The 2020 DII women's basketball championship tournament is a month away and teams are catching fire at the right time. Let's take a look at a few that may be creeping under your radar at the moment.
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It doesn't take rocket science to tell you that a team doesn't want to play Ashland or Drury right now. In fact, there's a good chance you don't ever want to play those two teams with their combined resume over the past five or six years. We're not looking at the obvious here. We're looking at red-hot teams that are outside the top 20, ones you may not have realized just how well they are playing.
Here are 14 that we would not want to face with our season on the line. All teams are outside the top 20 and we went in alphabetical order to avoid trying to figure out which is the scariest.
Alabama Huntsville: A month ago, the Chargers looked like the postseason was a lost cause, sitting at 7-8. Now, UAH is 14-8 and sitting in fourth place by just a half a game in the Gulf South Conference. The Chargers have already matched their win total from 2019 and don't look to be slowing down any time soon.
Belmont Abbey: Last season, the Crusaders finished 21-10. This year, they're already at 22 wins thanks to a 12-game winning streak. Belmont Abbey is perfect at home and 17-1 in Conference Carolinas and really has played just one close game since its last loss, a six-pointer to Barton way back on Jan. 2.
Bowie State: The Bulldogs have won four in a row and have locked up their fifth 20-win season in a row. The reason Bowie State is scary is because of how it wins: behind one of the toughest defenses in DII women's basketball. Last year, the Bulldogs were the best in DII allowing just 49.2 points per game, a mark they've improved on in 2020, allowing just 48.1 points per game, second-best in DII.
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Cal State San Marcos: The Cougars improved by 10 wins last season and have already matched the 2018-19 win total this year, currently on a four-game winning streak to get to 18-4. Cal State San Marcos has lost just three times since the calendar flipped to 2020 and its last six wins have been big ones, all coming in double-digit fashion.
Daemen: The Wildcats have reeled off 10 in a row and are perfect at home. That's big because they have fellow East Coast Conference foe St. Thomas Aquinas on this lis — and they play on Friday, Feb. 14. Daemen has a balanced attack, second in the ECC in both offense and defense. What's most impressive is their entire starting five is averaging double-figures per game.
Harding: The Great American Conference has been SWOSU country the past few couple of seasons, but before that Harding ruled. On Jan. 11, Harding was 7-7 and just one month and an eight-game winning streak later, it is tied for first in the GAC. The team Harding is tied with was nationally ranked Southeastern Oklahoma State — which it defeated in a 12-point victory on the road.
Kentucky Wesleyan: The Panthers have strung together two double-digit win streaks this season, opening the year on a 13-0 run while currently cruising on a 10-0 run. Sandwiched in between is their lone loss to Great Midwest Athletic Conference foe Walsh. KWC has the G-MAC's best scoring defense, allowing just 54.8 points per game giving the Panthers the third-best scoring margin in DII women's basketball.
Lander: There was a point this team was 4-3 on the season, but that's long forgotten. The Bearcats have won 16 in a row with quite a few signature wins on their resume, including a big one on Jan. 18 against Peach Belt Conference foe, No. 15 North Georgia. Let's not forget, this Lander team made a statement in the preseason, taking down Clemson at the buzzer.
Lincoln (PA): The Lions are the second CIAA team to make an appearance, riding a nine-game winning streak. The conference is celebrating its 75th anniversary of its first tournament and this women's one should be one to remember. Lincoln is leading the conference in scoring at 75.7 points per game and in a CIAA with quite a few current winning streaks, none are as long as the Lions right now.
Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs' 19-5 record is a bit deceiving. They challenged themselves big-time early on and opened the season 0-3 having to play the likes of Drury and Fort Hays State on the road. But Minnesota Duluth has certainly righted the ship, winners of their last five and eight of their last nine. It also has a huge win over Sioux Falls, one of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference teams sure to be in the NCAA DII tournament mix come selection day.
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St. Thomas Aquinas: The Spartans have won eight games in a row heading into this weekend's matchup against Daemen. You want to talk about balance: St. Thomas Aquinas leads the ECC in both scoring offense (73.6 per game) and defense (58.5 per game). The team distributes the wealth evenly amongst its top three scorers as Ruth Adams, Melissa Sadler and Zaira Thomas contribute 39.8 points per game in a nearly even split.
Stonehill: The Skyhawks have lost just one game in the 2020 calendar year, and that was by a mere three points to Pace on Jan. 22. While Adelphi is making its case as the cream of the Northeast-10 crop, Stonehill has quietly crept into first place in the Northeast Division, primarily behind a defense that has allowed the second-fewest points in the NE10 all season.
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Shepherd: The Rams are adjusting to life in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rather well. After winning just 11 games last year in its Mountain East Conference swan song, Shepherd already has 18 wins, including its last seven in a row. This team certainly makes it exciting winning games by fewer than four points a contest, but their "Big Three" of Abby Beeman, Marley McLaughlin and Sydney Clayton are as good as any in the PSAC, all averaging over 17.0 points per game.
Tarleton: The TexAnns are another team that flipped a switch when the calendar turned to the next decade, going 10-1 thus far. Tarleton gets buried in a Lone Star Conference that has undefeated Texas A&M-Commerce, reigning champion Lubbock Christian and top-20 West Texas A&M lighting up the scoreboards. Speaking of the latter, Tarleton can send a real loud message in a Feb. 13 matchup against the Lady Buffs on the road, but either way Tarleton no longer seems like an easy out in a stacked LSC tournament.