It’s hard to believe that January has blown by rather quickly and we’re just finding out whether we will endure six more weeks of winter or have an early spring (spoiler alert: Punxsutawney Phil is slightly less accurate than Eli Manning).
With that said, it’s time to vote for the hottest D2 women’s basketball team for January with our HERO Sports Team of the Month poll.
We selected five of the hottest teams who have either come out of nowhere or who have maintained a high level of excellence (and a team who hasn’t been nominated this season) since we crowned American International as December’s team of the month. Now, it’s up to you, the fan, to decide who had the best month of January in D2 women’s hoops.
Who will join AIC and Virginia Union (November) as HERO Sports’ Team of the Month in D2 women’s basketball? Here are the five nominees… The poll is at the bottom of the page. Voting ends Friday at Noon Pacific, so be sure to get your vote in on time and share with friends so they can vote as well.
BR-6 Lewis Flyers (20-1, 11-0 GLVC)
Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference
Jan. 2: Win at BR-81 Wisconsin-Parkside 67-63
Jan. 7: Win vs. BR-8 Drury 54-41
Jan. 9: Win vs. BR-179 Missouri S&T 70-58
Jan. 14: Win at BR-177 Maryville (Mo.) 69-52
Jan. 16: at BR-150 Missouri-St. Louis 59-45
Jan. 21: Win at BR-134 Southern Indiana 76-47
Jan. 23: Win vs. BR-33 Bellarmine 83-73
Jan. 28: Win at BR-248 Illinois-Springfield 63-41
Jan. 30: Win at BR-181 McKendree 51-46
Why the Flyers deserve to win:
When you win 15 straight games with a new head coach, lose one of your top players to a season ending injury and continue to dominate the Great Lakes Valley Conference as Lewis has done, you can expect to catch our attention.
Lewis picked up a pair of key conference wins in January, defeating GLVC West Lewis and an up-and-coming Bellarmine team. Unfortunately, the Flyers suffered a huge loss with senior guard Jamie Johnson out with a season-ending injury.
— Lewis Athletics (@LewisFlyers) January 30, 2016
Fortunately for the Flyers, senior Mariyah Brawner-Henley (19.9 ppg, 11.6 rpg), who is one of four active players in all NCAA divisions with 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds, hasn’t been shouldering the load alone. Freshman Jessica Kelliher (18.1 ppg) has scored 10 points in all but one game and is on the verge of breaking the school’s all-time freshman scoring record.
The battle for the Midwest Region is shaping up into another barnburner. The expectation are high for the Flyers, but they’ve been there before and will likely be there at the end.
BR-11 Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (15-2, 13-0 GAC)
Conference: Great American Conference
Results this month:
Jan. 7: Win at BR-173 Southeastern Oklahoma 70-65
Jan. 9: Win at BR-214 East Central 64-52
Jan. 14: Win at BR-249 Ouachita Baptist 69-48
Jan. 16: Win vs. BR-144 Southern Arkansas 91-73
Jan. 18: Win vs. BR-104 Harding 80-52
Jan. 21: Win at BR-190 Henderson State 87-64
Jan. 23: Win vs. BR-220 Arkansas-Monticello 90-60
Jan. 28: Win vs. BR-82 Southwestern Oklahoma 91-69
Jan. 30: Win vs. Northwestern Oklahoma 90-48
Why the Golden Suns deserve to win:
The Great American Conference doesn’t get a lot of attention among teams in the Central Region. Yet, Arkansas Tech, once again, is showing why they’re among the top teams in the country.
The Golden Suns have been on fire since a 71-64 loss at Drury on Dec. 16, one of only two on the season (the other was a loss to former Gulf South Conference rival Delta State on Nov. 29), winning nine in a row and holding a dominating four-game lead over Harding in the GAC standings.
Yes, Fatima Adams (20.9 ppg, 57.8 percent shooting) is one of the nation’s leading scorers this season, but this is a more balanced offense than people give them credit for, with six players averaging at least seven points per game, including all five starters.
Arkansas Tech may not play in the strongest conference in the Central Region, but they’ve shown time and again that they’re one of the best teams in the region, regardless of conference.
BR-19 Union (Tenn.) Lady Bulldogs (19-2, 13-2 GSC)
— The GSC (@GulfSouth) January 21, 2016
Conference: Gulf South Conference
Jan. 2: Loss vs. West Florida 75-67
Jan. 4: Win vs. Valdosta State 69-46
Jan. 9: Win at BR-188 Alabama-Huntsville 89-85
Jan. 11: Win vs. BR-258 North Alabama 79-55
Jan. 14: Win at BR-224 Christian Brothers 66-38
Jan. 21: Win at BR-39 Lee 73-71
Jan. 23: Win at BR-99 Shorter 56-55
Jan. 28: Win vs. BR-23 Delta State 59-51
Jan. 30: Win vs. Mississippi College 84-71
Why the Lady Bulldogs deserve to win:
With All-American point guard Amy Philarmee’s graduation, one couldn’t help but wonder how Union would adjust to losing one of the top players in the country.
An eight game winning streak and a key Gulf South Conference win over Delta State last Thursday was a message sent by the Lady Bulldogs to the rest of the GSC and the South Region: last season wasn’t a fluke.
All five starters, led by junior Tiara Caldwell (14.0 ppg), average at least nine points per game. But, it’s the development of freshmen guards Jada Smith (12.0 ppg, 5.4 apg) and Jada Perkins (9.3 ppg, 4.9 apg) into one of the best backcourt duos in the nation which has help Union take control in the GSC.
— The GSC (@GulfSouth) January 22, 2016
When tournament time rolls around, there’s a very good chance that the Road to Indianapolis (by way of Sioux Falls) will go through Jackson, Tenn.
BR-37 Cal State-Dominguez Hills Toros (15-6, 13-0 CCAA)
Conference: California Collegiate Athletic Association
Jan. 2: Win vs. BR-235 Chico State 83-74
Jan. 7: Win vs. BR-243 Cal State-Monterey Bay 74-50
Jan. 9: Win at BR-234 Sonoma State 76-45
Jan. 15: Win at BR-207 Humboldt State 75-61
Jan. 16: Win vs. BR-182 Cal Poly Pomona 92-68
Jan. 22: Win vs. BR-21 California-San Diego 89-82
Jan. 23: Win vs. BR-110 Cal State-San Bernardino
Jan. 29: Win vs. BR-280 San Francisco State 65-55
Jan. 30: Win vs. BR-234 Sonoma State 68-60
Why the Toros deserve to win:
It’s not easy to go undefeated in California Collegiate Athletic Association play. The last time a CCAA ran the table in league play was in 1991-1992 when Cal Poly Pomona finished 12-0 in a six-team CCAA. One can’t help but get a sense that Cal State-Dominguez Hills has the best chance of going undefeated in league play given the way they’ve dominated the CCAA this season.
The Toros played a challenging non-league schedule which included losses to Winona State, Alaska-Anchorage, Azusa Pacific and California Baptist. More often than not, we’ve seen teams play the best teams outside their conference learn from those games and dominate their league.
— Toros Athletics (@TorosAthletics) January 31, 2016
Breanne Garcia (17.6 ppg) and Monay Lee (13.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) led the Toros’ starting five while Imari Brown (12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) may be one of the best bench players in the country whose spark keeps the momentum going for CSU-Dominguez Hills.
With the West Region up for grabs, the Toros will play six of their last seven games away from Carson (although one of those games is at Cal State-Los Angeles). If anyone can make CCAA history, however, Dominguez Hills fits the bill.
BR-108 Cedarville Lady Jackets (16-5, 7-0 GMAC)
Conference: Great Midwest Athletic Conference
Jan. 2: Win vs. Trevecca Nazarene 79-45
Jan. 4: Win vs. Kentucky Wesleyan 67-55
Jan. 7: Win at BR-313 Ohio Valley 69-61
Jan. 9: Win at BR-316 Salem International 80-65
Jan. 14: Win vs. NAIA Wilberforce 79-39
Jan. 16: Win at BR-30 Ursuline 82-74
Jan. 21: Win at BR-317 Bluefield State 81-40
Jan. 28: Win vs. Davis & Elkins 72-41
Jan. 30: Win vs. Alderson Broaddus 100-79
Why the Lady Jackets deserve to win:
For a league in its third year of existence and six new members joining over the next two seasons, the sky’s the limit for the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. Cedarville would love to be the “standard bearer” for G-MAC women’s basketball.
Just as they did last season by clinching an at-large berth to the Midwest Regionals, the Lady Jackets look poised to return to the NCAA tournament, this time as automatic qualifiers, now that the G-MAC tournament winner receives an automatic bid for the first time.
— G-MAC (@greatmidwestac) January 30, 2016
Abby Wolford (13.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Kayla Linkous (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) lead a balanced Lady Jackets offense with eight players averaging at least five points per game while the Cedarville defense holds opponents to 58 ppg.
When March rolls around, it would be a shock not to see the Lady Jackets dance their way back into the Midwest Regionals.