First to reach the elite feat

Chelsie Schweers is on a short list of players who won individual scoring titles and NCAA tournament games in the same season.
Christopher Newport athletics file photo

By Gordon Mann

On Monday we suggested that Sydney Moss may have just had the single greatest season by a Division III basketball player ever. She was the consensus Player of the Year, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament and led her undefeated team to a national championship.

There have been only eight seasons in which a player has done three things or was named All-Tournament in years where the Most Oustanding Player award was not given out. Today we'll see how those eight seasons compare statistically.

Box score bingo

Looking at the statistical recaps for these elite eight seasons, a couple things rise off the spreadsheet.

Most players in this elite group were forwards or centers. There are only three guards on the list if you include Moss who played guard/forward last season.

Moss had the highest scoring average at 24.2 points per game. She is also the only player in NCAA Division III women’s basketball history to win the individual scoring title and a team national championship in the same season. On top of that Moss set a new Division III record for points in an NCAA tournament with 197, breaking Chelsie Schweers’ mark of 174 with Christopher Newport in 2011. 

NCAA Tournament Scoring Records

According to the records that the NCAA maintains, Moss' 197 points in the 2015 NCAA tournament was the most at any level, for either gender. Here are the record holders as listed by the NCAA.


Division I: Glen Rice, Michigan, 184 points in 6 games in 1989

Division II: Jack Sullivan, Mount St. Mary (Md.), 185 points in 5 games in 1957

Division III: Michael Nogelo, Williams, 177 points in 6 games in 1998


Division I: Sheryl Swoopes, Texas Tech, 177 points in 5 games in 1993

Division II: Johannah Leedham, Franklin Pierce, 149 points in 6 games in 2009

Division III: Sydney Moss, Thomas More, 197 points in 6 games in 2015

The combination of explosive scoring ability and team success is rarer than you’d think.  Schweers is the only other player besides Moss to win the scoring title and take her team to the national semifinals. In fact, since 2000 only four scoring champions played on a team that won even one NCAA tournament game in the same season -- Moss twice, Schweers and Megan Silva of Randolph-Macon in 2006. Most scoring champions played on teams that didn’t reach the NCAA tournament in the same season and a fair number come from programs that have never been in the NCAA tournament.

Looking beyond the scoring column, Moss’ numbers show her versatility to play forward or guard.  Forwards generally have higher rebounding totals and Moss’ average (7.6 per game) is comparable to the numbers logged by forwards and centers in the eight elite seasons. Guards generally have higher assist totals and Moss’ average of 4.0 per game was second to Deanna Kyle who had an astounding 8.1 for Scranton in 1985.

Moss’ defensive numbers (60 steals, 18 blocks) were middle of the pack.  That’s not to say that Moss wasn’t an effective defender. She was big part of George Fox’s struggles to score in the first half of the national title game. In that game she neutralized the forward she was defending and helped off her assignment to alter shots from other players. But her numbers don’t reach the heights of Daniels (145 steals in 2008) or Alia Fischer (67 blocks for Washington U in 1999).

Player Team (Year) Eff.
Sydney Moss Thomas More ('15) 26.5
Tasha Rodgers Washington U. ('01) 25.1
Alia Fischer Washington U. ('99) 23.1
Deanna Kyle Scranton ('85) 23.1
Alia Fischer Washington U. ('00) 21.8
Wendy Wangerin UW-Oshkosh ('96) 20.8
Meia Daniels Howard Payne ('08) 18.9
Laura Schmelzer Capital ('94) 18.5

Is there any way to boil all these numbers down into one measure that will make it clearer which season was the greatest? If this were the NBA, we could talk about the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) that sports sabermetric expert John Hollinger developed. But the formula for PER is enough to make your head spin (or at least mine did) and you need a “league average” to complete the calculation. Instead we can use a simpler “efficiency” calculation that adds all the good numbers, subtracts all the bad ones and divides them by the number of games played. Here’s the calculation if you want to play along at home.

(Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks – Missed Field Goals – Missed Free Throws – Turnovers) / Games Played

Moss’ efficiency rating last season was 26.5, and that’s the highest rating in our group. We don’t have the complete numbers for Wendy Wangerin, but the statistic we’re missing is turnovers, which would just push her number a little lower. Washington U’s Tasha Rodgers was second with a 25.1 rating in 2001. Tied for third on the list is Deanna Kyle, and her performance at Scranton in 1985 deserves a closer look.

First to reach elite feat

Before Deanna Klingman was Scranton's coach, she was the point guard leading Mike Strong's team to a national title.
Scranton athletics photo

Like Sydney Moss, Deanna Kyle (now Klingman) started her college basketball career outside of Division III. The Wilkes-Barre native played her first two seasons at St. Joseph’s University in West Philadelphia. At that time St. Joe’s was a Division II program under the leadership of Jim Foster and Muffett McGraw, who are both in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

After her freshman year Kyle married University of Scranton men’s soccer coach Stephen Klingman, who was in the middle of a run of four consecutive trips to the Division III national semifinals. Stephen asked Deanna to come home to finish college, and so she transferred to Wilkes University. After giving birth to their daughter Kelly, Deanna moved even closer to her husband by transferring to Scranton.

Klingman remembers going to watch the 1984 national semifinals that were played at Scranton. She talked with Shelley Parks, a talented sophomore center for Elizabethtown which had reached the national semifinals for the third straight season. Each one mentioned that they planned to transfer to Scranton for the next season. They became friends, roommates and the cornerstones the Lady Royals’ national championship team.

Scranton rolled through the 1984-1985 regular season with just one loss and a lot of lopsided wins. When asked which games stick out in her mind, Klingman mentions the regular season win over Pitt-Johnstown. “When they came to our place, they were ranked No. 1 and we were ranked No. 2. That went to overtime. It was a terrific game.” Scranton beat Pitt-Johnstown 86-81 in front of 2,800 fans.

She also remembers an overtime regular season battle with New Rochelle, which was a very successful program back then. “I remember that game because I fouled out. I literally was standing on the bench, wondering if we were going to pull it out. Una Espenkotter went in and did a great job, and she was an All-American the next year.” Scranton beat New Rochelle again for the national championship, with Parks posting a triple-double in the title game (20 points, 13 rebounds, 10 blocks).

Klingman is quick to talk about her teammates’ success when asked about the 1985 season, but her own success is equally noteworthy. She was the first player to win the WBCA player of the year, All-Tournament honors and a national title. She led her team with 18.1 points and 8.1 assists per game.

Asked about the eye-popping assist total, Klingman is again quick to share credit. “I was more of a scorer and rebounder (at Wilkes) and (Coach Mike Strong) moved me into the point guard position. Shelly Parks ended up being player of the year two years later. Shelley Bundy (nee Ritz) was a knock down shooter.”

Last season Klingman was the interim head coach for Scranton, replacing her former head coach. Coincidentally, the Royals played at the same holiday tournament in Puerto Rico as Thomas More. Klingman didn’t get a chance to watch Sydney Moss play in person but she was impressed by what she saw on tape.

Comparing players across these time periods is very difficult since women’s college basketball has changed a lot. “There was no three-point shot and we used a men’s basketball,” Klingman notes of her career. The absence of a three-point shot is particularly important. If we changed all of Moss’ made 3-pointers this past season to two-point shots, she still scored 22.2 points per game, but her overall efficiency score (24.5) would be much closer to Klingman’s (23.1).  Plus it’s impossible to say how the absence of the three-point shot would have affected Thomas More or the presence of the shot would have affected Scranton.

Klingman notes that there may have been a higher concentration of talent at the Division III level when she played, something other long time coaches in the northeast part of the country have also suggested.  Division III women’s basketball was only four seasons old in 1984-1985 and there were fewer Division I scholarship programs at that time. So players who could have earned a scholarship at the Division I level nowadays may have been more likely to end up at Division III schools back then.

As Klingman talks about the 1984-1985 season, it’s clear that the team accomplishments mean more to her than the individual accolades.  “[Winning the national championship] is what we talk about whenever we get together. It’s more the relationships that we cherish a lot. Thinking that we did this together, that was pretty cool.”

In fact, Klingman wasn’t even aware of her rare feat until she spoke with us for this story.
“So what were the three things I did again,” she asks with a laugh. “My kids laugh at me. Were you a fast player? Do you have game film of yourself playing? We didn’t even film games back then."