Welcome to the Starting Five, your rundown of the key stories in #HLWBB from the past…however long it took to come up with five stories since the previous Starting Five.
1. OHOW sweet it is
Way back in September of 2021, my ninth-ever post on this website was an #HLWBB Starting Five that had an item about the groundbreaking for Milwaukee’s Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin (OHOW) Center, a on-campus practice facility adjacent to the Klotsche Center. Ever since then, the OHOW Center has always been something kind of there in the background, its construction marking the time that I’ve been doing this, and I’ve really enjoyed monitoring the progress.
Well, as of last week, the place is finally open, and it looks nice. I guess it better look nice when it cost $15 million (thanks for that nugget, YouTube guy).
Sorry to go off script a bit with some men’s basketball content – it’s pretty surprising how hard it is to find any sort of behind-the-scenes on the place that isn’t just a slickly-edited 45 seconds set to music and geared towards social media consumption.
The OHOW Center certainly has everything a true hooper could ever want, and it’s a major asset in a conference where basketball often has to share territory with other student-athletes and/or play games off campus (as Milwaukee’s men’s team does). I always think it’s a bit much when people call things like this “game changers” to be completely honest, but it clearly moves Milwaukee right to the top echelon of the Horizon League facilities arms race. At least until another school decides to build something.
2. Minnesota nice
Let’s stick with the Panthers for a bit longer. Milwaukee’s identity, at least to me, was dominated by the twin towers of Megan Walstad and Emma Wittmershaus for a long time. However, with those two now gone, they have more than a bit of a void in the middle of the floor. Presumably some of that will be addressed by freshman Izzy Pugh, a 6-2 forward from New Zealand, but roster replenishment is a non-stop task and so the recent commitment of 2024 prospect Cece McNair – another 4/5 type of player – was pretty important for Kyle Rechlicz’s program.
McNair is from Prior Lake, Minnesota, just about 20 minutes west of Walstad’s hometown, Apple Valley. That’s mostly down to coincidence I suppose, but it is worth mentioning that Walstad’s passing was one of my favorite parts of her game and McNair is indeed also very good at that. She also looks like a walking and-one.
I’m no college basketball recruiter, but I’m pretty sure they like to see the player’s defense too, video editor person.
3. Big game hunting
With rosters pretty much finalized and the coaching carousel at least slowed (but not fully stopped), there’s really only one major category of news left: schedule releases. And, at least based on last year’s release dates, it’s about that time.
Naturally, non-conference games often leak before the schools can announce them, generally because their opponents decided to announce them first. Two of those have hit the radar recently:
- Robert Morris will host College of Charleston on December 16th
- Oakland will host MAC champion Toledo on December 17th
Of course, public records requests can also be effective. Joel Whetzel from the Warren Tribune Chronicle and Youngstown Vindicator threw one of those at Youngstown State back in June, and uncovered the following Penguins games:
- November 8th vs. Xavier
- November 17th vs. Western Michigan
- November 19th at West Virginia
- December 6th vs. Akron
- December 9th at Saint Francis
As you may know, Whetzel inspired me to try the same thing with Cleveland State, so a decent chunk of the Vikings’ slate is out in the open as well, highlighted by a trip to Des Moines to play Iowa (and a $43,000 guarantee) on December 16th.
4. Bowlin Green
Green Bay’s staff boasts two of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in the conference and head coach Kevin Borseth has been around since 1998, other than a five-season Michigan interruption (where, yes, he once put his fist through a press conference lectern, the only thing anyone seems to remember about his time away from Northeast Wisconsin).
In that context, it’s pretty notable that the Phoenix has made a couple staff adjustments this offseason, even if none involved the aforementioned trio. Early in July, of course, Jada Patterson was hired as the director of operations and content creation. Then, on July 20th, a fairly obvious second shoe dropped as the previous DOBO, Patrick Bowlin, was promoted to assistant coach. Prior to his two seasons in the ops role, Bowlin was a high school coach and – this is pretty interesting – was an assistant coach with Green Bay’s volleyball team in 2013-14. Two-sport athletes can and do happen, but you don’t hear a ton about two-sport coaches at the college level in the modern era.
By the way, you think that Michigan press conference video goes hard? When I went on Borseth’s school profile to verify the length of his tenure, I learned that he got his start in coaching by running open gyms for inmates at a minimum security prison. So there’s clearly more where that came from.
5. JRL 2 WBCA
Horizon League commissioner Julie Roe Lach earned a prestigious position last week, as she was appointed to the board of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), in a seat reserved for a representative for the commissioners of NCAA Division I conferences. The WBCA is, as the name implies, a professional association for coaches of women’s and girls’ basketball and most of its activities are pointed towards that end. However, it also does a ton of public-facing things like name a set of postseason award winners, curate the Academic Top 25 Team Honor Rolls (something where Roe Lach’s conference is always very well represented), sponsor or co-sponsor polls in each NCAA division and, according to this latest announcement, they’re also looking to get into the MTE business. It’s an extremely visible entity in the women’s basketball world, and it’s certainly good for the conference to have representation in its leadership.
Incidentally, the 2024 WBCA convention will be held in an HL city, Cleveland, in conjunction with the upcoming Final Four.