The DII women’s basketball season is quickly approaching. As Lubbock Christian looks to win its third national championship in a row, let’s look into the crystal ball and the preseason Power 10 rankings.
The season tips off in Canyon, Texas, at the D2CCA Tip Off Classic with four of the best DII women’s basketball has to offer. West Texas A&M hosts Drury, Southwestern Oklahoma State and Central Missouri in a mini tournament of recent DII Women’s Elite Eight teams. We’ll learn quite a bit quickly, especially with some new looks to the women’s hoops landscape.
FINAL 2021 POWER 10: How last season ended
Now remember, these are my rankings, and mine alone. As with all my Power 10 rankings, I tore apart rosters and paired insight from coaches, SIDs and insiders with what the selection committee tends to look at come tournament time — strength of schedule, win-loss percentage and stats of that nature — to come up with a fair version of the top 10. You can expect the new Power 10 every Wednesday throughout the season.
Let’s take our first stab at the top 10 for the 2021-22 season.
The DII women's basketball preseason Power 10
No. 1 Lubbock Christian
It’s hard to go with Lubbock Christian anywhere but No. 1. This team is the definition of DII powerhouse having won three of the last five national championships. And they have only been in DII women’s basketball for six years (they were 28-3 in 2020 when play halted for COVID-19). Last year’s leading scorer Allie Schulte is back with 2021’s top rebounder Juliana Robertson and a slew of returners with championship experience.
2021 RECAP: Lubbock Christian repeats as national champions
No. 2 Drury
Drury is more like a 1B as the Panthers and Lubbock Christian have become DII Women's Elite Eight locks recently. Amy Eagan proved to be a good fit in her first season at the helm and has seven key returners back in Springfield, Missouri. One of those players is Paige Robinson who averaged 21.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game in her 2021 WBCA DII player of the year campaign. Both Azia Lynch and Payton Richards are back in the starting lineup after All-GLVC campaigns, but Pittsburg State transfer Kaylee DaMitz could prove to be huge after averaging 16.4 points per game in her 2020-21 All-MIAA season.
No. 3 Azusa Pacific
While everyone always talks about Drury and LCU, the Cougars have quietly put together back-to-back trips to the DII Women’s Elite Eight. Laura Pranger has been a key cog throughout the entire run, but the top six scorers from last season are back in Azusa, California for another go. If the Cougars stay healthy, we’re looking at a special team.
No. 4 Lander
Zamiya Passmore proved to be one of the best players in the country last season in leading the Bearcats to a historic finish in the national semifinals. Passmore — who averaged 20.8 points per game last season — is back as is all five starters from this 20-2 team. Makaila Cange will hold down the paint after averaging a double-double last season. There is simply too much talent returning from a proven winner for this team to be any lower on the list.
No. 5 Central Missouri
The Jennies have become a model of excellence in DII women’s basketball, winners of the 2018 national championship and a national semifinalist last season. There is plenty back in Warrensburg, topped by All-American Nija Collier, who averaged 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in a defensive player of the year campaign. We will know a lot quickly about this year’s rendition of the Jennies squaring off against three top-25 teams in the first three days of the season.
No. 6 Alaska Anchorage
The Seawolves played all of three non-DII games last season, but if you think that I am leaving a team that has averaged 31.2 wins a season since their 2016 national runners-up campaign you are gravely mistaken. Then throw in a pair of preseason All-GNAC players in Tennae Voliva and Sala Langi with six key returners from the 31-win 2020 squad and this team is poised for yet another run in to the tournament.
HISTORY: The programs with the most titles
No. 7 Fort Hays State
Whitney Randall, Jaden Hobbs, Olivia Hollenbeck, Katie Wagner, Cydney Bergmann and Sydney Golladay combined to score 60.3 of the Tigers 71.7 points per game. The bad news for an absolutely loaded MIAA is that all six are back for another run. This team went 22-4 to earn the No. 1 seed in the Central Region before falling to Central Missouri. You can be sure that is fresh on their minds, and with all that experience returning, it won’t be forgotten any time soon.
No. 8 Ashland
The Eagles had a down year by their standards. Of course, many programs would love to have a down year that ended with a 16-9 record and a run to the Midwest Region championship game. Nine of the 12 regular players are back including Annie Roshak, Karlee Pireu and Hallie Heidemann who all scored in double figures last season. Ashland heads to the G-MAC so a new era is underway. We have a feeling these Eagles will want to leave their mark right out of the gate.
No. 9 North Georgia
The Nighthawks are a perennial contender, and this year should be no different. Top scorer Julianne Sutton and her 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game is back as is PBC freshman of the year Caroline Martin. Three-year starter Abbie Franklin also anchors a strong rotation, but Jamari McDavid (Wofford) and Kayla Massop (Florida A&M) are a pair of DI transfers that could make an instant impact for this team.
No. 10 Daemen
The Wildcats made a run to the Elite Eight last season and five of their top-6 scorers are back for more. Katie Titus is solidifying herself as an ECC superstar and added the 2021 East Regional Most Outstanding Player and All-American honors to her resume last season. A full season from Tiara Filbert — the 2021 ECC preseason player of the year that missed the final nine games with injury — should keep this team among the best.
NEWS AND UPDATES: Stay up to date with DII women's basketball
First out: 7 schools that just missed (in alphabetical order)
Carson-Newman: The Eagles have become a DII women's basketball staple and with all five starters back — which were also the top five scorers on the team — they should be in the mix once again.
Colorado School of Mines: All five starters are back for an Orediggers' team that finished 17-3 last season. Jenna Siebert and Paige Yarbrough are two freshmen to watch in what should be a very competitive RMAC.
Michigan Tech: Jordan Ludescher was fun to watch as a freshman as she helped power the Huskies to the GLIAC championship and No. 1 seed in the region. She’ll be joined by plenty of returning talent on a mission to repeat.
Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs had the best record in the NSIC last year because, well, because that’s just what Minnesota Duluth does. Brooke Olson, who averaged 21.9 points per game last season, is back as is Sarah Grow, Ann Simonet and Maesyn Thiesen in the starting rotation.
Nebraska-Kearney: Four of the five starters are back in Kearney, as is Elisa Backes who led the Lopers in scoring in a primarily reserve role. This team won 23 games last season and there is just too much returning experience to ignore.
Southwestern Oklahoma State: Kelsi Musick has built a powerhouse in Weatherford and all five starters — all of which averaged in double-digits for scoring — are back for another run. Last season the Bulldogs made it to the regional final behind an 18-4 record and with Makyra Tramble and Bethany Franks leading the charge, they should be just fine.
Texas A&M-Commerce: Three All Americans in DesiRay Kernal, Dyani Robinson and Chania Wright are back for a team that went 14-4 in last year’s shortened season. The Lions have shown they are winners, and with that kind of experience back, expect them to contend in a tricky Lone Star Conference.
Also considered (in alphabetical order)
- Arkansas Tech: The battle between the Golden Suns and SWOSU should be a good one. Ashlei Lopez, Jayana Sanders and Kaley Shipman are all back with five other returners that look to improve on last year’s 14-2 campaign.
- Barton: Shanika Peterkin is one of DII’s best, coming off a season in which she averaged a double-double. The Bulldogs won 13 games last season and should improve again in 2022.
- Benedict: Ay’Anna Bey is back and that makes Benedict dangerous. Bey is a perennial player of the year candidate since her freshman season and coming off a year in which she averaged 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, I expect more of the same.
- Bentley: Don’t forget the Falcons just because they haven’t played since March 2020. Bentley is a perennial powerhouse and if it weren’t for the time off, they’d probably be in the top 10.
- Belmont Abbey: The Crusaders rolled to the DII Women’s Elite Eight last season but have lost too many of those key pieces to be in the top 10 just yet and open the season with a bevy of question marks.
- Charleston (WV): I’m by no means out on the Golden Eagles after their historic season but the loss of Brooklyn Pannell and Erykah Russell — who combined for 43.2 points and 14.8 rebounds a night — is a lot to overcome.
- Emporia State: Two words: Tre’zure Jobe. Jobe is a player of the year contender and enough for me to consider Emporia State a top-25 threat.
- Glenville State: The Pioneers always make the list with that offense. Last season, they averaged 98.4 points per game and the top six scorers from that squad are back.
- Hawaii Pacific: The Sharks have lost just two games over the past two seasons, but this team has lost a lot of those players responsible. Still, Amy Baum returns, and Hawaii Pacific is a team to watch.
- Indiana (PA): Nine returners from the 2020 season are back including Justina Mascaro who scored 14.2 points per game last time the Crimson Hawks played. Gina Adams and Kiera Baughman were All-Ohio and All-Pennsylvania in 2019-20 and have been itching to get on the DII basketball court. Here’s their chance.
- Jefferson: Don't forget about the Rams, who never took the court in 2021. This team puts up 20-win seasons on the regular and there is a bunch of returning talent ready to go.
- Tusculum: The Pioneers lose Maddie Sutton who led the team in just about everything, but have enough returning to make them one to watch.
- Union (TN): What is a top 25 without the Union. Four of the top-5 scorers are back including Jaelencia Williams who is a player of the year candidate.
- USciences: Another team that may be forgotten after not playing in 2021, but has the resume to prove they shouldn't be. Top scorer Irisa Ye is back with plenty of veterans for another strong season.
- Valdosta State: Head coach Deandra Schirmer has something brewing in Titletown. Kwajelin Farrar is back and despite losing a few key pieces to last year’s 18-4 team, there is solid experience returning with her.
- Walsh: Sha Carter is enough for me to have the Cavaliers on the list. I expect a good fight for first between Walsh and Ashland in the G-MAC.
- West Texas A&M: There are a lot of questions in Canyon that will be answered quickly at the Tip Off Classic. New head coach Joshua Prock will have six familiar faces back but some of team's biggest stars are gone.