The headline says it all. Enjoy the fresh offseason content, and direct all complaints about your team’s position to Bob McDonald.
1. Green Bay
As good as Green Bay was last year, the truly scary part for the rest of the league might be that the Phoenix was an extremely young squad whose best might still be ahead. Three-point sniper Sydney Levy is finally out of eligibility after what seemed like an eight-year career, and Tatum Koenig signed to play professionally in Germany after a successful victory lap of a grad transfer season. But nearly every other significant contributor is expected back for the regular season champions, including lethal shooter Maddy Schreiber, a former conference all-freshman team selection who missed the second half of last season due to injury. Between Schreiber, Bailey Butler, Cassie Schiltz and Jasmine Kondrakiewicz, Green Bay certainly won’t be lacking for options. Kevin Borseth’s program is one of the few that still leans mostly on freshman recruits and strong retention, and his typically-excellent incoming class features 6-4 center Meghan Schultz. Green Bay also added underrated former IUPUI guard Natalie Andersen – a Wisconsin native – through the transfer portal.
2. Cleveland State
The Vikings will be at or near the top of the HL as long as reigning conference player of the year Destiny Leo is around, and the locally-produced superstar enters her fourth season looking to further solidify her place as one of the top players in program history. Beyond her though, CSU has at least a couple of questions to answer given the graduations of Brittni Moore, Amele Ngwafang, and Barbara Zieniewska, along with the transfer exits of Gabriella Smith and Deja Williams. That group includes four of the Vikings’ five starters, the Horizon League’s sixth player of the year (Williams), and nearly 40 points per game. However, Cleveland State’s staff has proven as adept as anyone at out-recruiting their competition and their departures through the portal, so the smart money says that an incoming group headlined by wing Grace Ellis (Wyoming) and hard-working forward Brooklynn Fort-Davis (Howard) will pick up the slack. Continued improvement from Jordana Reisma and incoming freshman Paulina Hernandez should give CSU an elite inside game.
3. Purdue Fort Wayne
The highlight of the Mastodons’ offseason, arguably, came even before everyone else in the league was done for the year, as Shayla Sellers announced that she would return for her final season on March 14th. Sellers, as usual, will be right in the middle of things for a program trying to build on a strong close to 2022-23 and a surprise run to the Horizon League semifinals. Her lockdown defense and floor leadership are complimented nicely by all-league selection Amellia Bromenschenkel, herself one of the conference’s best players and always a threat to go off for 20 points. Those two might be enough to keep PFW in the top half of the league on their own, but most of the Dons’ other primary contributors are expected back as well, including Jazzlyn Linbo, Audra Emmerson, Destinee Marshall, and Ryin Ott, while Klea Kaci might be a breakout candidate in her second year. Do-everything Aubrey Stupp (who transferred to Nova Southeastern) will be missed, as will graduates Sylare Starks and Riley Ott, and Maria Marchesano could still use another big body or two. But as things go in the portal era, the Dons are in great shape to run it back – except two steps further this time.
4. Northern Kentucky
It’s decidedly going to be a little weird seeing Northern Kentucky take the floor without Lindsey Duvall, Ivy Turner, or Emmy Souder, the players that have largely defined recent history for Camryn Whitaker and the Norse, and it’s probably not unreasonable to expect a bit of a rebuilding year as a result of those departures. Unsuprisingly, NKU has been very active in the portal as they attempt to reset things quickly, landing Macey Blevins, Kalissa Lacy, and Mya Meredith – all of whom, coincidentally, previously played at other Directional Kentucky schools. Of that group, Western Kentucky’s Meredith was a particularly nice add, as the 2021-22 Conference USA freshman of the year was an every-game starter for the Hilltoppers and averaged 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds last year. A large and talented class of four freshmen, including Kentucky’s top-ranked shooting guard, Noelle Hubert, should help plenty as well. Among the returners, the Norse will count on Kailee Davis to keep on the track that saw her emerge as one of the league’s better scorers last season, while defensive stalwart Khamari Mitchell-Steen is also back and Allison Basye, one of the conference’s top-rated recruits last year, will likely receive an expanded role.
5. Wright State
Nobody ended last year on a heater quite like the Raiders, a team that endured a rough changeover from Katrina Merriweather to Kari Hoffman, including two high-turnover offseasons in a row. In 2022-23, WSU didn’t defeat a Division I opponent until after New Year’s Day, but nevertheless went 6-5 over the final 11 games, including an upset of Northern Kentucky and a first-round Horizon League tournament win at Oakland. The bad news is that the team’s two leading scorers, Bryce Nixon and Emily Chapman, were stopgap fifth-year players, while Taylor Johnson-Matthews and Channing Chappell (who had been the one holdover from the Raiders’ 2021 conference championship squad) are transferring out. However, league all-freshman team pick Makiya Miller is back, as are most others, and Hoffman has finally managed to add a little bit of size through the portal thanks to Layne Ferrell, who had a great three years at Akron, and Julia Hoefling, who played for Detroit Mercy coach Kate Achter at Loyola Chicago. Freshman guard Ellie Magestro-Kennedy should also offer immediate help, and Hoffman scored a major coup when a coaching change at Marshall resulted in landing Rylee Sagester, Ohio’s fourth-rated player and someone most of the conference coveted.
6. Youngstown State
A disappointing close to 2022-23 saw Youngstown State tumble from league title contender to another upset loss at home in the Horizon League quarterfinals – the Penguins were just 3-6 after February started, with the wins coming against Oakland, Detroit Mercy and Robert Morris – so there’s plenty of intrigue in the Mahoning Valley. Two of YSU’s headliners, Lilly Ritz and Megan Callahan, are now graduates, but for the most part, John Barnes will be able to run things back one more time with a pretty familiar group that includes Paige Shy, Malia Magestro, Mady Aulbach and Dena Jarrells. Emily Saunders should help hold down the team’s post situation, with help from Jen Wendler and Lindsey Linard. Given what’s, frankly, a staggering number of fifth-year players on the roster (Shy, Aulbach, Jarrells, Saunders, Wendler, Shay-Lee Kirby), the Guins will have to take steps to identify their next generation as the season plays out. That group could include Saint Louis transfer Abby Liber, Avon (OH) High School’s all-time leading scorer, freshmen point guards Bella Samz and Amya McLeod, or Mackenzie Hurd, a freshman last year who redshirted.
Milwaukee was a deceptively young team last season, but people may notice a bit more now that twin towers Megan Walstad and Emma Wittmershaus have both moved on. If that’s not enough, the Panthers have another loaded freshman class coming in highlighted by two of Wisconsin’s best high school players, Sophia Rampulla and Jorey Buwalda, and also featuring Payton Rechlicz (who undoubtedly is already comfortable with her new head coach) along with 6-3 New Zealander Izzy Pugh. Pugh and Buwalda will do their best to keep UWM’s interior game at a high level, while Rampulla can play the wing and complement returners Kendall Nead and Angie Cera. Kamy Peppler, one of the HL’s best freshmen last season, will look to continue developing into a program-defining point guard, while steady Jada Donaldson can capably keep the trains running as well. There will be growing pains of course, and it’s nearly impossible to replace Walstad’s sublime high-post game, but this is a group with lots of upside that could contend for a conference tournament bye or even a home quarterfinal game.
After outperforming expectations in year one of the Kate Bruce era, thanks largely to the remaining fragments of Austin Parkinson’s roster, IUPUI’s overhaul began in earnest this offseason. Destiny Perkins’ eligibility is exhausted, while Rachel Kent followed Parkinson to Butler as a grad transfer, Ali Berg headed to Loyola Chicago, and the aforementioned Andersen will finish her career at Green Bay, leaving just one starter in Indy. Though neither played a ton in 2022-23, Teresa Maggio and Brianna Wooldridge also transferred out, meaning that the Jaguars wound up with a total of 58 game minutes from their 2022 entering class. On the bright side, bruising forward Jazmyn Turner and her 15 points per game will be back, and the all-conference second teamer can carry plenty of weight when not in foul trouble. A bevy of transfers and freshmen will have to do most of the rest, including rookies Alexa Hocevar (Athena) and Kaylin Moorehead (Jada) who are siblings of current or recent HL players. Local native Katie Davidson is an intriguing portal add who averaged 11.5 points per game at Miami (OH) in 2020-21.
Without a doubt, then-freshman point guard Brooke Quarles-Daniels was one of the larger stories of last year across the Horizon League, bursting on the scene to lead the Golden Grizzlies in scoring, rebounding (again, as a 5-6 point guard), assists and steals en route to the conference’s freshman of the year award. She’s a relentless, electrifying player who should be in contention for some more hardware in 2023-24. Marshall transfer Alexis Johnson found new life in Oakland last year, while Linda Van Schaik was a solid contributor as well. However, it’s tough to find enough past those three to see much improvement from last year’s 12-17 overall record. Breanne Beatty elected to take a grad transfer year at East Tennessee State, where she’ll reunite with 2021-22 OU teammate Kendall Folley, and Aaliyah McQueen is in the transfer portal as well, after the once-upon-a-time highly-touted Illinois recruit was unable to rejuvenate her career with the Grizzlies. On the other side of things, Jeff Tungate landed Markyia McCormick from Division II Charleston, though she started her career at archrival Detroit Mercy before ejecting during the AnnMarie Gilbert scandal. Kianni Westbrook, a 6-3 grad transfer from Tennessee State, adds some desperately-needed size.
10. Detroit Mercy
It’s difficult to determine what awaits Achter in her second year working in Calihan Hall, though anything resembling the progress of 2022-23 would make the Titans, at minimum, contenders to host a first-round tournament game and a tough out for nearly anyone. As things stand, UDM’s four wins last season were the program’s best total since 2016-17 (yes, that’s a real stat), and the Titans return most of their top players, including Amaya Burch and Myonna Hooper, two of the HL’s better rookies last season, as well as leading scorer Irene Murua and rebound/shot blocking machine Emma Trawally Porta. Grad transfer Jaida Hampton is now on board from SIU Edwardsville (and Wichita State prior to that) and could be a front-line contributor as well. Considering Detroit Mercy’s recent history, the Titans’ freshman class is nothing less than stellar, featuring well-regarded point guards Paris Gilmore and Makayla Jackson, from Ohio and Maryland, respectively. Saginaw’s Kamari Forrest is considered a high-upside player as well and she, along with Finnish prospect Latifa Amzil, will give UDM good depth on the wings.
11. Robert Morris
There’s really no way around it: in what’s seemingly an annual occurrence, Robert Morris was once again battered by the offseason departures of most of its best players. Sol Castro (who sat out for 2022-23 due to a foot injury) transferred to San Francisco, while leading scorer and rebounder Phoenix Gedeon headed off to St. John’s, and bomber Mackenzie Amalia elected to finish her career at Canisius. That’s not ideal for a team that was already in pretty rough shape, with 19 losses last season, including a 1-10 stretch between Christmas and Groundhog Day. Some solid pieces remain, including Simone Morris, who is one of the league’s better defensive players, and steps forward by Danielle Vuletich and Paris Kirk (returning after missing most of her rookie year with a torn ACL) would give Bobby Mo a credible inside presence. It’s probably not fatal for a team with RMU’s hardworking identity to lack star power, but the Colonials will have to improve on an offense that ranked near the bottom nationally in almost every significant category to crawl away from the bottom of the standings. Mississippi sisters Madison and Micah O’Dell highlight RMU’s freshman class.