The women’s basketball slate is starting to pick up again, after a short hiatus for the holidays. It started to pick up again on Tuesday as UConn defeated DePaul in Big East play. There was a full slate on New Year’s Eve as well, which brought us a number of terrific conference matchups.
While games are picking up again and we turn the page on 2020, many challenges remain for schools and their basketball programs. Louisville, who remains No. 1 in my power rankings, hasn’t played a game since Dec. 9 at Duke. The Cardinals had to pause activities shortly after that contest. Their next scheduled game is on Sunday, which will mark almost a month between games.
Duke and SMU are two programs who have recently decided to suspend their seasons, as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the season. While it’s one thing to expect the disruptions before any team took the court for their first contest, it’s another thing to experience it.
As we head into the new year, we get set for mostly conference schedules, with some non-conference games sprinkled in.
Below is our updated power rankings, as we get set for another great weekend of college basketball.
Women’s Top 25 Power Rankings
1. Louisville (5-0)
Louisville hasn’t played a game since Dec. 9. The Cardinals were set to play UNC on Friday, but that game was postponed until Jan. 5. Regardless of having nearly a month in between contests, the Cardinals are still No. 1. Their dismantling of DePaul on a neutral court was more than enough for me to keep them here. Previous: 1
2. Stanford (7-0)
While the Cardinal haven’t played in a month, they have been terrific. Coach Tara VanDerveer set the NCAA record for most all-time wins in women’s basketball, they are undefeated early on in Pac-12 play and got a terrific 12-point road win at UCLA. This is the deepest team in the country. Sophomores Haley Jones and Fran Belibi have been terrific so far and senior Kiana Williams has been a true leader. Freshman Cameron Brink has been extremely good off the bench as well. The Cardinal will look to remain undefeated as they get set for an extremely difficult stretch as they take on Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon in the week ahead. Previous: 2
3. NC State (9-0)
Following their huge road win over South Carolina in early December, the Wolfpack have stayed the course en route to a 9-0 start. Their biggest test since their win in Columbia came at Boston College as it took a 28-9 fourth quarter comeback for Wes Moore’s team to pick up the six-point win. Since then, the Wolfpack have picked up home victories over Wake Forest and Miami. They travel to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest next week and a big matchup with No. 1 Louisville looms on Jan 17. Previous: 3
4. South Carolina (6-1)
Besides the loss to NC State, Dawn Staley’s squad has looked very good and is certainly one of the teams most capable of winning the national championship. They have challenged themselves in the early going, with wins over South Dakota, Gonzaga, and Iowa State, but they are another team that just played their first game in two weeks, so the next two weeks will show us a lot as they kick conference play into high gear. They have, arguably, the best guard-post combo in the country in Zia Cooke and Aliyah Boston and those two sophomores are only going to get better. Previous: 4
5. UConn (6-0)
As you may know, I picked the Huskies to win it all this year. Over the course of their first six games, they have certainly shown flashes of how good they can be, but coach Geno Auriemma hasn’t always been happy with their defense. Paige Bueckers has been really good thus far, as she leads the team with 18.2 PPG to go along with 6.0 rebounds and just over five assists per game. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams and Aaliyah Williams are also all averaging double figures. The Huskies picked up a nice win on Tuesday over DePaul, and will have one of the biggest tests of their season on Jan. 7, as they travel to take on Baylor. Previous: 6
6. Oregon (7-0)
Oregon has started off 5-0 in the Pac-12, including a narrow four-point victory over Washington State on the road. There was never any doubt that Kelly Graves would have a team that was capable of putting up points. Erin Boley, Nyara Sabally, Taylor Mikesell and Te-Hina Paopao are all averaging double digits and the Ducks are shooting just under 40% from the 3-point line as a team. Mikesell has been lighting it up from behind the arc at 51%. If the Ducks shoot the ball well, they are going to be in every game they play. Their defense has been good so far, and they have gotten tremendous contributions from their freshmen. Oregon may be one of the deepest in the country right behind Stanford. Previous: 7
7. Arizona (7-0)
Adia Barnes also has her team off to a 5-0 start in Pac-12 play, including a win over top-25 UCLA. That is the signature win so far this season for the Wildcats and it’s a good one. Aari McDonald and Cate Reese have been terrific, averaging 20.1 and 13.9 PPG respectively. McDonald has also been really good defensively, as expected, but for the Wildcats, two things concern me: turnovers and finding a consistent third scorer. Arizona needs Trinity Baptiste, Sam Thoma, or Shaina Pellington to step into that role. Freshman Lauren Ware has been good, but isn’t playing a ton of minutes at this point. This is a really good team that can defend. They need to score consistently. Previous: 5
8. Baylor (7-1)
Baylor’s lone loss came on the road against a good Arkansas team and they have also registered two quality road wins at South Florida and West Virginia. Texas and Iowa State will be the two teams in the Big 12 that are most capable of challenging the Bears for the championship. While their conference schedule is set to ramp up, their matchup against UConn on Jan. 7, is the biggest game left on the Baylor schedule. Didi Richards has come back tremendously following a scary preseason injury. NaLyssa Smith leads the Bears with 17.3 PPG, while Queen Egbo, DiJonai Carrington and Hannah Gusters are all averaging double figures. Come March, Baylor will likely make their way back to being a No. 1 seed, and they are the reigning champs…don’t sleep on Baylor. Previous: 8
9. Texas A&M (9-0)
The Aggies may be the most underrated team in the top 25 so far this season. They picked up a big road win over DePaul early in the season, while recently surviving a scare from Rice at home. Gary Blair’s team certainly will not run the table in the SEC gauntlet, but they have a team that will compete with any team in the conference. Offensively, the most astounding stat for the Aggies may be the fact that they have six players, yes six, that are averaging double figures and eight that are averaging greater than 7.0 PPG. For a team that lost a dominant scorer in Chennedy Carter, this balance has worked so far this season and will be key for this team. They open up SEC play with Florida this week before big games against top-15 teams in Arkansas and Kentucky. Previous: 10
10. Kentucky (8-1)
Truth be told, I had Arkansas at No. 9 before the Wildcats beat the Razorbacks at home on New Year’s Eve. Arkansas is really good, but with the head-to-head win, this is Kentucky’s spot again. The Wildcats now hold victories over Indiana and Arkansas, which are, arguably, better than anything Texas A&M, Baylor, Arizona or Oregon have. That said, the loss to DePaul, while it is certainly not a bad loss, puts them at No. 10. At this point, we are splitting hairs. For Kentucky, Rhyne Howards has looked terrific, as she dropped 24 points vs. the Razorbacks, while Kyra Elzy’s team has been really good defensively. Things will only get harder for Kentucky as it has three straight road contests against Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M, before hosting South Carolina. Previous: 9
|14. Mississippi State||6-1||13|
|15. Ohio State||4-0||18|
|17. South Florida||6-1||23|
|21. South Dakota State||7-2||24|
|25. Missouri St.||4-2||19|
First five out: Syracuse, Michigan State, Iowa State, Georgia and Rutgers
Who fell out? Syracuse, Iowa and Oregon St.
Who entered? DePaul, Texas and UNC