The women’s college basketball menu for November always has its March-like matchups and its cupcake quotient. But many teams seem to be listening to the NCAA tournament selection committee regarding the benefits of playing a tougher schedule. And the results have also made things more interesting.
As of Sunday, teams that have been ranked in the Associated Press’ top 10 this month are 52-11 — the most losses for top-10 teams in November in the past two decades, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The .825 winning percentage is the lowest since top-10 teams went 44-9 in November 2000 for an .830 percentage. The last time the top-10 teams had double-digit losses in November was 2008, when they went 54-10 (.844).
The defending national champion Stanford Cardinal, who had just two losses in all of last season, already have lost twice.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is wondering if she went too hard with the Cardinal’s schedule. They still have nonconference games on the road at Tennessee and South Carolina in December. Like the top-ranked Gamecocks, the Lady Vols currently are undefeated.
An avid skier, VanDerveer made an analogy to how tough a course the Cardinal are facing.
“I guess if maybe I had it to do it over again, I wouldn’t take this team up to the top of the mountain and bring them down the double-black diamonds. But that’s what I’m doing,” she said. “Our team is welcoming the challenge.”
For a team like Tennessee, wins against South Florida and Texas look strong. And after five consecutive games that were decided by 10 or fewer points, Tennessee’s Kellie Harper said the Lady Vols’ 80-55 victory Saturday over Oklahoma State in Las Vegas was a relief for the coaching staff.
“It was good not having to bite your nails off,” Harper joked. “It was an enjoyable win, that’s for sure.”
But a significant road victory will help Tennessee, too. And the Lady Vols will look for that at Virginia Tech this week.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese said her team is experienced enough to know that early losses, especially against good teams, are not something to get discouraged about. Having a November to remember is nice, but everyone forgets about it if you don’t do well in March.
“I think you are seeing that teams are playing a much more competitive schedule, kind of wanting to learn about themselves in November to prepare for what lies ahead,” Frese said. “It’s exciting for women’s basketball.”
The 7-0 Cougars knocked off No. 17 Florida State and No. 22 West Virginia to win the St. Pete Showcase in Florida, and Gonzales was named the tournament MVP. She had 20 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists against the Mountaineers, and made the winning free throws with 3.1 seconds left in Saturday’s 58-57 victory. Against the Seminoles on Thursday, she had 24 points and 5 steals in a 61-54 win. Now in her third season at BYU, Gonzales was West Coast Conference co-Player of the Year last season. BYU was without head coach Jeff Judkins in Florida, as he is quarantining after a positive COVID-19 test.
USF’s Elisa Pinzan drains a deep 3-pointer over Oregon.
The Bulls entered the week with one victory over a top-10 team in program history. They got two marquee victories over top-10 opponents — as well as a pair of Pac-12 teams — in the Bahamas. On Monday, they beat No. 9 Oregon 71-62 in the Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game. Then, on Friday in the Baha Mar event, they beat No. 7 Stanford 57-54 on junior guard Sydni Harvey’s 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining.
The Battle 4 Atlantis championship game — was that really just a week ago? — was big for the Gamecocks. They made good halftime adjustments, which led to fewer turnovers in the second half, and their defense wore out the Huskies. The teams will meet again in Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 27.
Verdi, who has coached in college and in the WNBA, took over the Minutewomen in 2016. Last season, they did two things for the first time since 1998: They advanced to the Atlantic 10 tournament title game and made a postseason appearance (WNIT). This past week, UMass beat South Dakota State and Kent State in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida before falling 76-71 to No. 13 Iowa State on Sunday. UMass is 7-1, and should be one of the teams that makes the A-10 race interesting this season.
Aliyah Boston and the South Carolina Gamecocks take control in the second half to defeat the UConn Huskies 73-57.
1. South Carolina Gamecocks (7-0)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: vs. North Carolina A&T (Monday), vs. Kansas State (Friday), vs. Maryland (Sunday)
South Carolina’s game against K-State is part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and Sunday’s matchup (3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App) with the Terps is the Women’s Jimmy V Classic. The Gamecocks continue to hone an impressive defense and make use of a strong bench.
2. UConn Huskies (3-1)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: At Seton Hall (Friday), vs. Notre Dame (Sunday)
It probably won’t be fun for Seton Hall to play UConn 11 days after the Huskies’ Battle 4 Atlantis loss to South Carolina. UConn will have some frustration to let out. The annual matchup with the Irish might not be as marquee a game as it has been in the past, but Notre Dame is 6-1, with its only loss to Georgia in overtime.
3. NC State Wolfpack (6-1)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: At Indiana (Thursday), vs. Elon (Sunday)
The Wolfpack had no trouble dispatching Maryland 78-60 and Washington State 62-34 in the Baha Mar tournament in the Bahamas. NC State’s defense continues to impress; the Wolfpack held the Cougars to 25.5% shooting and limited them to single-digit point totals in the first and fourth quarters. The Hoosiers’ offense will be a tougher test in their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App).
4. Baylor Bears (6-1)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: vs. Morehead State (Tuesday), vs. Missouri (Saturday)
The Bears got double-digit victories over Fordham, Arizona State and Houston at the Cancun Challenge in Mexico this past week. You’ll get a chance to see national player of the year candidate NaLyssa Smith in Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge game (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU/ESPN App) vs. Mizzou.
No. 9 Arizona holds on to beat Vanderbilt as Shaina Pellington drops in a tough layup as time expires.
5. Arizona Wildcats (7-0)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: No games
It was a rough Thanksgiving week for the Pac-12, with all of its ranked teams except Arizona losing at least once. It took a last-second layup for the Wildcats to beat Vanderbilt at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, followed by more comfortable wins there over DePaul and Rutgers. Last year’s national runner-up is one of two unbeaten teams in the Pac-12, along with Colorado.
6. Louisville Cardinals (5-1)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: vs. Michigan (Thursday), vs. Belmont (Sunday)
The Cardinals won with ease at Cal Poly and at Colorado State this past week. But it should be an interesting showdown in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge with the Wolverines on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App). Louisville has won five straight after opening the season with an overtime loss to Arizona.
7. Tennessee Lady Vols (6-0)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: vs. Tennessee Tech (Wednesday), at Virginia Tech (Sunday)
The Lady Vols defeated Kansas and Oklahoma State at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas, as guard Jordan Horston continues to be Tennessee’s spark plug. She is leading the team in scoring (19.4), rebounds (11.0) and assists (4.2).
8. South Florida Bulls (5-2)
Previous ranking: NR
This week: At UT Arlington (Thursday)
The Bulls’ victories over Oregon and Stanford in the Bahamas should loom large on their résumé for the postseason. And their only losses have been to UConn and Tennessee. Point guard Elisa Pinzan had 26 points and 10 assists vs. the Ducks, while forward Bethy Mununga has 23 rebounds against the Cardinal.
9. Stanford Cardinal (5-2)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. Pacific (Sunday
The trip to the Bahamas brought a second loss this season to the defending champs — 57-54 to South Florida — but also reminded them of the advantage they have with their depth. After Cameron Brink had a combined 44 points and 33 rebounds in Stanford’s victory over Indiana and loss to the Bulls, she was limited to 9 minutes due to illness in the Cardinal’s 88-67 victory over Maryland. But Hannah Jump stepped into the starting lineup with 21 points.
10. Indiana Hoosiers (5-1)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: vs. NC State (Thursday)
The Hoosiers gave Stanford a run for its money, but couldn’t overcome the Cardinal’s advantage inside in a 69-66 loss in the Bahamas. But Indiana bounced back with a 53-51 victory over Miami. We’ll see how forward Mackenzie Holmes and the Hoosiers’ inside game fare Thursday against center Elissa Cunane and the Wolfpack.
11. Texas Longhorns (4-1)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: vs. Jackson State (Wednesday), at Texas A&M (Sunday)
It was light week for the Longhorns, who cruised over Cal State Northridge 83-42 on Saturday. On Sunday (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN App), they’ll face the Aggies, their former Big 12 rival who eventually will become their SEC rival, in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
12. Maryland Terrapins (6-2)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Miami (Thursday), at Rutgers (Sunday)
Illness and injury are keeping the Terps from being their best, for sure. But back-to-back losses to NC State and Stanford in the Bahamas aren’t too much to be worried about. Maryland will fall in the polls this week, but the Terps are learning from these tough games.
13. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: at Duke (Thursday), vs. Michigan State (Sunday)
The Hawkeyes didn’t do anything wrong to cause their fall in the Power Rankings. But other teams passed Iowa while the Hawkeyes haven’t played since Nov. 17. That’s because of COVID-19 protocol after positive tests in the program. Hopefully, the Hawkeyes will be back for this week, including their first Big Ten game of the season.
14. Michigan Wolverines (7-0)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: At Louisville (Thursday), vs. Akron (Sunday)
The Wolverines won three games last week, including over Oregon State and Mississippi State at the Daytona Beach Invitational in Florida. The victory against the Bulldogs was coach Kim Barnes Arico’s 200th with Michigan.
15. Iowa State Cyclones (7-0)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: at LSU (Thursday), vs. Longwood (Sunday)
The Cyclones got victories at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida against Charlotte, Penn State and UMass. In the Big 12/SEC Challenge, coach Bill Fennelly will meet a familiar face on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App) in Kim Mulkey, who was in the Big 12 at Baylor for 21 years before taking over this season at LSU.
16. Texas A&M Aggies (7-0)
Previous ranking: NR
This week: vs. Little Rock (Wednesday), vs. Texas (Sunday)
The Aggies stayed undefeated with wins over Pitt, South Dakota and Northwestern in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. Their biggest test will come Sunday against Texas. Guards Jordan Nixon and Kayla Wells are both averaging 17.0 PPG for Texas A&M.
In the waiting room
Georgia (6-0): The Bulldogs are coming off victories over Notre Dame and Marquette at the Daytona Beach Invitational and have a Thursday matinee at Texas Tech (noon ET, ESPNU/ESPN App).
Florida Gulf Coast (7-0): The Eagles beat Tennessee Tech and Saint Louis in the San Juan Shootout. They will host Princeton this week.
Ohio State (5-0): The Buckeyes haven’t been tested yet and are on the road this week at Syracuse and Purdue.