College basketball season is just weeks away, and as the air turns colder and leaves begin to fall, you may be wondering what 2016-17 has in store.
While much can, and is likely to, change as the season moves on, there are certain matchups on the women’s college basketball docket that look to spark some interest at the start of the season.
So, be sure to mark your calendar for these five games to look forward to:
Baylor at UConn
Nov. 17, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. ET
After dominating on the court last year, this looks to be one of the Huskies’ tougher games early on this season. While Baylor returns a handful of starters, 10 experienced players return to take the court in November alongside three solid newcomers.
UConn, on the other hand, lost a number of its leaders at the end of last year, and while five talented new women look to produce plenty for the team, the Huskies will look to players like Gabby Williams to pick up the slack early in the season.
Because of this, the Bears may be able to best the reigning champions in this early season matchup. However, it will likely be a tough-fought game for both teams and looks to be one of the more interesting to watch in the first month.
South Carolina at Texas
Dec. 1, 2016 at 7 p.m. ET
The Gamecocks finished 33-2 last year and made it to the NCAA Sweet 16, and while only two starters return, four more letter winners come back looking to add a 14th NCAA appearance to the program’s history.With nine players returning—two of which were 2015-16 starters—preparing to play alongside five newcomers, the Longhorns look to be a real force on the court this year. They haven’t made a Final Four appearance since the 2002-03 season, but that may change with the pack they have this year.
Both teams finished ranked within the top 10 last year, and this matchup could prove to be interesting, especially if these two teams climb into the top five, which is definitely a possibility. With talent abundant, this may turn out to be a must watch game.
UConn at Notre Dame
Dec. 7, 2016 at 7 p.m. ET
A matchup between the reigning champs and one of the most hyped-up teams of the preseason? Oh, yes. This may be the biggest game on the list.
While, as it was said above, UConn’s roster isn’t as packed as last year, the Huskies still look to have a successful season. With one of the tougher schedules in women’s college basketball, the team will have to fight hard to stay on top, and this December game may prove to be too much for the Huskies.
In her 30th season at the helm of the Fighting Irish, Muffet McGraw continues to report a major amount of confidence in the team she has put together for this upcoming season. With a number of veterans returning to the hardwoods, Notre Dame looks to have some of the best depth in college basketball.
Who will come out on top? It may take a few weeks of play to be able to estimate an outcome. These are two powerful programs looking to make it to the Final Four, and the game may turn out to be a pivotal moment in each team’s season.
Washington at Oregon State
Jan. 1, 2017 at 3 p.m. ET
Both Oregon State and Washington made their ways into the Final Four last year. However, the Beavers were unable to post a win over UConn while the Huskies fell to Syracuse.
The Beavers return to the hardwood with a wealth of experienced players, highlighted by senior guard Sydney Wiese and senior Gabriella Hanson, who both lead in the Pac-12.The Huskies, on the other hand, return plenty of talent as well, including three starters from a team that won the most games for Washington since 1990.
In the regular season, Washington fell to Oregon State 61-53, and in the Pac-12 tournament, Washington fell again 57-55. Now, the Huskies look to enact some revenge and take down their conference rival. However, with talent on both ends, the Beavers and Huskies will have to battle to tally a win.
Notre Dame at Syracuse
Feb. 19, 2017 at 5 p.m. ET
As the regular season wraps up, this matchup looks to serve as a nice bookend. Plenty can happen for the Orange and the Fighting Irish between now and then, but this will still be a matchup between the NCAA runner-up and the No. 2 (AP) / No. 6 (USA Today) team in the nation from 2015-16 season.
Notre Dame looks tabbed to come out on top at the end of the season, but Syracuse returns 10 players—four of which were starters—and bring in seven highly-talented newcomers. So, the Orange doesn’t look like it will be an easy game for the Fighting Irish to win.
And, again, Notre Dame has an abundance of talent behind a strong coach that has led Notre Dame to a .760-win percentage in 29 seasons with the Fighting Irish.
So, if the season progresses the way it looks to in the preseason, this will likely end up the best matchup of the regular season.