Was last week’s wildness at the top of the women’s basketball world really just a portent of more to come?
It would appear so. Louisville beats the No. 1 team in the country and then loses its next game. Maryland falls to its second ranked team of the season. Mississippi State falls. South Carolina gets a single-digit scare from a team with a losing record.
This up-for-grabs season looks up-for-grabbier than ever as teams hit this crucial part of the season. For many, it’s time to take a break for final exams, to heal, to work on shortcomings and to rest up for what’s ahead, because conference play is coming fast.
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Here’s the NCAA Power 10 for the week ending Dec. 8, 2019:
1) Stanford (8-0) (1). The Cardinal became the No. 1-ranked team in the country for the first time in eight years and then…took the week off. It is the annual two-week finals break on The Farm. But hardly a time to rest. Looks like starting point guard Kiana Williams is not seriously injured after leaving the end of last week’s Mississippi State win. Good thing. Stanford starts up again Sunday with challenging three-game stretch including a home game against Ohio State, the team that just knocked off Louisville, and then Texas (on the road) and Tennessee at home before Christmas.
2) Oregon State (8-0) (2). The Beavers, whose strength of schedule ranks fifth in the country, don’t face another ranked opponent until at least the second week of January, meaning they may be positioned to camp out in this spot for a bit. The 8-0 start is the program’s best since the 2015-16 season that ended with them at the Final Four. Senior guard Mikayla Pivec, Oregon State’s tone-setter on the floor, currently ranks second in the Pac-12 in rebounding at 10.1 per game. She’s also shooting 56.3 percent from the floor.
3) Connecticut (8-0) (4). A blowout win over a rebuilding Notre Dame team gives the Huskies another confidence boost as they again played with leading scorer Crystal Dangerfield, who missed two games as she was treated for back spasms. But forward Megan Walker stepped up big against the Irish with a 26-point, 13-rebound effort that shows Geno Auriemma that he can rely on a variety of players to get key baskets. Next up is Auriemma’s “buddy movie” part of the schedule where UConn faces off against DePaul and Oklahoma, whose respective coaches are Doug Bruno and Sherri Coale, two of his closest coaching pals.
4) Oregon (7-1) (5). The Ducks bounced back from last week’s Louisville loss with two wins this week, including a 39-point win over South Dakota State, the same team they eliminated in the Sweet 16 last March. Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said his team needed to get back to basics in their 3-point shooting, shooting fewer and closer attempts. Clearly, something worked. The Ducks hit 14 3s in the game. Next up is a short road trip to face Long Beach State on Saturday.
5) Louisville (9-1) (3). After being the toast of NCAA women’s basketball with a huge win over Oregon, the Cardinals stumbled hard in their next outing, falling to unranked Ohio State in Columbus. And even Sunday’s game against Northern Kentucky — in which head coach Jeff Walz made some changes to his starting lineup — had its scary moments early as Louisville led by just two points at the half. But the Cardinals ended up winning big behind a terrific bench performance by Jazmine Jones, who scored 21 points. Next up is another big test on Sunday against No. 15 Kentucky in Lexington.
6) South Carolina (9-1) (6). Dawn Staley’s old team at Temple gave the Gamecocks a hard time on Saturday, but they escaped Philadelphia with a 78-71 win. Senior Tyasha Harris did what seniors do and led her team out of trouble with a season-high 21 points (her second straight 20-point game), making up for a tough night from freshman Aliyah Boston, who “only” had 10 points and eight rebounds as the focus of the Temple defensive gameplan. Next up is a Sunday game at home against a 6-2 Purdue team.
7) Baylor (8-1) (7). The Bears’ bounce back from their loss to South Carolina was a successful one, with a dominant win over Georgia to give Baylor its 45th straight home win. Queen Egbo continues to establish herself as one of the best post players in the country with her fourth double-double against the Bulldogs. All-American Lauren Cox is now expected to be back on Jana. 4 in the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma. Baylor is taking its final exams break and won’t be back on the floor until they take on a tough Arkansas team on Dec. 18.
8) Florida State (9-0) (9). The Seminoles kept their spot among the ranks of the unbeaten with an 81-64 win over Clemson on Sunday, but it was their Thursday night win against No. 19 Michigan State that really impressed. It was the Noles’ second straight win over a ranked team. Fifth-year senior forward Kiah Gillespie is having a stellar season thus far, including 24 points and 12 rebounds against the Spartans. Next up is a home game against St. John’s on Sunday.
9) UCLA (8-0) (NR). The Bruins are back in the Power 10 after a week off. UCLA’s schedule, to be frank, hasn’t been as tough as some of the other top teams in the country to this point (ranked 202nd according to one ranking), but there is no denying that this is a team with national-caliber talent on the floor, no one more so than forward Michaela Onyenwere, who has scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games. UCLA is off to its best start since the 1980-81 season in which they went 12-0. But the toughest games of the preseason schedule are still to come as they prepare to face Georgia and a ranked Indiana squad before Christmas.
10) North Carolina State (9-0) (NR). Welcome to the Wolfpack, who earned their spot this week with an impressive 66-59 win over Maryland on national television Thursday night. NC State has pulled down at least 50 rebounds in five games so far this season and average 86.3 points per game. NC State plays again on Sunday against Elon, one of its final two games before the start of what promises to be a bruising ACC season.