Oh boy. The most eventful regular-season week in NCAA women’s basketball in many years is over.
And what do we know for sure? The NCAA title is truly up for grabs — at least among a likely group of up to a dozen teams that look at this point like contenders.
But the contenders are not, as this week show, infallible. No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 9, and No. 10 all lost this week. All but one of those losses came to unranked teams.
And so, in this wild ride of a season, we are looking at a fourth team to occupy the No. 1 spot in the country.
Who is it going to be?
Here’s the NCAA Power 10 for the week ending Jan. 12, 2020:
1) South Carolina (16-1) (4). The Gamecocks, winners of 10 straight, take their turn as the No. 1 team in the country by virtue of the fact that 1) they are playing as consistently at a high level as anyone in the country at the moment. And 2) they defeated Baylor in November, who defeated No. 1 Connecticut this week. Their lone game this week comes against Missouri before next Monday’s nationally televised matchup with Mississippi State.
2) Baylor (13-1) (5). The Bears dominated the top-ranked Huskies, snapping a 98-game home winning streak for UConn, with stifling defense. That’s a bad sign for the rest of the teams on its schedule, and most of those that will stand in the way of Baylor defending its NCAA title. This week, the Bears go on the road to Kansas, followed by a big Big 12 home game against No. 19 West Virginia on Saturday.
3) Stanford (14-1) (4). The Cardinal have righted the way since the Texas loss, winning four in a row by an average margin of 21.3 points, have gotten a little healthier and are still strangling teams over the course of four quarters with their depth of talent (11 players are averaging double-digit minutes) and versatility. After a weekend sweep of a rebuilding rival in Cal, it gets a lot more interesting. Stanford leaves California for the first time in 2020 to take on Oregon (Thursday) and Oregon State in two more defining games.
4) Connecticut (13-1) (3). Geno Auriemma said all along that he didn’t think his team deserved the No. 1 ranking, that they weren’t ready for that yet. Looks like he was right after the program’s worst home loss since 2007. A 40-point win over Houston was only a little bit of salve. More challenges await a team that’s still looks like it’s finding its offensive footing, such as a little game on Jan. 23 against Tennessee at the XL Center in Hartford.
HISTORY DENIED: Baylor snaps UConn home winning streak after 98 games
5) UCLA (16-0) (7). The last unbeaten left in the country, the Bruins didn’t quite face the same degree of difficulty this weekend as the Oregon schools, but they came away with two road wins, including a nail-biter against an upstart Colorado squad that’s proving to be a tough out in the Pac-12. The Bruins don’t likely have another ranked team on their schedule until they play at Arizona on Jan. 31.
6) Oregon (13-2) (1). The Ducks were poised to retake the No. 1 ranking, all they needed to do (insert sarcasm here) was to get a road sweep at Arizona State and No. 18 Arizona. Falling 72-66 to an Arizona State team that hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent all season was a pretty big surprise. But the bounce back was strong. Winning Sunday at No. 18 Arizona in a back-and-forth game showed grit and the Ducks are going to need it. Next up, Thursday’s nationally televised showcase against Stanford at Matthew Knight Arena, where they haven’t lost this season.
7) Oregon State (15-1) (2). It’s a pretty long fall for the Beavers, who, following Oregon’s loss Friday, were also poised for a shot at No. 1 heading into their game against upset-primed Arizona State. But OSU, one of two unbeaten teams left in the nation on Sunday, simply couldn’t hit shots. They were 2-for-20 from beyond the 3-point arc and shot 31 percent for the game. The Beavers will face Cal on Friday night before taking on Stanford on Sunday.
8) Louisville (16-1) (9). The Cardinals earned a decisive win against Miami earlier in the week, playing without star center Beatrice Mompremier (foot injury) and handed the ‘Canes their worst loss in 13 years and put up their best shooting percentage of the season — 55.6 percent. In this year of parity, Louisville is the last remaining ACC team without a loss at 4-0. The schedule looks favorable for Louisville for the next few weeks. The next likely matchup against a ranked opponent doesn’t come until Feb. 6 against Florida State.
9) Mississippi State (15-2) (NR). The Bulldogs have won seven in a row and return to the top 10 with a pair of strong wins this week over Georgia and Missouri, which set a program record for the Bulldogs’ 14th straight road win, the longest road win streak in Division I. Freshman Rickea Jackson is making a big impression. In the week following her SEC Freshman of the Week Award, she put up a career-high 21 against Missouri. Next week will be much more challenging with a Thursday game against LSU, the team that just upset Texas A&M, followed by next Monday’s big matchup against South Carolina.
10) Kentucky (14-2) (NR). The Wildcats make their first Power Ten appearance of the season and are going to be tested immediately in their ability to keep that spot with games this week against Texas A&M and LSU. Rhyne Howard’s six straight games of 20 points or more is propelling Kentucky and makes the sophomore guard the top scorer in the SEC.