Women’s Power Rankings: No. 1 Gamecocks have more work to do
With the “Battle of the Undefeated” ending 25-0 in South Carolina, the SEC regular season champion looks set to be decided. Or that?
About the only thing that didn’t go the way of South Carolina on Sunday was coach Don Staley’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles lost the Super Bowl. Handing LSU their first loss, 88-64 earlier Sunday, the Gamecocks looked nearly unbeatable, and they remain firmly at the top of Sportzshala’s women’s college basketball rankings.
But their remaining schedule includes trips to Tennessee and Ole Miss, which are ranked third and fourth in the SEC. The Gamecocks end the regular season at home against Georgia, which is in the middle of an SEC package but took LSU to overtime on Feb. 2.
Clearly the Gamecocks are the best team in the SEC and they will have an advantage in every game they play until the end of the season. But there is more to be done for the regular season championship and they are ready.
“Every time we’re put through combat like this, I think it just shows our maturity,” South Carolina’s Alia Boston said after winning LSU. “We are great with the ball. We just need to keep doing it.”
While the Gamecocks have been at the top of the Power rankings since the start of the season, Texas is back in the top 10 for the first time since the first week of November. Texas, which has won seven games in a row and leads the Big 12 11-2, has taken a long time to recover from losing four of its first seven, due in part to injury problems.
The Longhorns travel to Iowa State on Monday (8:00 pm ET, Sportzshala2/Sportzshala App) in a game that sees one team climbing as the other struggle to recover from three straight losses. The Cyclones that dropped out of the Power Rankings last week have no real depth and look tired from the last two weeks.
Iowa State isn’t the only team to get caught up in turbulence. At one point, both NC State and NC were in the top 10 teams. They meet in the state of North Carolina on Thursday (9pm ET, ACC Network) both off the strength rankings and in the middle of the ACC package.
But a lot more could happen over the next two-plus weeks as no Power 5 or UConn leaders in the Big East have more than one game advantage in the league standings.
Player of the Week: Maddie Siegrist, Villanova
Siegrist was the second player of the week this season with 77 points and 22 rebounds in wins over Georgetown and Seton Hall. The highlight of another great season for Siegrist was her game against the Pirates on Saturday: 50 points, more than anyone else in a Division I game in the 2022-2023 season. The fact that she scored 20 out of 26 from the field was just as impressive as her total points. With 29.1 points, Siegrist has the highest average score among Division I women and men.
Her 50 points and 20 shots set Villanova and Big East singles records, and she now also leads the Big East in game scoring. She did exactly what Villanova legend Shelley Pennefather told her to do when she became a Wildcat: break records. In addition, this week Villanova entered the strength rankings.
Team of the Week: Houston
It might seem odd to single out a team that is 10-13 overall and can’t compete in the NCAA tournament without winning the American Athletic Conference tournament. However, the Cougars deserve credit for two things: South Florida’s first loss of the season, 71-69 on Sunday, and are not disappointed after losing 10 of their first 13 games this season.
Nine of those 10 losses were single digits and three were in overtime. Then, after the start of the conference season, the Cougars lost three consecutive championship games by seven points. Nevertheless, Houston accepted all these disappointments and continued to work. The Cougars have now won four in a row and are tied for second in the Americas 7-3. This is sustainability.
Win of the Week: Marquette 59, UConn 52
Marquette entered the game last Wednesday at 0-16 against the Huskies and faced the toughest streak in women’s basketball. UConn hasn’t lost a game in a row since 1993, and the Huskies suffered a heavy 81-77 loss to South Carolina.
But it was finally Marquette’s night. Capitalizing on some of the Huskies’ uncharacteristic mistakes, including 19 losses compared to the Golden Eagles’ eight, Marquette scored a landmark win as adults Chloe Marotta and Jordan King combined for 37 points.
Coach of the Week: Don Staley, South Carolina
It’s never easy to repeat a national championship, but Staley has taken the Gamecocks through just about every smooth water so far on this mission. She not only brought a lot of talent to South Carolina, she shaped it.
Sunday’s victory over LSU saw South Carolina win a program-record 31 games in a row: 25 of them this season, and only four of them were in single digits. Staley has received accolades from her players for how hard they play and for sharing minutes on a very strong team. The Gamecocks are the last Division I team, women’s or men’s, to remain undefeated to date.
1. Gamecox of South Carolina (25-0)
Previous rating: 1
This week: vs. Florida (Thursday), at Ole Miss (Sunday)
In wins over Auburn and LSU, one of the not-to-be-missed factors was defenseman Kirra Fletcher, a transfer who missed last season with injury after four years at Georgia Tech. She played just 4 minutes 23 seconds in South Carolina’s win over UConn on February 5, but played over 20 minutes in wins over both Tigers teams. She was a key part of the Gamecocks perimeter defense that continues to impress. Also of note: South Carolina threw 66.7% from the field in the first quarter against LSU and 76.9% in the fourth: a very strong start and an even stronger finish.
2. Indiana Hoosiers (23-1)
Previous rating: 4
This week: at Ohio State (Monday), vs. Michigan (Thursday) vs. Purdue (Sunday)
The Hoosiers reached their top spot in the strength rankings this season after a big win over Iowa, led by Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes with a combined 50 points. After just one game last week, the Big Ten leaders have played three this week, two against ranked teams. This is obviously a huge week for the Hoosiers in terms of trying to secure a Big Ten regular season championship. The program has not done so since the 1982–1983 Ohio State team tied the title in its first season when the conference began sponsoring women’s basketball.
3. LSU Tigers (23-1)
Previous rating: 3
This week: vs. Ole Miss (Thursday), in Florida (Sunday)
The Tigers got off to a rocky start in South Carolina, but found success for at least a few stretches. Just nine losses were a positive for the team they were bothering. However, South Carolina negated one of LSU’s biggest strengths by winning the rebounding battle 43–25 with the Tigers only having five assists. Much credit for how hard South Carolina makes passes after entering as the Tigers had trouble doing some of the things they did well throughout the season. However, just one defeat so far means that LSU is in great shape.
4. Stanford Cardinal (24-3)
Previous rating: 6
This week: against USC Trojans (Friday)
After a crushing defeat by Washington on February 5, the cardinal made a dominating visit to the desert. In an 84-60 win over Arizona, senior Hayley Jones had one of her best games of the season with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Then, in a 96-64 win over Arizona State, Stanford, who had inexplicably poor offensive performance this season, scored 90 points for the first time since Dec. 31, when the Sunny Devils also faced off. It’s been a good week for the Stanford team, which has struggled to end the regular season with three ranked opponents left.
5. Y. Conn Huskies (22-4)
Previous rating: 2
This week: vs. Creighton (Wednesday), in Villanova (Saturday)
UConn’s 30-year undefeated streak finally ended when the Huskies fell to Marquette after losing to South Carolina. The length of this series is so ridiculous that it seems impossible that it could ever be repeated. Trainer Geno Oriemma gave Marquette credit but admitted that his huskies looked mentally exhausted. UConn subsequently beat Georgetown 67-59 but had 23 losses to Hoya’s 14. Huskies are still in the top 5 in the Power Rankings, but that could be in dispute this week, especially in Villanova.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes (20-5)
Previous rating: 5
This week: vs. Wisconsin (Thursday), in Nebraska (Saturday)
Despite 35 points and 10 assists from Caitlin Clark, the Hawkeyes failed to get a road win in Indiana last week, but that didn’t hurt their NCAA standings. They returned home and took matters seriously against Rutgers, scoring 100 points for the fourth time this season. For only the second time in 25 games, Clark was not Iowa’s top scorer as she only played 21 minutes and Iowa’s bench was given plenty of time. Huskers may prove to be a formidable opponent this week; they were down by just four points when the teams met in Iowa City on January 28.
7. Maryland Terrapins (21-5)
Previous rating: 7
This week: in Michigan (Saturday)
After a dominant victory over the Northwest, the Terps had problems with Illinois, trailing 37-28 at halftime. But Maryland won the third quarter 31-8 and then won 11. And this despite coming from behind the arc 0-of-17. What worked for Maryland were the free throws (18 of 18 ) and Diamond Miller, who scored 31 points and played particularly well in February.
8. Utah Yutes (22-2)
Previous rating: 8
This week: in Arizona (Friday), in Arizona (Sunday)
The Utes have the longest Pac-12 winning streak with seven in a row: wins over Washington and Washington State last week put them in first place in the Pac-12 with Stanford. After the Huskies upset the Cardinal on February 5, they had no luck with the Utah. The Cliffs won 92-69 and made 16 3-pointers, five of them from Gianna Nipkens.
9. Duke Blue Devils (22-3)
Previous rating: 9
This week: at Virginia Tech (Thursday), in Virginia (Sunday)
Duke’s games can…