Welcome to March, DII women's basketball fans. The journey for a spot in the DII Women's Elite Eight begins on March 10 across the nation at eight regional host sites. While the teams with the deepest, most disciplined rosters tend to go far, there are several game changers that are ready to propel their teams deep into the madness.
Some players are known for their scoring prowess while others take the claim of being their conference's defensive player of the year. However, these players do it all, and without them, no matter how deep a team may be, the outcome of playoff games can certainly change.
Keep one thing in mind. You are probably reading this before the final game of many conference championships has been played. The list is only players that look certain to be in the DII women's basketball championship after Sunday's selection show.
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9 game-changing players in the DII women's basketball championship (all stats through the regular season)
Annie Roshak, Ashland
The Ashland Eagles were in back-to-back championship games in 2017-18, and this team looks just as strong as those two, which lost just one game in two seasons mind you. This team has the third-best scoring offense in the division, and that comes from a bevy of scorers like Zoe Miller, Hallie Heidermann, and Hayley Smith. But the experience and ability to stuff the stat sheet make Roshak one of the most important players on any court in DII. She finished the regular season leading DII in field goal percentage, was the team leader in points, blocks and defensive rebounds, all while contributing 53 steals and 25 assists.
Breanna Campbell, Glenville State
It's pretty obvious you don't put up the points Glenville State does on an annual basis with one player alone. That said, having the right person to facilitate that super-aggressive defensive attack and fast-breaking offense is pivotal. Campbell does just that. She finished the season tied as the team leader in points scored, but also led the team in rebounds and assists and had the second-most steals. She has been a very welcome addition to this team, enabling the defending champs to not miss a beat with arguably the largest roster turnover in DII after last season.
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Brooke Olson, Minnesota Duluth
The Bulldogs are vying for the top spot in the Central Region and Brooke Olson is a large reason why. She has not only been the Bulldogs' most well-rounded player the past three seasons, but she is one of the best in the division. Olson may be having her best year yet, leading the team in scoring by more than 10 points per game, rebounding by more than two per game, and blocks with more than one per game. Despite being one of the premier go-to scorers in the region, she can dish it and plays defense averaging one steal per game. The Central Region is ridiculously tough at the top, but a dominant player like Olson could be the difference maker.
Sydney Kin, Tampa
Kin was a menace in the G-MAC the past few seasons, finishing in the top three in scoring, rebounding and blocks last season. She took her talents south and Tampa ran away with a 27-1 romp through the schedule during the regular season. She's having one of the best seasons of her career, finishing the regular season second in the SSC in scoring and first in blocks and rebounding, averaging a double double per game. Kin also shoots 65.7 percent from the floor so if you need a big shot, the Spartans can feel confident that she can hit it. Coming off a national player-of-the-week honor, Kin is poised for a big March.
Sammy Van Sickle, Colorado School of Mines
Mines has an incredible duo in Megan Van de Graaf and Ashley Steffeck, but it's Van Sickle's ability to completely stuff the box score that makes her an important element to this team's success. For the regular season, she "only" scored 9.4 points per game but led the team in rebounding (7.7 per game), assists (99), and blocks (50) while chipping in the second-most steals with 72, more than three per game. The Orediggers have a little something to prove as the No. 2 seed in the RMAC and a dominating path to the DII tournament starts with big play from Van Sickle.
Brooke Littrell, Central Missouri
Littrell has been very steady since taking the court for the Jennies three seasons ago. This year, she is leading the team in scoring on a career-high 50.3 percent shooting. She is also the team leader in rebounds (second in the MIAA as well) and steals, proving she does it all for the Jennies' highly ranked team. Central Missouri has been a top-10 team for pretty much the whole season and Littrell is the driving force behind that and any long run this team may have ahead of them.
Ashley Ingram, Texas Woman's
The Pioneers were a great story this season, cruising to the upper echelon of the national rankings before hitting a few roadblocks to close the season. Still, this is the current top team in the South Central and though it was a team effort, Ingram had a very large impact. Ingram led the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks while averaging more than two assists a game and adding 22 steals. Along with Sadie Moyer, Ingram was an All-LSC First Teamer this season and will need to keep the high level of play going if the Pioneers are to go far in March.
Dawnyel Lair, Cal State Dominguez Hills
The Toros are 27-1 as of this writing, a vast improvement from their 13-12 record last season. Lair has played a huge role in that turnaround, and it didn't go unnoticed: She was recently named the CCAA player of the year. It was the Toros' first conference title since 2015-16, and Lair led the way, leading the CCAA in rebounding, field goal percentage and steals. She also led the Toros in scoring, assists and blocks proving to be one of the single most important players on any DII women's basketball court this season. That domination across nearly every category tells you all you need to know.
Terrion Moore, Drury
If you look at this team, Kaylee DaMitz-Holt, Alana Findley, and Moore are as lethal a "Big Three" as you'll find anywhere in DII women's basketball and the 27-1 record reflects that. But the cliche tells us that defense wins championships, and that's why the choice is Moore. Moore was the GLVC defensive player of the year and still contributed across the board, third on the team in scoring, second in assists, and recorded 60 steals. Drury is a deep team and should be considered a contender to win the whole thing and with these three controlling the tempo, it will be fun to watch.
On the cusp: Here are a few key players that could very well still be playing this time next week.
- Samantha Bowman, Central Washington: Bowman is one of the best scorers and the leading rebounder in DII women's basketball. If Central Washington can get in, Bowman can be a force that changes the outcome of games by herself.
- Ariel Jones, Shippensburg: Jones has been one of DII women's basketball's best scorers since 2018 with a career average of 23.6 points per game. Should the Raiders make it in, it will be Jones's first DII women's basketball championship game and we all deserve to see what she can do on the game's largest stage.
- Lacy Stokes, Missouri Southern: The Lions were the seven seed in the Central heading into this weekend, so an MIAA tournament win should get them in, even if it is not for the MIAA title. Stokes is one of the best in DII and she leads the Lions in points, assists and steals as a sparkplug for the team.
- Keeley Carter, Trevecca Nazarene: Carter has been the Trojans' leading scorer for a few seasons, and now it's paying off. They were a five-win team last year and now sit at 20 wins and the sixth seed in the Midwest after defeating Walsh in the G-MAC quarterfinals. If they get in, Carter immediately becomes the focus for one of the tourney's potential Cinderellas.
- Paige Uyehara, Azusa Pacific: Uyehara was once again an All-PacWest First Teamer this year and just does so much so well for the Cougars. She also led the PacWest in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, showing how important she is for the conference's top-scoring offense.