South Carolina-Stanford highlight ranked matchups dominating the early schedule

South Carolina guard Bree Hall reacts after making a 3-pointer in overtime against Stanford on November 20, 2022 at the Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California.  (Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

South Carolina guard Bree Hall reacts after making a 3-pointer in overtime against Stanford on November 20, 2022 at the Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California. (Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Quite a few outlets — including ours — wrote last week about the lack of quality games in the first week of the college basketball season. Men’s college basketball. Because that’s not how it works on the women’s side. And on Sunday they showed that with runway lights.

Want suspense, excitement, down-to-the-wire competition in November? Look for the place where the women’s games are streamed. There has been so much “upset” (defined in this case as lower-ranked teams beating higher-ranked teams) because the nation’s best teams are actually playing each other.

The coaches, who barely plan a handful of games a season on a talented non-conference roster, are the week’s big winners. Kudos to them for realizing how beneficial this is not only to their teams but to the sport as a whole.

“There are fewer great teams. And a lot more good teams,” said UConn (3-0) head coach Geno Auriemma on Sunday. “Whenever you start having that, the next thing that happens is these good teams start beating other good teams. So if you’re a top 10 team but you have mistakes, they will show.”

The season ended two weeks ago and we already saw the two largely undisputed best teams in the nation go head-to-head in a regularly scheduled series. No. 1 South Carolina forced ABC into overtime and took advantage of two nasty mistakes by No. 2 Stanford to win 76-71.

According to the College Poll Archive, since the year 2000, there have been 34 meetings of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams on the women’s side, while only nine meetings of the same teams have occurred on the men’s side. Of the women’s games, 21 were deliberately scheduled as non-conference games compared to six for the men. That’s roughly one per season compared to once every four years.

“I think what you see in women’s basketball is teams aren’t afraid to play great matches,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said before the game, via The Mercury News. “Everyone plays against everyone and I think that’s a great thing.”

The Sunday dinner was phenomenal from start to finish. Then no. 5 UConn treated at that time-No. 10 NC State, 91-69, early afternoon. As it drew to a close, still-unanimous No. 1 and reigning champion South Carolina came back to defeat Stanford.

“That’s what women’s basketball is about,” said Dawn Staley, South Carolina head coach. “This game only helps both teams.”

Meanwhile, then no. 19 Maryland got from then-No. 17 Baylor, 73-68, and then no. 4 Iowa outlived a strong Belmont squad, 73-64.

The men’s coaches should pay more attention to this. Everyone loves March, but there’s no reason why some of that excitement can’t be found in November and December.

Loser: The Associated Press’s Top 25 Poll

The Associated Press’s Top 25 poll got some hits this weekend, and that’s a good thing! That’s what we should want and respect for what it is: good basketball from a wide range of emerging programs.

“It’s a great sign for women’s basketball,” Auriemma said. “I think that now you can’t just go to the gym and roll it out there and say, yeah, well, we’re a top 10 team in the country and we can just turn around [you] because you are not classified. I think those days are over. I don’t think anyone is good enough to do that. And these other teams are just too good right now.

Listen, let’s be clear. The people voting on this poll are not the losers here. Ranking the best teams from more than 350 programs at the Division I level is an incredibly difficult task. It’s not like a professional league where a maximum of 32 teams play against similar opponents. There’s a lot of subjectivity that only time will elucidate.

And even then it won’t be crystal clear because only a small grouping of teams have similar schedules. No. 12 LSU (5-0) currently leads the nation averaging 108.8 points per game. Incredible stuff until you see it played Bellarmine, Mississippi Valley State, Western Carolina, Houston Christian, and Northwestern State. Bless their hearts.

UConn defeated top-10 opponents in Texas and NC State back-to-back, but even that raises questions. Texas, still without point guard Rori Harmon, has now lost three straight and the Wolfpack is very different from last season’s Fast-Final Four group.

Loser: Whatever Stanford-South Carolina’s last 30 seconds can be called

roller coaster? meltdown? Chaos? Chaotic? The final 28.8 seconds of overtime was a tough road to end another stellar showdown between Stanford and South Carolina.

Stanford fouled two and profited when Victaria Saxton missed both. But Laeticia Amihere brought down the rebound for South Carolina to maintain possession. The Cardinal didn’t foul this time and again got exactly what they wanted when Agnes Emma-Nnopu stripped Kamilla Cardoso. That left a whopping 10 seconds on the clock and a narrow two-point deficit.

It was short lived. Stanford returned it after a five-second injury in the inbound, was fouled with 5.6 seconds left and was alive on two more missed Brea Beal free throws. Second forward Kiki Iriafen, who came on for Cameron Brink after the junior’s foul, secured the rebound. But she called a time-out the Cardinal didn’t have, essentially ending the game by giving South Carolina two free throws and possession.

“It was very disappointing to have the lead that we had and not finish the job,” said VanDerveer.

It was an exciting game, the first of four on ABC this season. And it was great, tight overtime with a lob from Haley Jones inside to Brink, a 3-pointer from Bree Hall to take the lead to four and one of Brink’s four blocks. We’ll be chalking up the final seconds until week two of the season.

Winners: Kiki Jefferson, James Madison

Kiki Jefferson of the James Madison Dukes plays the ball against the George Washington Colonials at Charles E. Smith Athletic Center on December 02, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Shown during a game in 2021, James Madison’s Kiki Jefferson had 30 points and added 10 rebounds and five assists against No. 13 North Carolina last week. (Photo by G. Fiume/Getty Images)

All the usual suspects had big days this weekend. UConn’s Azzi Fudd (32 points again), Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (33 points), LSU’s Angel Reese (23 points, 19 rebounds), Maryland’s Diamond Miller (32 points), Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles (13 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds). ) and Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist (41 points, 16 rebounds).

James Madison’s Kiki Jefferson had a similarly strong day. The senior guard put up a double-double with 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 76-65 loss to No. 13 North Carolina. She also added five assists and hit four of the team’s season-best 10 3-pointers.

Picked for third place in the ACC, the Tar Heels (4-0) were upset early on. James Madison (3-2) led most of the first half, including 34-30 at the break, and was within five minutes with three minutes remaining.

Jefferson has at least 20 points in all five games and averages 22.8 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 steals. She hits 62.75% of shots and is 11 of 19 (57.9%) from beyond the arc. Early in the season, Jefferson was a 34% shooter from 3.

What to see this week

The full guide to viewing tournaments on Thanksgiving week is here. Some highlights:

Thursday

No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 18 Oregon, 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU — North Carolina is a favorite in the ACC while Oregon is a different team than expected after Sedona Prince had surgery.

Friday

DePaul vs. No. 14 Maryland, 11 a.m. ET — DePaul sophomore Aneesah Morrow is averaging a best-in-class 30.3 ppg nationwide in Division I.

Belmont vs. #23 Villanova, 1:30 p.m. ET – Two strong programs showing up early. Villanova senior Siegrist has averaged 29 points and 13.3 rebounds in four games.

#3 UConn vs. Duke, 6 p.m. ET – It’s UConn and Duke.

No. 9 Iowa vs. Oregon State, 8:30 p.m. ET — The Hawkeyes are hitting early hurdles despite Clark’s 26.8 points per game.

Sunday

Princeton at #19 Texas, 2 p.m. ET – Texas needs Harmon back to fix the ship. If that doesn’t happen before the Tigers, it could be another notch in the wrong column.

1.South Carolina (4-0)

2.Stanford (5-1)

3.UConne (3-0)

4. Ohio State (4-0)

5. Iowa State (4-0)

6. Indiana (5-0)

7. Notre Dame (4-0)

8. North Carolina (4-0)

9th Iowa (4-1)

10Louisville (4-1)

11. Virginia Tech (3-0)

12.LSU (5-0)

13th State of North Carolina (4-1)

14 Maryland (4-1)

15 Arizona (4-0)

16. Creighton (4-0)

17 Utah (4-0)

18.Oregon (3-0)

19 Texas (1-3)

20.UCLA (5-0)

21 Baylor (3-1)

22 Michigan (4-0)

23t. Tennessee (2-3)

23t. Villanova (4-0)

25. State of Kansas (5-0)

Other votes received: Oklahoma 69, Marquette 65, Gonzaga 33, Kansas 11, Drake 8, South Florida 5, Duke 5, Ole Miss 4, South Dakota State 4, Princeton 3, Nebraska 1, Georgia 1

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