Plowcha’s Poll: breaking down teams 4-6 in the Horizon League WBB landscape

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Photo by Horizon League

Kevin Plowcha breaks down his teams that rank 4-6 in the Horizon League women’s basketball slate. Northern Kentucky (left), Oakland (center) and Wright State (right)

By Kevin Plowcha, Contributor

We are so close to the return of college hoops… Plowcha’s Poll takes yet another dive into the Horizon League women’s basketball landscape to make my predictions. This time, we look at teams 4-6. Last week, I broke down teams 7-9.

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.

6. Wright State Raiders

2020-21 Record: (19-8 overall, 15-5 conference), Finished 1st in Horizon League, Won the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference matchups:

  1. November 24th vs. Xavier
  2. December 12th @ Abilene Christian
  3. December 21st @ Indiana

Key Additions:

  1. Deesh Beck (Ohio)
  2. Makira Webster (Wabash CC)

Key Departures:

  1. Katrina Merriweather (Head Coach, Memphis)
  2. Angel Baker (Ole Miss)
  3. Emani Jefferson (Memphis)
  4. Tyler Frierson (Memphis)

Players to Watch:

  1. Jada Roberson, Jr/G, 2020-21: 6.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 24.6 MPG
  2. Destyne Jackson, R-So/G, 2020-21: 4.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 25.3 MPG, Named HL WBB Freshman of the week (Week 4)

The Outlook:

My curiosity was piqued when I first saw that Wright State was tied for 7th in the Horizon League preseason rankings. How could a group that won the conference championship last year have such a fall from grace? The answer is simple. The Raiders lost a ton of talent from last year’s team, including their head coach. After five seasons, Katrina Merriweather was named as the next head coach at Memphis.

It doesn’t stop there. WSU’s leading scorer, Angel Baker (who averaged 18 PPG last season), transferred to Ole Miss. Their #2 and #3 scorers, Emani Jefferson and Tyler Frierson, both transferred to Memphis. Combine all that with also losing three seniors to graduation, and you have a much different team than last season. More opportunities will be provided because of this. Watch out for Channing Chappell, who could be a sharpshooter this season for WSU.

There are certainly some big shoes to fill for this upcoming season. The Raiders will have to rely on their younger players to step up and make something happen, along with their first-year head coach, Kari Hoffman. This is why they slot in at #6 on my rankings.

5. Oakland Golden Grizzlies

2020-21 Record: (12-12 overall, 12-8 conference), Finished 4th in Horizon League, Lost to IUPUI 86-64 in quarterfinals of the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference matchups:

  1. November 9th vs Toledo
  2. November 22nd @ Michigan
  3. November 26th vs. Michigan State

Key Additions:

  1. Aaliyah McQueen (Illinois)

Key Departures:

  1. Autumn Kissman (Graduation)
  2. Chloe Guingrich (Graduation)

Players to Watch:

  1. Kahlaijah Dean, Sr/G, 2020-21: 17.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 107 assists (led team in all three) Named on the 2021-22 HL Preseason All-League First Team
  2. Alona Blackwell, Jr/G, 2020-21: 10.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG

The Outlook:

Last season was a historic one for the Golden Grizzlies, who won a record-tying 12 Horizon League games and even hosted a Horizon League Tournament quarterfinal game against IUPUI.

Oakland will look to build off of last season and continue their success, which all starts with senior Kahlaijah Dean. She earned All-League first-team honors and became the 29th player in Oakland program history to eclipse the 1000 point mark.

The Grizzlies also return most of their players from last year’s roster and bring in a solid recruiting class. Despite four players graduating and leaving a hole, the stability is still there, and you add five talented freshmen who can help bolster the roster.

I had a hard time deciding whether to put Oakland at #5 or #4. They will, in my opinion, have a top-half finish in the Horizon League and have a successful season. Whether or not they can take it to the next level remains to be seen.

4. Northern Kentucky Norse

2020-21 Record: (8-11 overall, 7-5 conference) Finished 8th in Horizon League, Lost to Wright State 74-56 in quarterfinals of the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference matchups:

  1. November 14th vs. Eastern Kentucky
  2. November 24th @ Miami (OH)
  3. December 11th @ Saint Louis

Key Additions:

  1. Joelle Johnson (Georgia State)
  2. Whitney Hay (Belmont)

Key Departures:

  1. Kailey Coffey (Graduation)
  2. Ally Niece (Graduation)

Players to Watch:

  1. Lindsey Duvall, R-Sr/G, 2020-21: 16.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG (led team in both), Reached double figures in scoring in all 19 games, Named to All-Horizon League 2nd Team, Named on the 2021-22 preseason HL All-League First Team
  2. Ivy Turner, Jr/G, 2020-21: 11.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, Named on HL All-League 3rd Team, Named on the 2021-22 preseason HL All-League 2nd Team

The Outlook:

You can chalk up last year’s record to COVID. Many teams did not play full seasons, and NKU was no exception. This season, the Norse look to jump way up in the standings with their returning superstar, Lindsey Duvall, who averaged nearly 17 points per game last season.

Losing their #3 and #5 scorers to graduation hurts, but the combination of Duvall and #2 scorer Ivy Turner should carry the bulk of the load. NKU also brings in four talented athletes from their recruiting class, led by guard Kailee Davis, who looks to build off of her HS senior season in which she averaged 17 PPG for Renaissance High School.

The Norse are relying on their past while looking ahead to the future. This combo should result in a much higher finish than last season. I give the Norse the edge over Oakland, which is why I slot them in at #4.

Stick around for the next edition of the rankings where I break down my top three teams in the conference.