With just a handful of weeks to go until the start of postseason play, the picture is starting to take shape.
Monday night, Oregon will take on UConn in Storrs in a game with big implications on NCAA tournament seeding. At halftime, the first reveal of the top 16 seeds will take place, giving the nation its first look at who might be topping the brackets a little more than a month from now.
We are getting closer to a title. And the teams are feeling the intensity of the stretch run. It’s time to peak.
Here’s the NCAA Power 10 for the week ending February 3, 2020 (last week's rankings in parentheses):
1) South Carolina (21-1) (1). The Gamecocks kicked off Super Bowl Sunday with an impressive win over SEC challenger Tennessee on their home floor, pushing their winning streak to 15 straight games, the second-longest winning streak in the nation, and eight wins over top-50 RPI teams this season. Next up, a challenging week including a Thursday road game at Arkansas, followed by next Monday’s showdown against UConn in what will be a packed house in Columbia.
2) Oregon (19-2) (2). The Ducks made quick and dominant work of their games against Utah and Colorado, and then hopped on the charter plane to head east for Monday night’s big matchup with Connecticut, the first regular-season matchup between these two teams since 2013 — and Oregon’s third game in five days. Oregon is one of the country’s best offensive teams, but right now the Ducks are hanging their hat on their defense, having not allowed more than 64 points to any of their opponents in their last seven games.
3) Baylor (19-1) (3). It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Lady Bears' 64-44 win over Texas in Austin was gritty in all the right ways, including a stellar defensive performance that ended the Longhorns’ five-game win streak. Baylor, still waiting to get NayLyssa Smith get back into the lineup full-time, was able to build a two-game lead in the Big 12 standings. Next up, the Bears host struggling Kansas at home on Wednesday.
4) Connecticut (19-1) (4). The Huskies get yet another measuring stick game in Monday’s showdown with Oregon. UConn feels like the team that has something to prove in this game. Sophomore Olivia Nelson-Ododa is going to be a key factor in this game, particularly against Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard. If Nelson-Ododa has a big game, the Huskies go from underdog to threat very quickly.
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5) Louisville (21-1) (5). The Cardinals, who have won 13 in a row, stepped out of their conference schedule Sunday to play the U.S. National Team, but it was Thursday’s 32-point win over Notre Dame that made the statement of the week, as it was their first in South Bend since 2009. Next up is a big ACC matchup against Florida State at home on Thursday.
6) Stanford (20-2) (7). The Cardinal made a tough trip to Washington look relatively easy with wins over Washington and Washington State to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 standings. Freshman post Ashten Prechtel had a breakout game against the Cougars with 19 points and 10 rebounds and will probably play a big role going forward for the Cardinal. Next up is a home set against UCLA on Friday and USC on Sunday.
7) Mississippi State (19-3) (6). The Bulldogs took care of business in their only game of the week with a much-closer-than-comfortable win over 1-7 Auburn, a game in which MSU trailed at halftime. Freshman Rickea Jackson finished with a career-high 22 points in the game, her third 20-point game of the season, matching Victoria Vivians for the most by a freshman under Vic Schaefer. Monday’s game against Georgia ends a three-game home stretch, followed by Thursday’s big road game at Tennessee.
8) North Carolina State (21-1) (8). The Wolfpack were down at the half, and behind by 10 points midway through the third quarter, but rallied with a big fourth quarter behind sophomore Elissa Cunane’s 22 second-half points to beat Duke on Sunday to earn an important road win. N.C. State has won seven straight games, and will face Virginia Tech in its lone game this week.
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9) Gonzaga (22-1) (NR). The Zags become the first mid-major program to bust into the Power 10 this season. The West Coast Conference might just end up with its first top 10 team in the history of the AP poll after a 59-44 win over BYU that extended Gonzaga’s winning streak to 20 games, the longest streak in the nation. The loss of senior Katie Campbell to a knee injury in that game could have an impact on the Zags’ ability to keep its spot here.
10) Oregon State (18-4) (NR). Just a few weeks ago the Beavers were on the verge of being the No. 1 team in the nation. Oregon State then hit a rough patch with three straight losses to Stanford, and then a pair of decisive losses against Oregon last weekend. But a weekend road sweep at Utah and Colorado barely gives them the nod for this final spot over a UCLA team that fell hard at Arizona by 26 points on Friday night. Next up is another difficult set of games at home against Arizona State and Arizona that will be must-wins for OSU to maintain a top-four seed heading toward the Pac-12 Tournament.