So after thinking about it all offseason (or for three minutes while drinking Jack and Cokes a couple weeks ago), I decided to make things a bit more interesting with the power rankings for 2022-23.
Most of this post will take the familiar form of a table, followed by 125 words or so about each team. However, at the end, I’ll declare my HLWBB Player of the Week and – here’s the best part – that player will be the profile picture on my Twitter account for the following week. That’s a far better prize than what the league offers for their official player of the week picks (which, to be honest, will probably differ from this one in any week where it isn’t extremely, extremely obvious), in the opinion of the person who came up with the whole thing.
So who will it be? Read to the end. Or just scroll down like a dirty cheater, your call.
|Purdue Fort Wayne||7||7||–|
It’s a bit boring, particularly since the Penguins only played once during the week, on Opening Day, but Youngstown State certainly didn’t do anything to hurt themselves with an 81-72 home win over Wofford. The victory over the Terriers – who gave Clemson a solid run three days later – got a bit tight late, but was a solid season debut all in all. Lilly Ritz led the way for YSU with 27 points and 20 rebounds, numbers reminiscent of her time at Wheeling as the Division II rebounding queen. On Tuesday, Ritz, Malia Magestro and company visit Penn State, in what seems like one of the Horizon League’s better chances of the season to secure a win against a power conference team, before stopping at Akron on Friday.
Green Bay is another team that had what felt like a fairly unremarkable first week, in either direction. The Phoenix dropped their opener at Drake (coincidentally, about a half hour south of Cleveland State’s game at Iowa State earlier that day), though the Bulldogs are a tough opening assignment for just about anyone. Kevin Borseth’s charges battled back to thump Marist 74-45 in their home opener on Saturday in part by, stop me if you’ve heard this before, holding the Red Foxes to just 8.7 percent from three while shooting it at a 41.2 percent rate themselves. Hailey Oskey had 19 points and six rebounds in that game, while fifth-year senior Tatum Koenig, a portal addition from Bradley, has fit in seamlessly.
Cleveland State getting blown out by No. 8 Iowa State in their opener wasn’t entirely surprising, as the Cyclones might be even better than their lofty preseason ranking. However, it had to be a little bit disappointing for Chris Kielsmeier and company that the Vikings weren’t at least somewhat more competitive, particularly after IUPUI gave No. 7 Louisville more of a push three days later. Regardless, a loss is a loss and CSU bounced back nicely on Saturday with a decisive win over Hofstra in their home debut. Destiny Leo hasn’t been at her best in the Vikings’ first two games, but between CSU’s defense and much-improved depth – Brittni Moore and Sara Guerreiro created most of the big moments against the Pride – it hasn’t really mattered yet.
Nobody in the Horizon League had a tougher-to-read first week than Northern Kentucky, so keeping the Norse exactly where they started seems like the safe move. NKU opened their season on Thursday with, easily, the game of the week involving a Horizon League team, as they outlasted Lipscomb in triple overtime, 101-95. Lindsey Duvall posted career bests of 36 points and 15 rebounds, helping the Norse rally from a nine-point deficit in the second overtime for their first 3OT win since – I love this fact – December 1, 2011 when then-Division II NKU topped Saint Joseph’s (IN), a school that subsequently suspended operations in 2017. And then… there are letdowns, and then there’s what happened to the Norse on Sunday at Kent State, when the Golden Flashes shut out NKU for the first 7:25 of the game and never looked back during the duration of a 77-54 result. So who knows? I certainly don’t.
To this point, there hasn’t been a team that’s beaten preseason expectations more solidly than Oakland, as the Golden Grizzlies opened 2022-23 with wins over a pair of lower-to-middle class MAC teams, Akron and Central Michigan. Breanne Beatty, as expected, has led the way for the most part, but Jeff Tungate’s squad has offered a surprising amount of balance as well. Against the Chippewas, Linda Van Schaik, Alexis Johnson, and Kennedie Montue each scored a dozen points to support Beatty’s 16, and Montue went off for 21 in the opener against the Zips. Things ramp up a ton for OU this week with a pair of Big Ten opponents (Michigan State and Aaliyah McQueen’s old Illinois team), but all in all, it’s so far, so good north of Detroit.
It probably deserves a bit of an asterisk since the most impressive game in the group, by a lot, was a one-point win over a bad George Mason team, but Robert Morris’ 3-0 start has been one of the larger stories in the league so far. The Colonials, impressively, have done it without Sol Castro but Phoenix Gedeon has more than compensated with the beginnings of what might be a breakout year for the Montreal native, as she scored 52 points over the three games. Paris Kirk added 19 against an overmatched side from Division III’s Waynesburg to make an early case as one of the conference’s impact freshmen. RMU still lacks players who can score the basketball with any consistency, but the good news is that 55 points might be enough for them on most nights.
It’s hard to say that Purdue Fort Wayne has done much beyond the expected so far, as the Dons were blown out by Michigan State, but ran the NAIA’s Goshen College in their opener ahead of the MSU game, then hammered out a solid win over Bellarmine on Sunday. On a team that boasts much-improved depth thanks to a large freshman class and key transfer Sydney Graber, it was Amellia Bromenschenkel, one of the lesser-heralded returners, who stole the show during the opening week. The junior, who averaged 6.7 points per game last season, went for 22, 11, and 26 in PFW’s first games. She’s gotten there efficiently as well, hitting two-thirds of her field goal attempts so far this season including a ridiculous 11-for-15 from three. Is it sustainable? Realistically, not at that level, but it does seem likely that she has evolved into one of the team’s front-end options.
Oh, and those jerseys. Those were worth an extra spot in these rankings.
Milwaukee still has Megan Walstad and Emma Wittmershaus to dominate the middle of the floor against most opponents, so it’s easy to forget just how young the Panthers are elsewhere else. That reality seemed to come to the fore when UWM collected a big win against Loyola Chicago (incidentally, the Panthers program that set an NCAA team free throw record a couple years ago went 20-for-21 from the line in that game), but had that result sandwiched by an opening loss to Wisconsin and a blowout defeat at city rival Marquette on Sunday (while it’s generally hard to hold anything that happens versus the Big Ten against a Horizon League team, the doormat Badgers are a bit of an exception). Highly-touted freshman Kamy Peppler has been starting for the Panthers, and managed a nothing-to-sneeze-at 15 total points against her Big Ten and Big East competition.
The conference’s biggest win of the week, at least symbolically, probably belongs to IUPUI. On Sunday, the Jaguars went on a 17-6 run over the final four minutes of the game to stun Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse by a 67-61 count. Beyond being an intra-city rivalry opponent, Butler is the current home of Austin Parkinson and IUPUI’s 2021-22 coaching staff. Parkinson, of course, left The Jungle after the Jags’ NCAA Tournament loss to Oklahoma in March and poached his assistant coaches, Rachel McLimore, Anna Mortag, and star recruit Jessica Carrothers on the way out. Didn’t matter. Jazmyn Turner led four IUPUI players in double figures with 17 points, while also hauling down eight rebounds, and new head coach Kate Bruce’s defense held McLimore to just five field goal attempts in 29 minutes. IUPUI opened the season with a loss to former Horizon League squad UIC and the aforementioned defeat to Louisville, but I doubt they care right now.
About an hour before Bruce collected her first win at IUPUI, Kate Achter did the same at Detroit Mercy with a 70-65 decision over Canisius that veered toward blowout territory at times (the Titans led by 20 after three quarters) but tightened up late. The Golden Griffins aren’t world beaters, but it should be said that UDM has been very competitive in all three of its games, including road losses against North Dakota and Xavier to open the year. Freshmen Amaya Burch and Myonna Hooper have been difference makers so far, with Burch being as good of a pick as anyone to take home the league’s weekly honor for first years. Achter’s roster is still flawed in a few crucial ways and there are no quick fixes, even in the portal era, but all indications are that the days of the Titans being a road apple have passed.
It seems like an appropriate bookend to close with another team that only played on Opening Day, Wright State. Year two of the Kari Hoffman era began with an absolute shredding at the hands of Toledo, one where the Raiders scored just three points in the first quarter. A thoroughly torn down and rebuilt roster figuring out everything in their first game was never going to happen, and brighter days are ahead for WSU, but someone has to be 11th and they’re the one team in the conference that didn’t produce a positive result in the first week. Makiya Miller was the star of the Raiders’ heralded freshman class against the Rockets, connecting on a team-high 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting. A game at Bowling Green and a home opener against NAIA squad Ohio Christian are on the docket for this week, so WSU should at least have a victory by the time we’re back here.
Player of the Week
Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
Nobody had a spotless case this week, to be perfectly honest. Lilly Ritz was the early frontrunner on her 20-rebound effort, but it didn’t feel right handing out the first edition of this very prestigious award over one game. Lindsey Duvall, who will probably win the official conference honor on Monday, had a monstrous game against Lipscomb (though the lack of consideration for the extra 15 minutes of game time from most corners kind of annoys me) and really just needed a “typical” game (for her) against Kent State on Sunday to wrap things up but instead, the Norse came up with a clunker of an effort in a blowout loss. So why not Bromenschenkel? She was consistently good all week, even in what I saw of the loss to Michigan State, and her career-best 26 points clearly made a difference in what should prove to be a very solid non-conference win.
Also considered: Lilly Ritz (Youngstown State), Lindsey Duvall (Northern Kentucky), Phoenix Gedeon (Robert Morris)