The Fort Myers Tip-Off Women’s Tournament begins Thanksgiving afternoon and extends through the evening of Saturday, Nov. 25.
Had to double the field for Year 2!— Fort Myers Tip-Off (@FTMyersTipOff) July 11, 2023
Proud to welcome eight teams to SWFL for the @ElevanceHealth Women's Fort Myers Tip-Off this November.
The event begins Thanksgiving Day featuring a FOX national broadcast for @IndianaWBB vs @LadyVol_Hoops!https://t.co/d49xl8HXH4 pic.twitter.com/kF5EjAftbZ
The event features eight teams, with the teams divided into two four-team divisional tournaments. The No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vols, No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers, No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners and Princeton Tigers will participate in the Island Division, with each team playing two games in a non-bracketed tournament. The Arkansas Razorbacks, Boston College Eagles, Marquette Golden Eagles and Wisconsin Badgers are competing in the Shell Division, a bracketed tournament that will crown a champion.
All games are held at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, FL. All games also will be available for viewing on FOX, Women’s Sports Network or fswbucs.com.
Let’s evaluate the four teams participating in the Island Division before analyzing the two first-round games of the Shell Division:
The four-team Island Division presents some of the most delightful Feast Week matchups, with three top-25 teams, plus a Princeton teams that received votes, facing off in Fort Myers on Thursday and Saturday.
No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vols (3-1)
Tennessee’s last trip to Florida did not end as intended, as the Lady Vols allowed the explosive Seminoles of Florida State to establish a 14-point first quarter advantage that proved insurmountable. Fifth-year star forward Rickea Jackson did her best to deliver the comeback victory in Tallahassee, dropping a 31-point and 17-rebound double-double. Since then, Jackson has not suited up for the Lady Vols, missing wins over Memphis and Troy due to a lower-leg ailment.
To maximize their success during their second trip to the Sunshine State, the Lady Vols will need Jackson back in action. Neither the Hoosiers or Sooners have the personnel required to slow the dynamic forward when she is at her best.
If Jackson is unable to go, the Lady Vols have other avenues to victory. Tennessee escaped against Memphis due to a career-high 24 points from junior wing Sara Puckett. They then took care of Troy behind 19 off-the-bench points from junior forward Karolin Striplin. Wake Forest transfer and senior guard Jewel Spear also is capable of igniting. She leads the Lady Vols in 3-point attempts and is hitting almost 40 percent of her beyond-the-arc efforts.
The 5-foot-10 Spear also has grabbed six boards per game, contributing to Tennessee’s team-wide rebounding prowess. The Lady Vols thus far have corralled the fourth-most rebounds per game with 53.5. The Sooners also have succeeded on the glass this season, grabbing 50.0 per contest. We’ll see which team controls the boards on Saturday afternoon.
Thursday, Nov. 23: vs. No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers (6 p.m. ET, FOX)
Saturday, Nov. 25: vs. No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners (1:30 p.m. ET, Women’s Sports Network)
No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers (3-1)
Indiana needs to turn in two solid performances—if not get two wins—in order to ease any skepticism about their upside after they were outclassed by Stanford during the season’s opening weekend.
Grad big Mackenzie Holmes, a preseason All-American, struggled against the Cardinal’s twin towers of 6-foot-4 Cameron Brink and 6-foot-3 Kiki Iriafen. Against Tennessee, the 6-foot-3 Holmes likely will not see much of the 6-foot-6 Tamari Key, as the redshirt senior’s minutes remain limited after missing almost all of last season with blood clots; however, she’ll have to contend with 6-foot-5 junior forward Jillian Hollingshead.
Fifth-year guard Sara Scalia has been the most productive player for the Hoosiers through four games. She earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after her scalding performance in Indiana’s win over Lipscomb on Sunday. She scored 24 points—her most in a Hoosier uniform—on 57.1 percent shooting from the field and 71.4 percent from behind the arc. For the season, nearly half of Scalia’s made field goals have come from behind the 3-point line, where she’s shooting 42 percent. She’s also used the threat of her shot to earn a team-high 15 trips to the free throw line, where she’s a perfect 15-for-15.
Thursday, Nov. 23: vs. No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vols (6 p.m. ET, FOX)
Saturday, Nov. 25: vs. Princeton Tigers (11 a.m. ET, fswbucs.com)
No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners (5-0)
After upsetting Ole Miss in Oxford in their second game of the season, Oklahoma largely has been untested, cruising to three more wins. That changes in Fort Myers, with dates against Princeton and Tennessee. But if the Sooners leave the Sunshine State with two more wins and a 7-0 record, it will be time to begin having a serious conversation about their potential.
It’s already worth talking about what Skylar Vann and Peyton Verhulst have been doing. Vann, a senior forward and newly-minted 1,000th-point scorer, assumed the staring role with 24 points in the victory over Ole Miss; she tallied 20 points and eight rebounds in Oklahoma’s most recent win over Virginia. Verhulst, a junior guard, keeps stuffing the box score, highlighted by a 32-point, six-rebound, six-assist, two-steal and three-block performance in a thrashing of Oral Roberts.
Add in freshman forward Sahara Williams, who leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game and has shown off powerful off-the-dribble moves, and senior guard Aubrey Joens, who is shooting 52.2 percent from 3 on 4.6 attempts per game, and the Sooners have a quite versatile and sneakily dangerous squad.
Thursday, Nov. 23: vs. Princeton Tigers (3 p.m. ET, fswbucs.com)
Saturday, Nov. 25: vs. Tennessee (1:30 p.m. ET, Women’s Sports Network)
Princeton Tigers (3-1)
Although the only team in the Island Division without a number by their name, the unranked—but receiving votes—Tigers should not automatically be expected to take two losses.
Last week, Princeton gave now-No. 2 UCLA all they could handle. Senior guard Kaitlyn Chen, the 2023 Ivy League Player of the Year, led the Tigers with 24 points, propelled by three 3-pointers. Freshman guard Skye Belker also hit three 3s against the Bruins on her way to 20 points.
Sophomore guard Madison St. Rose gives Princeton even more pop from the perimeter. In the Tigers’ second game during their trip to Southern California—a win over San Diego—St. Rose scored an efficient 22 points, doing the majority of her damage inside the arc. For the season, she leads the Tigers with 17.8 points per game.
On the interior, Princeton relies on senior Ellie Mitchell. Although only 6-foot-1, she’s grabbing 10.5 rebounds per game. Indiana shouldn’t be surprised by that stat. When the 11th-seeded Tigers nearly upset third-seeded Hoosiers in Bloomington in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Mitchell owned the glass, grabbing a game-high 15 boards. Just as was the case then, Princeton remains capable of mustering a shutdown defensive effort, despite a relative lack of size. The Sooners, like the Hoosiers, should beware.
Thursday, Nov. 23: vs. No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners (3 p.m. ET, fswbucs.com)
Saturday, Nov. 25: vs. No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers (11 a.m. ET, fswbucs.com)
The Shell Division tournament begins with first-round matchups on Friday before concluding with championship and consolation games on Saturday. While the four contenders are not of the quality of the teams competing in the Island Division, the games will provide an opportunity for cross-conference comparisons, with the quartet of contestants representing upward-striving squads from the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big East.
Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (5-0)
Friday, Nov. 24: 2 p.m. ET, fswbucs.com
While Arkansas’ Native American Heritage Month jerseys look good, the Razorbacks have looked even better, starting the season 5-0. They’ll look even better if they’re departing Fort Myers with a Shell Division championship and perfect 7-0 record.
Freshman guard Taliah Scott appears not just to be a future star—but a present one. She’s averaging 24.6 points per game, which puts her in the top 10 nationally. Scott can score at all three levels; she’s also succeeded getting to the foul line, attempting 7.6 foul shots per game.
Scott’s precocious production has proven the perfect complement to the steady contributions of grad guard Makayla Daniels and junior guard Samara Spencer. Redshirt sophomore wing Saylor Poffenbarger has been all over the glass for the Hogs, averaging 12.2 rebounds per game. Her 51 total defensive boards lead the nation, allowing Arkansas to end possessions and get going in transition.
If Arkansas is firing on all cylinders, they should be able run away from a Wisconsin team that lacks explosive offensive potential. The Badgers’ best path to victory is to make it muddy, Midwestern-style affair, relying on the six-player core of sophomore forward Sehara Williams, sophomore guard Ronnie Porter, senior guard Brooke Schramek, freshman guard D’Yanis Jimenez, sophomore guard Sania Copeland and senior guard Natalie Leuzinger to gut out the victory. The sextet all have played more than 110 minutes through four games; no other Badger has crossed the 40-minute mark. Williams leads Wisconsin, scoring 14.5 points and grabbing eight rebounds per game.
Boston College Eagles (3-2) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (4-0)
Friday, Nov. 24: 4:30 p.m. ET, fswbucs.com
If Marquette can win the Shell Division championship, the Golden Eagles should inch ever closer to a spot in the top 25. With three dominating victories to go along with an upset of then-No. 23 Illinois, Marquette steadily is building a solid resume.
While the senior duo of forward Liza Karlen and guard Jordan King delivered the Golden Eagles the dub over the Illini, sophomore guard Mackenzie Hare, senior wing Frannie Hottinger and senior guard Rose Nkumu have provided consistent contributions through Marquette’s undefeated start. King leads the team with 17 points per game, while Karlen has added 16.3 and Hare 15.5 per contest. On the boards, Hottinger is tops with 8.3 per game. Nkumu has tossed 5.3 dimes per game, in addition to swiping a pair of steals. Hottinger and Hare also are averaging more than a steal per game.
Boston College sits at 3-2, taking a close lose to Harvard in the second game of the season before suffering a 20-point defeat to then-No. 13 Ohio State on Nov. 17. The Eagles responded to that thrashing with a solid win over the Friars of Providence. Sophomore forward Teya Sidberry, who spent her freshman season as a 10-minute per game sub for Utah, has emerged as Boston College’s primary player, averaging 14.6 points and seven rebounds per game. On the road against Providence, she posted a career-high 22 points and nine boards. Fellow sophomore T’yana Todd also has had big moments for Boston College. After the guard led the Eagles with 16 points against the Buckeyes, she scored 13 second-half points against the Friars, draining a trio of 3-pointers.