For some teams, the 2020-21 regular season ends this weekend. But there’s still so much that needs to be settled: conference tournament seeding, regular-season championships and, of course, tiebreakers.
Here are three must-watch games in DII women’s basketball.
Records and statistics are through Feb. 18.
St. Cloud State (9-3) vs. No. 6 Minnesota Duluth (9-0) | 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 19
The only thing standing between the Bulldogs and a perfect regular season is St. Cloud State. No. 6 Minnesota Duluth will host the Huskies for a two-game series that begins tonight.
St. Cloud State has one of the better offensive backcourts in the country with Brehna Evans (16.3 points per game) and Tori Wortz (14.6 points per game). That’s a combined scoring average of 30.9. Starting forward Nikki Kilboten also averages an even 11 points per game to round out a formidable group.
All three will need to be at their best to keep pace with Minnesota Duluth’s offense. The Bulldogs are led by Brooke Olson’s 19.1 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting. They’ve surrounded the junior with other competent scorers. Sarah Grow (10.3 points), Maesyn Thiesen (9.3 points) and Ann Simonet (8.9 points) all have a field-goal percentage over 45. As a team, Minnesota Duluth shoots 45.5 percent.
While the Huskies are holding opponents to an even 54 points per game (12th in DII), Minnesota Duluth hasn’t scored less than 61 in a contest this season. If the Bulldogs can hover around their scoring average of 70.1, there’s a good chance they’ll finish the regular season 11-0.
No. 19 Michigan Tech (13-1) vs. No. 9 Grand Valley State (13-1) | 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 20
This will be the first of two meetings between the Huskies and Lakers, with the second scheduled for Sunday. Both teams are tied atop the GLIAC standings. So, there’s a lot at stake in the two-game series.
If you’re a fan of defense, then this one’s for you. No. 19 Michigan Tech and No. 9 Grand Valley State rank eighth and ninth in scoring defense, respectively. The Huskies are holding opponents to 53.1 points per game, while the Lakers are allowing an average of 53.3.
Grand Valley State is one of the more disciplined teams in the country. The Lakers commit just 11.8 personal fouls per game, which is the third-lowest in DII. Leading this defensive efficiency is junior Hannah Kulas. She’s averaging more steals per game (2.7) than she is fouls per game (1.6). Grand Valley State has held opponents to under 50 points in its last three contests.
But Michigan Tech is a different animal, having won 11 in a row with a current scoring average of 66.5. The Huskies have seven players scoring more than six points per game. That balanced attack is led by junior guard Ellie Mackay (14.4 points on 38.3 percent shooting) and freshman forward Jordan Ludescher (11.9 points on 47.4 percent shooting).
No. 16 Central Missouri (17-2) vs. No. 8 Fort Hays State (17-2) | 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 20
When these two first met back on Jan. 7, then-No. 21 Central Missouri outlasted Fort Hays State, 79-72, behind 18 points and six rebounds from Graycen Holden. The Tigers, winners of 12 straight, haven’t lost since.
This rematch is enticing for several reasons. For starters, it’s a top-25 showdown. Second, these teams are tied for first in the MIAA standings. Both have already clinched a berth in the conference tournament. But a No. 1 seed is on the line, not to mention a regular-season title.
The Mules survived an epic performance from Tiger guard Jaden Hobbs on Jan. 7. The senior scored a game-high 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting while adding six assists, five rebounds and one steal. That can’t happen again. Central Missouri must find a way to keep someone in front of her, particularly on the wing. Hobbs is shooting 46.4 percent from deep this season.
On the flip side, it’s unlikely that the Mules’ leading scorer, Nija Collier, will shoot 2-of-5 and finish with six points again. She got into early foul trouble during the first meeting and never found a rhythm. Collier is currently averaging 15.2 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting, including 44.9 percent from beyond the arc. The combo guard is also grabbing a team-high 8.6 rebounds per game.