Let’s ask the most burning question in college women’s basketball: Who is the best team in the country right now?
Realistically, the answer is a debate between three teams: South Carolina, Oregon and Baylor. All three look very Final Four-worthy with a month to go before Selection Day.
For sake of this conversation, let’s set Baylor aside. Because while the Bears haven’t lost a game since South Carolina beat them in November in a Thanksgiving week tournament, Baylor’s Big 12 schedule means the Bears have only faced one ranked opponent in conference play — West Virginia — and the Mountaineers are no longer in the rankings.
An impressive win over UConn gives Baylor an RPI of No. 6 with six Big 12 games to go.
Oregon, meanwhile, has the No. 1 RPI in the nation. South Carolina is No. 2. Oregon has faced eight ranked teams since January 12 and won all but two of those games by double digits. South Carolina has faced 10 ranked teams this season, winning nine. Both of them have 18-point wins over UConn.
But someone has to be No. 1. South Carolina has been in that spot for weeks. And the Gamecocks haven’t done anything to lose it, even as it's been obvious that Oregon is hitting its groove.
And so, for now, Dawn Staley’s team keeps its top spot.
Here’s the NCAA Power 10 for the week ending February 17, 2020:
1) South Carolina (24-1) – The Gamecocks, to put it simply, are rolling. They have won 18 straight games, including last Monday’s statement win over UConn — the first ever in the history of the program. That was followed by an SEC win over Auburn to close business for the week. The calendar is full next week for Dawn Staley’s team, who will finish a four-game home stand with games against Vanderbilt and LSU before going on the road to face Kentucky. The biggest testament to South Carolina’s dominance at this point is the fact that five players have scored in double figures in a game for them 13 times this season.
2) Oregon (24-2) – The Ducks have won 12 in a row following a sweep in Los Angeles that included Friday night’s big win over UCLA. In that 12-game winning streak, Oregon has beaten eight ranked teams and five top-10 foes and next for the Ducks is what will probably be their final significant test of the regular season, a nationally televised Maples Pavilion matchup against Stanford on Feb. 24. As much as Sabrina Ionescu is doing for Oregon, let’s not forget about Ruthy Hebard, who is a rock in the paint. Her 30-point, 16-rebound effort against the Bruins was critical to another big win.
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3) Baylor (23-1) – A 19-point win over TCU, the second-place team in the Big 12, followed by a dominating performance against Oklahoma State moves the Bears’ winning streak to 16 straight wins in a week when head coach Kim Mulkey became a finalist for the Naismith Hall of Fame. The win in Stillwater added to Baylor’s 42-game road winning streak in conference play. With six games to go before the Big 12 tournament, and no other Big 12 teams in the national rankings, the Bears look as if they are on cruise control.
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4) Louisville (24-3) – The Cardinals needed a good week after the two losses that marred last week and possibly cost them a shot at a No. 1 seed. The bounce-back was a strong one. A big win over No. 4 North Carolina State in Raleigh thanks a to a great defensive effort was followed by a dominating win over Notre Dame on Sunday. Next up for Louisville is a pair of road games at Georgia Tech and Pitt, but no more ranked teams on the schedule for the Cards before the ACC tournament.
5) Connecticut (21-3) – After back-to-back Monday losses to Oregon and then South Carolina, the Huskies will stay in conference play the rest of the way. UConn pulled out a 20-point win at South Florida Sunday, one of the teams tied for second place in the American Athletic Conference. But it wasn’t easy, as the Huskies went down by eight points in the first half and rallied after the break for the double-digit win. Next up: a pair of home games against Tulane and Central Florida, two more teams living in the top half of the AAC standings.
6) UCLA (21-3) – The Bruins were hoping for more against Oregon Friday night, a game in which they trailed at home by 26 before closing to within 11 points late in the game. And next up is Monday’s game against a bruised Oregon State team that's now playing without freshman Kennedy Brown (ACL injury). But after that game, the toughest part of the Bruins' schedule is behind UCLA, which will play its final four Pac-12 games against teams in the bottom half of the standings.
7) Stanford (22-3) – The Cardinal is working hard to keep pace with Oregon heading into their Feb. 24 showdown. A convincing win over Utah was followed Sunday by a nail-biting battle at Colorado that ended when junior guard Kianna Williams hit a buzzer beater from just beyond half court that led Stanford to the 69-66 win. The best news for the weekend was the return of senior Maya Dodson to the lineup, adding some depth for Stanford inside. The Cardinal has the toughest possible finish to the Pac-12 schedule with four ranked opponents — Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State.
8) Maryland (22-4) – The Terps moved their winning streak to 11 straight with a 34-point win over No. 17 Iowa and a convincing win Sunday over last-place Penn State that was much closer at halftime than Maryland would have preferred. Maryland is definitely making its move as the postseason approaches. Brenda Frese’s team is in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with three games to go. Next up is a lone game of the week at 3-12 Wisconsin.
9) North Carolina State (22-3) – After beginning the week with the program’s highest ranking since January 2000, the bottom dropped out for the Wolfpack with back-to-back losses to Louisville at home and then a 65-61 loss to Georgia Tech on Sunday. The offense sputtered in both games as N.C. State averaged 60 points. The Wolfpack will play its lone game of the week at Miami before a Feb. 24 showdown at home against Duke.
10) Mississippi State (22-4) – The Bulldogs’ lone game of the week didn’t go that well. A road game at Kentucky, a team that was happy to have Rhyne Howard back on the floor, turned into a tough SEC loss that matched MSU’s season-low in scoring and ended a six-game win streak. The last time the Bulldogs scored 62 points this season, they lost to Stanford. Next up is a road game at Auburn, followed by a Sunday home game against Alabama.