Plowcha’s Poll Finale: Breaking down Horizon League WBB teams 1-3

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Photo by Horizon League

Kevin Plowcha ranks his top three Horizon League WBB teams. IUPUI (left), Milwaukee (center) and Green Bay (right)

By Kevin Plowcha, Contributor

It’s the final edition of “Plowcha’s Poll”! This time, I will be breaking down my top three teams in the Horizon League for this upcoming women’s basketball season.

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.

3. Green Bay Phoenix

2020-21 Record: (15-7 overall, 14-4 conference) Finished 3rd in Horizon League, Lost to Cleveland State 69-63 in quarterfinals of the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference matchups:

  1. November 26th vs. Oklahoma State (Neutral site)
  2. December 12th @ Wisconsin
  3. December 20th vs. Central Michigan

Key Additions:

  1. Bailey Butler (Black Hawk HS)
  2. Callie Genke (Freedom HS)

Key Departures:

  1. Caitlyn Hibner (Graduation)
  2. Lyndsey Robson (Graduation)

Players to Watch:

  1. Meghan Pingel, R-Sr/G, 2020-21: 5.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 107 assists, 42 steals, named on the 2021-22 Preseason HL All-League Second Team
  2. Sydney Levy, Jr/G, 2020-21: 9.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, Shot nearly 39% from 3PT

The Outlook:

Originally, I had put Green Bay at no. 2 in my rankings, but I can’t overlook the fact that the Phoenix will be without their no. 1 and no. 3 scorers from last season, Caitlyn Hibner and Lyndsey Robson, who both graduated. That’s a tough pill to swallow no matter what team you are on.

Besides that, Green Bay has a very well-rounded roster, bringing back five players who averaged both 5+ PPG and 3+ RPG last season. The good news for GB is that they only have one senior this season, so barring any transfers, this year’s team will be back on the court next year.

Meghan Pingel is that aforementioned lone senior, who will look to have an increased role this season, both on and off the court. She has the experience and the talent, as she is a former Horizon League Third Team member. However, she can’t carry the team by herself, which means, as it does for most of these teams, others will need to step up. The Phoenix will finish top-3 in my opinion, but can the Phoenix find answers for their lost scoring? We’ll find out.

2. Milwaukee Panthers

2020-21 Record: (20-8 overall, 15-5 conference) Finished 2nd in Horizon League, Lost to IUPUI 56-46 in semifinals of the 2021 Horizon League Tournament

Top non-conference matchups:

  1. November 14th @ Florida State
  2. November 24th vs. Wisconsin
  3. December 14th @ Northwestern

Key Additions:

  1. Justina Hernandez (Glenbard North HS)
  2. Anna Lutz (Marshall HS)

Key Departures:

  1. Brandi Bisping (Graduation)
  2. Bre Cera (Graduation)

Players to Watch:

  1. Megan Walstad, R-So/F, 2020-21: 12 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 50 blocks, First-team All-Horizon League, Named on the 2021-22 Preseason HL All-League First Team

The Outlook:

Milwaukee returns all but two players from last season’s roster, so it makes sense that they are projected to finish high again.

However, the two that left were Milwaukee’s no. 2 and no. 5 scorers, Brandi Bisping and Bre Cera, leaving a semi-decent hole to fill. The Panthers brought in two recruits to fill those spots on the roster.

With the bulk of the scoring most likely falling on Megan Walstad, Milwaukee’s no. 3 scorer from last season, Sydney Staver, will see more of the scoring duties fall on her shoulders as well. The Panthers will need to find another reliable source for rebounds, as Bisping was also Milwaukee’s leading rebounder.

Milwaukee will be a championship contender this season, but the only question I have regarding the Panthers is: Will they be able to find a solid, long-term replacement for Brandi Bisping? The Panthers sit at #2 in my preseason rankings, just above Green Bay.

1. IUPUI Jaguars

2020-21 Record: (15-5 overall, 11-3 conference) Finished 5th in Horizon League, Lost to Wright State 53-41 in the 2021 Horizon League Tournament Championship game

Top non-conference matchups:

  1. November 9th @ Michigan
  2. November 28th vs. Butler
  3. December 21st @ Iowa

Key Additions:

  1. Rachel Kent (Saint Louis)
  2. Madison Wise (Iowa State)

Key Departures:

  1. Sydney Roule (Graduation)
  2. Katelyn O’Reilly (Graduation)

Players to Watch:

  1. Macee Williams, Gr/F/C, 2020-21: 18.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 52% from the field, named the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year for 2021-22, and is also a member of the Preseason All-League First Team
  2. Rachel McLimore, R-Sr/G/F, 2020-21: 13.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 44% from the field, Named All-Horizon Second Team, All-Horizon Defensive Team, and Horizon League All-Tournament Team, Named on the 2021-22 Preseason HL All-League First Team

The Outlook:

Finally, we have arrived at #1. Like many preseason polls around the country, the IUPUI Jaguars are my preseason #1, and my favorite to win the Horizon League. There’s no disputing it, in my opinion.

The Jaguars have a perfect 1-2 punch with preseason HL POTY Macee Williams and preseason All-League First Team member Rachel McLimore. Those two accounted for nearly half of IUPUI’s scoring last season (46.8%), and they have both returned for their final seasons.

Even though the Jaguars lost depth because of Sydney Roule and Katelyn O’Reilly both graduating, they filled in both spots with talented players.

The Jags brought in Rachel Kent from Saint Louis, who was 2nd in scoring for the Billikens last season (12.6 PPG) as well as Madison Wise, who played four seasons at Iowa State before transferring to IUPUI. Wise has the experience of playing on a power-5 team for so many years. She averaged 6.4 PPG and 4.1 RPG throughout her career at ISU.

One thing I’ve been avoiding talking about: What do the Jaguars do next season without Macee Williams and Rachel McLimore? Let’s not think about that just yet, as I’m sure the Jaguars only have one thing on their mind: winning a championship this season.

This concludes my 2021-22 Horizon League women’s basketball preseason predictions. I can’t wait to see how this season pans out, which players develop into stars, and to see either how right or how wrong I was.