to the administration, Arbogast said, who have supported his program well and provided it with opportunities to go up against the best.

“Our administration is great. During that Covid year, they really understood that over 50 percent of our student population is athletes so they let us, within reason, get a full 25-game schedule. We were one of the few able to do that. So our administration does a great job at supporting athletics and having the best chance available and the best experience.

“At the end of the day, you have to play the best to see where you’re at. With the way our conference is, UT-Dallas was the No. 4 seed [in last year’s ASC Tournament] and they go win the tournament. Hardin-Simmons needed to have a good enough strength-of-schedule and resume [to get into the NCAA Tournament]. So it’s good for us to play these teams early.”

The contest will tip off at 7 p.m. CT and be broadcasted on SEC Network Plus. A radio broadcast is also available at Live stats can be found here.

The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: Mid-October thoughts

It’s time…the offseason is over. We’ve got games tipping off in less than 30 days and I can’t wait! No more posting once every other week for me, haha. At least not until April. After jumping into this blog/newsletter thing literally as the first games of the year tipped off last season, I feel both more prepared and more confident now as we head into this season. My knowledge base increased tremendously with the help of so many fans, supporters, and coaches, last season, and I truly appreciate each and every one of you for following along as I figured out how all of this worked along the way.

I am extremely excited for what this season is going to bring. I’ll be working on a very fun, insightful D3 basketball project over the course of the next couple years that I’ll write about a bit more as the season draws closer. Long story short, I’ll get to see plenty of games in lots of new places, and that has me pumped, especially as I start to look at the next few months!

But anyway, that’s probably enough of an intro. I don’t plan on changing too much with the setup of this newsletter, especially as we get into the season. I’ll still have a breakdown of my Top 25 each week on Mondays, and thoughts each morning on the previous day’s games/results. Often, I’ll change the format of those daily posts, just to keep it interesting, but all of the same content will still be there. I do my best to highlight all 10 regions and the best individual and team performances on a daily basis, but if I miss anything (because I know I will), please don’t hesitate to reach out with a comment or note. It always helps when someone draws my attention to a 30+ point game from a player or a record-setting performance from a team’s defense. Because let’s face it…there are 428 D-III women’s basketball teams…that’s a lot to follow!

As the season nears, more and more teams have released their rosters, which often gives very helpful clarification on a program’s returning group, any previously unknown transfers, and of course, which players decided to use their Covid year to return for a fifth season.

On that note, Hardin-Simmons was not included in my Early Preseason Top 30. There were too many question marks as to their stellar senior class from last season, and how many, if any, would be back. If you remember, HSU went 24-4 in 2022-23, with three of those losses coming to Trinity (TX) and finished the ASC schedule with a flawless 18-0 mark.

I came across HSU’s new roster a few days ago, and it confirmed what a few sources had previously told me. Point guard Paris Kiser, forward Parris Parmer, and guard Samantha Tatum are all back as graduate students. All three were 500-600 minute players for HSU last season, and were three of the Cowgirls’ top four leading scorers. That is incredible valuable. HSU just vaulted into my Top 25, now that these returners are confirmed. Kiki Gonzales and Kylie Ellsworth will both be back as well after seeing significant playing time (mostly off the bench) last season, and the depth on this roster will be a strength for HSU. I’ll get a chance to see them play in person here in about 22 days when they battle Baylor in an exhibition in Waco.

Let’s continue with the 5th-year discussion a little bit. As if we needed one more thing to make the WIAC interesting, Macy Nilsen is back on the roster for UW-River Falls. She was a First Team All-WIAC honoree last year and averaged 14.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Edna, Minn. native put the team on her back at multiple points last season, and with 71% of last year’s squad back, UWRF will be a tough out for any team in the WIAC. Who knows what will happen in that league from week to week. Very excited to see that conference title race unfold.

Another interesting storyline to follow will be that of Sofia Rosa, who set the Tufts program record for field goal percentage in 2019-20. After playing four years at Tufts, she joined the MIT coaching staff as an assistant last season. But her name has since resurfaced on Smith’s roster as a player! It appears that Rosa is using her 5th year and will add some serious depth in the post to a team that loses WBCA Player of the Year Morgan Morrison, who is playing her 5th year at NYU. Rosa is a 6-foot-2 center who scores well around the rim, and should be a tough matchup for any NEWMAC opponent.

Out on the West Coast, keep an eye on Amanda Inserra to be in for a big year. UC-Santa Cruz isn’t the NCAA Tournament contender they were last year (from a projections standpoint) but Inserra’s return should give the Banana Slugs a bit of a boost. She averaged 12.6 points and 5.1 boards per game last season, and on an 11-player roster, I expect she’ll be on the floor for 30+ minutes per game again. UCSC has some experience on its roster, but last year’s group was unbelievably talented. Losing a Kaylee Murphy, Ashley Kowack, or Tess Oakley-Stilson is tough. Losing all three at the same time to graduation is really difficult.

I will say, UCSC did get a bunch of D3 games, which is good to see considering how tough of a scheduling battle they have. Matchups against Whitworth, Whitman, Pomona-Pitzer, Pacific, Hamilton, NYU, UW-Platteville, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps highlight the schedule. Monica Armstrong will be in her first year as UCSC’s head coach this season. Definitely wish her the best of luck in that new role!

Speaking of the West Coast, the Northwest Conference (NWC) might be one of the more underrated leagues in the country heading into this season. The talent and depth on some of these rosters is impressive, and I believe there are at least three legitimate NWC title contenders. Puget Sound brings back standouts in Kennedy Brown, Sophie Nilsson, and Katie Minnehan who were all very fun to watch throughout last season. They finished 21-5 and seem ready to take a step forward, especially with a non-conference schedule that includes games with UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire, Illinois Wesleyan, Trinity (TX) and possibly John Carroll. Pacific has 99% of its roster back and they had Puget Sound’s number last season. Twice they beat the Loggers in the span of about two weeks, and missed an NCAA Tournament berth by a six-point margin in the NWC title game against Whitman. Whitman is the third contender, and they too, have a bunch of returning talent. With forwards Korin Baker and Lindsay Drango leading the way, Whitman is poised for another strong year. Carly Martin is the top returning guard, and while I think the strength of this team is at the forward/wing position, Whitman should be plenty good in the backcourt too.

As I close this out, I see that Bob Quillman has published his intervew with Transylvania head coach Juli Fulks on his podcast, the Q-Cast. It’s definitely worth a listen. Coach Fulks always has phenomenal insight, and Bob does a nice job with asking unique and insightful questions. Listen here:


I’ll end here, but updates will be coming much more frequently, especially once we get into preseason exhibitions here in about two weeks. Oct. 22 is the earliest date I have written down for D3 vs. D1 exhibitions/scrimmages as NJCU plays at Wagner. Looking forward to this season as tip off approaches! Have a great weekend.


The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops: Thoughts on UMHB’s hire, Carthage’s coaching change announcement, and 2 new open head coaching jobs

By Riley Zayas, @ ZayasRiley

April 18, 2023

Checking back in on this Tuesday morning! April is more than half over and the summer weather is certainly upon us (at least down here in Texas!). Hope everyone had a great weekend.

In Friday’s article, I mentioned towards the very bottom that a major development happened in the UMHB head coaching search. While I do admit that I am (slightly) biased towards Region 10 and pay especially close attention to the ASC as a beat writer covering UMHB, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that besides Loras, Belton was home to the next biggest open D3 WBB job this offseason. After all, this was a team that cracked the Top 10 in Week 2 of the poll this past season and had fairly high expectations entering the year with a solid non-conference slate that included Trinity (TX), Puget Sound, Emory, and UC-Santa Cruz.

Of course we know how it turned out. The Cru failed to reach the ASC Tournament final, and never made it to the Pool C selection table. Drama clouded the final weeks of the season with the dismissal of head coach Mark Morefield, and led us to the point where the job was open until early last week.

As both I and Cory Hogue of Dave Campbell’s Texas Basketball reported, Katie Novak has been tabbed as the program’s next head coach, returning to Texas after a one-year stint at D-II Hawai’i Pacific.

Personally, I really like this hire. I think she fits the university well in terms of her background in the ASC (more on that in a second) and leadership ability. HPU had a tough situation with its head coach previous to Novak, and ended up dismissing him due to alleged mistreatment of players (along the lines of verbal and mental abuse). She came in, re-recruited a good percentage of the players in the program, and brought with her a transfer center in Abby Spurgin, who ended up becoming the PacWest Conference Player of the Year.

Previously, she head coached Sul Ross State, doing very well despite enormous recruiting challenges (for those who don’t know, SRSU might be the most remote school in D3, especially with Finlandia shutting down). She left after five seasons as the program’s all-time leader in wins, and led the Lobos to new heights.

Looking forward to seeing what Novak can build in Belton. With resources available, a good recruiting base, and playing in a competitive, yet wide-open league, I think we could see UMHB competing for the ASC title in year one.

A few additional open head coaching positions came to my attention over the weekend.

Another GNAC job is open, as Colby Sawyer College no longer has a head coach listed on its website. Devon Quattrocchi was at the helm of that program since May 2020, but the Chargers went a combined 12-36 in the program’s two seasons under her direction (they did not play at all in 2020-21).

Pfeiffer did not make any kind of announcement, but the job was posted on on Saturday. Tooey Loy led the program for several years, though I was unable to get an official number from the website. But the bottom line is that the program’s last winning season came in 2017-18, when they went 20-5. Since then, success was not plentiful, with the Falcons going 6-17 overall, 4-12 in the USA South this past year.

There are now 16 head coaching jobs in D3 women’s basketball with a replacement having not yet been announced. The GNAC now has two jobs open (Elms, Colby Sawyer) and the USA South has two open (William Peace, Pfeiffer).

I mentioned it at the end of the Friday post, but will mention it again. I’m working to highlight as many D3 women’s basketball players who are also playing another sport at the college level. My plan is to put it out by Thursday. So if you know of a D3 WBB also playing another varsity sport be sure to let me know. Shoot me an email at

Carthage officially announced the dismissal of Tim Bernero and “has begun” a “national search” for its next head coach. Will be interested to see who takes that position, as the CCIW is a great league to be in right now.

The team went 9-17 in the CCIW this past year, but regardless, let’s just say it was one of the more controversial pieces of coaching news so far this offseason. Bernero had been with the program for 20 seasons, was the school’s all-time wins leader coach, and had a record of 311-208.

I get that firings are part of coaching. But I was not a fan of this move. For Bernero being someone who contributed to a program for so long, put together several competitive seasons in the CCIW, and overall represented Carthage well, I was very surprised when I heard about this one. I wasn’t the only one. There were quite a few frustrated individuals who voiced their opinions in opposition to it.

But what disturbs me even more is that Carthage waited SIX weeks to announce it. It took Bernero going on Twitter to confirm previous reports that he was no longer with the school. That’s not the way it should go. Maybe I’m not aware of the full situation, and I know there was an AD change, but I’ve always been taught in journalism that if you’re going to write something, or say something, that could be considered controversial, you also need to stand behind that. I see it as the same thing here. Carthage made a controversial decision to let Bernero go, but then waited until yesterday to make any kind of announcement. They did not stand behind their decision initially, and perhaps that is because it was a controversial one. UMHB never made any public announcement in regards to the departure of Mark Morefield either, though that story did receive more press.

Regardless, I just don’t like schools treating coaches this way, especially coaches who have been around for as long as Bernero had. Make a public statement, announce the coaching change, and move on. But don’t try to hide it.

Have a great day! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe for free to The Scoop on D3 Women’s Hoops!

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.