Conference tournaments are less than a month away. March is quickly approaching, and league standings are starting to finalize. Now is the time for teams to make that one, final push.
Here are three games to watch this weekend in DII women's basketball, all of which feature in-state rivals.
No. 11 Grand Valley State (10-1) vs. Northern Michigan (7-4) | 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 13
The 11th-ranked Lakers are on a six-game winning streak and have one of the more disciplined defenses in the country. They only commit 12.5 fouls per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in DII. Grand Valley State is also holding opponents to just 57.9 points per game. No team has reached the 70-point mark against the Lakers this season.
Offensively, they're led by a pair of juniors with a combined scoring average of 30.4. Emily Spitzley's 15.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game rank first on the team. Hannah Kulas is right behind her, averaging 14.5 points and 6 rebounds per game.
The Wildcats will need a big night from their leading scorer, Makaylee Kuhn. The sophomore guard averages 20 points per game on 53.5 percent shooting this season. She also hits 38.2 percent of her 3-point field-goal attempts.
But here's the crazy part: Kuhn isn't Northern Michigan's best 3-point shooter. Among active players that've logged at least 15 minutes per game, she ranks fourth behind Kayla Tierney (50 percent), Elizabeth Lutz (46.9 percent) and Samantha Potter (40 percent).
Bemidiji State (7-3) vs. No. 6 Minnesota Duluth (7-0) | 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 13
No. 6 Minnesota Duluth is led by forward Brooke Olson, who's currently flirting with a 50-40-90 season. The junior shoots 53.8 percent from the floor, 38.7 percent from deep and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line. That's before mentioning that she averages a team-high 19.3 points per game.
Olson is practically unstoppable, so the Beavers will need their scoring trio of Brooklyn Bachmann (13.2 points), Rachael Heittola (13.0 points) and Trinity Meyer (11.3 points) to be at its best. It'll likely be Bachmann that draws the assignment of guarding Olson. Both forwards stand at 6-2 and average just over six rebounds per game. This could be one of the more compelling matchups of the weekend.
Of course, there are others on Minnesota Duluth that pose trouble for defenders. Keep in mind that the Bulldogs are shooting 45.8 percent from the floor as a team. Of the five players that've attempted at least 40 field goals this season, four of them are shooting over 45 percent. That includes Sarah Grow, the club's second-leading scorer with an even 10 points per game. She's knocking down 48.4 percent of her shots.
Colorado School of Mines (11-2) vs. No. 14 Western Colorado (10-1) | 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 13
In the first meeting between these two on Dec. 18, Western Colorado handed Colorado School of Mines its first loss of the season, 57-51. The Orediggers are 8-1 since that game, and are riding a six-game winning streak into Saturday's contest.
But the 14th-ranked Mountaineers are also rolling, having won five in a row. They're led by two of the country's better 3-point shooters in Emmery Wagstaff and Samantha Coleman. Wagstaff shoots 50 percent (27-of-54) from beyond the arc while Coleman is at 41.7 percent (25-of-60). As a team, Western Colorado knocks down 38.4 percent of its 3-pointers. That ranks 13th in DII.
Mines will counter with a top-10 defense. The Orediggers are holding teams to just 53.4 points per game, which ranks ninth in the country. They're also limiting opposing shooters to 30.3 percent from the 3-point line. Leading the way defensively is sophomore guard Ashley Steffeck. She's averaging 3.2 steals per game and is one of four Mines players that've recorded at least 20 this season (Steffeck has a team-high 42 steals).