Plowcha’s Poll: Horizon League Women’s Basketball Preseason Rankings 10-12

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Photo by Horizon League

Kevin Plowcha ranks his bottom three women’s basketball squads for the upcoming Horizon League season, UIC (left), Purdue Fort Wayne (right), and Detroit Mercy (not pictured).

By Kevin Plowcha, Contributor

With the college basketball season less than two weeks away, and with more and more preseason polls coming out across the country, it’s time to take a look at the Horizon League women’s basketball scene. Today, I will be breaking down my choices for the “bottom three” teams in the league.

These rankings will be based on players returning to their respective teams along with transfers and recruits that are coming into the program, and statistics from those players from their previous seasons.

12. Detroit Mercy Titans

2020-21 Record: (1-13 Overall, 1-9 Conference), Finished 10th in Horizon League, Did not finish their season, suspended play on January 21st

Top non-conference matchups:

1. November 9th @ Loyola Chicago

2. December 8th vs. Western Michigan

3. December 21st @ Valparaiso

Key Additions:

Tori Powell, Grad. Guard (UNC Greensboro)

Notable Losses:

1. Kaela Webb, Jr. Guard (FGCU)

2. Sylare Starks, Jr. Guard (Purdue Fort Wayne)

3. Bridgid Fox, R-So. Forward (Eastern Kentucky)

Players to Watch:

Imani McNeal, Jr. Guard 2020-21 (South Georgia Tech College): 10 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 70 FT%

The Outlook:

Last season was a rough one for the Titans, and it looks like this season will be more of the same. They suspended play on January 21st and didn’t finish the regular season or participate in the conference tournament. Detroit Mercy brings in an entirely new roster for this season. Nobody who played on the 2020-21 team is returning for the 2021-22 season.

Imani McNeal and Sydney Searcy headline this year’s roster. McNeal averaged 10 PPG with South Georgia Tech College. Graduate student Sydney Searcy brings her experience to the table, as her first two seasons were with SEC power Florida before transferring to Morgan State and eventually ending up at Detroit Mercy. She is a steal machine, as she registered 46 steals in 65 games.

The Titans will need time to figure out how this new regime will gel and play together, which means they will most likely struggle this season. That’s why they slot in at #12 in the rankings.

11. Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons

2020-21 Record: (1-22 Overall, 1-19 Conference), Finished 12th in Horizon League, Lost to Youngstown State 62-59 in first round of the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference games:

1. November 12th @ Ball State

2. November 24th vs. Evansville

3. December 12th @ Notre Dame

Key Additions:

1. Sylare Starks, Jr. Guard (Detroit Mercy)

2. Shianne Johnson, Sr. Guard (Weber State)

Key Departures:

1. Sierra Bell, Grad. Guard (George Washington)

2. Rylie Parker, So. Guard (Indiana Wesleyan)

Players to Watch:

1. Riley Ott, J/G 2020-21: 10 PPG, 2.5 RPG, Started all 23 games last season

2. Aubrey Stupp, So/G 2020-21: 4.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, Started 16 of 23 games last season

The Outlook:

Looking at last season’s roster, I find it hard to believe that this team only won ONE regular-season game last year. Things can only go up from here, right? It may have had something to do with coaching, as the Mastodons have a brand-new coaching staff for the upcoming season, led by Maria Marchesano. Unlike Detroit Mercy, PFW has some returning players from last year’s roster.

A big player to watch for the Mastodons this season is Riley Ott. After losing their top scorer in Sierra Bell, look for Ott to be at the helm for a majority of the season. Luckily for Riley, she gets to play with her sister, Ryin, this season, who is joining PFW this season as a freshman.

It will be a tough road for PFW, but they appear to be taking steps in the right direction, even if they’re small. Having an entirely new coaching staff will certainly take time to figure out, but I’m sure the Mastodons will win more than one game this season, which is why they slot in at #11.

10. UIC Flames

2020-21 Record: (3-16 Overall, 1-13 Conference), Finished 11th in Horizon League, Lost to Cleveland State 69-43 in the first round of the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference games:

1. November 10th @ Northwestern

2. December 18th vs. Saint Louis

3. December 22nd @ Kansas State

Key Additions:

1. Justice Gee (East Carolina)

2. Isabel Gonzales (Connors State)

Key Departures:

1. Jealissa Presswood (Graduation)

2. Jada Nneji (Alabama State)

Players to Watch:

1. Tiana Jackson, Jr. G 2020-21: 6.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, one of just two players to play and start in all 19 games

2. Keona Schenck, So G 2020-21: 9.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, the other player to play and start in all 19 games

The Outlook:

The Flames may be taking a tiny step backward this season after losing their all-time blocks leader, Jada Nneji, as well as Jealissa Presswood, who graduated. They bring in some experience with Justice Gee, a grad student from ECU.

Another place they have experience is at the head coach position. Tasha Pointer is now in her fourth year coaching at UIC, but she has a lot of previous coaching experience before taking the helm in Chicago. She led St. John’s to the Big East Tournament championship, an NCAA tournament berth, and was a part of the legendary C. Vivian Stringer’s staff at Rutgers.

UIC’s roster this season also has quite a few freshmen on it, who will need time to develop. I think she will be able to point them in the right direction, but just not this year.

Stay tuned to Colonial Sports Network and our Twitter as I continue my rankings over the next month.