The countdown for the 2020-21 women's basketball season is finally over. Every week, I'll pick a handful of games to watch along with a preview of the teams' match-up.
Here's the three games I'll be watching during opening week:
The No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks tip off at home against the Charleston Cougars on Nov 25. Expect the Gamecocks to come back with revenge on their minds after their 26-game winning streak was cut short due to the spread of the coronavirus. The game is at noon Eastern on SEC Network Plus.
The Gamecocks will be without their two key seniors, but I can't stress enough that the sophomore trio — Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke and Brea Beal — will be a dominant force this season. The young players will have help from senior Lele Grissett and Juniors Victaria Saxton and Destanni Henderson.
The Cougars return four of their top scorers. Junior guard Latrice Perkins looks to lead the way for Charleston, but the Cougars will have to find a way to stop Boston, the Naismith freshman of the year, down low.
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Arkansas returns four of its five starters from last season. We'll see a preview of the newly formed Big 3: Chelsea Dungee, Amber Ramirez and Oregon State transfer Destiny Slocum. Tip-off is at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov 27.
Dungee leads the Razorbacks' charge and enters the season 530 points away from breaking the program's all-time scoring mark.
To add to the Razorback's depth, sophomores Erynn Barnum and Marquesha Davis will be tasked with minutes to help Arkansas remain dominant. Plus, red shirt senior guard Jailyn Mason returns after missing all of last season with an injury.
Wake Forest's senior forward Ivana Raca will return to the starting lineup as Wake Forest's offensive threat. Last season, Raca helped the Deacs reach the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament and finished fifth in the conference in scoring (17.2 ppg). In this match-up, the Razorbacks will not only look to limit her game inside the paint, but stop her scoring from beyond the arc.
If Wake Forest comes out on top, it would be the Deac's first win over a ranked opponent since 2017 when Wake Forest defeated NC State.
We have our first top 25 match-up of the season at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28, when No. 12 Maryland plays No. 24 Missouri State. It should be fun to watch the Terps' young talent face off against the Bears' veteran core.
The Big 10 Champs lost four seniors and two transfers during the offseason, but the Terps still have Big 10 Freshman of the Year Ashley Owusu. The sophomore guard was second in scoring on the Terps' roster at 12 ppg last season and led Maryland to its fourth Big Ten title in six years.
Plus, I'm also excited to watch Angel Reese, the No. 2 recruit in the country, make her collegiate debut. The McDonald's All-American is the highest-ranked incoming freshman in program history. The 6-foot-3 wing is extremely versatile and is expected to make an immediate impact for the Terps after losing a great deal of their depth.
Missouri State returns 10 players and four starters to a team that went 26-4 last season and was looking to win the MVC title. They feature Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year Brice Calip and the conference's lead rebounder Jasmine Franklin.