Good day, and welcome to the Triple Double! This is the start of a weekly column where we're going to highlight all things women's college basketball.
This week, we're going to stoke some fires and talk about what's on the minds of ballers and fans everywhere. So first, let’s jump right into one of the more fun topics.
1) THE MID-MAJORS HAVE COME, AND YOU WERE WARNED
In an earlier article, we talked about 10 mid-major teams that might put the scare into teams from the Power 5 conferences.
Guess what? That fear was justified.
In their second game of the season, the then no. 21 DePaul Blue Demons lost a heartbreaking matchup against the Northern Colorado Bears from the Big Sky Conference. Northern Colorado (as of Nov. 28) is currently ranked fifth in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25. Not even two full weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, DePaul lost an overtime thriller to Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU is currently ranked fourth.
Those two aren’t the only teams making noise. South Dakota State (#2) received four votes for the NCAA Women’s Top 25 poll. And Green Bay, who leads the mid-major poll, has found their way onto the NCAA poll, standing tall at #23 after they beat then no. 24 Arizona State and then no. 23 Marquette in consecutive weeks.
Even Belmont, who is third in the mid-major poll, had a competitive showing in a loss to no. 18 Stanford. In their eight wins, they’ve beaten their opponents by a whopping 247 POINTS! Compared to their two losses, where they lost by 23 (to then no. 22 Oklahoma) and 21 to Stanford (at the time no. 14).
Usually, the bigger schools schedule mid-majors and smaller teams as a warm-up for the season. So far in the 2017-18 season, those mid-majors have shown their resilience and are standing their ground. And from the looks of it, those teams don’t look like they’re going away anytime soon.
2) WHERE IS THE LOVE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA?
National champion? Check.
The head coach is named leader of U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball team? Check.
Start offseason ranked no. 1? Pump the brakes.
The South Carolina Gamecocks, who won their first national championship in April, have been catching a little bit of flack from their fellow competitors and the media over the last few months. Heck, they even got looked over by the White House and President Donald Trump.
All that could be looked over. However, when the initial Associated Press Top 25 poll came out, guess who wasn’t at the top of the list. You guessed it, the defending national champions. At the top was another familiar face in the Connecticut Huskies. The same Huskies who were beat by Mississippi State in the Final Four. South Carolina, for its troubles, started off at the no. 4 ranking.
The Gamecocks (8-1) are currently at the no. 5 spot after losing to no. 3 Notre Dame on November 26, but this isn’t a team that is necessarily weak. They still have A’ja Wilson and Bianca Cuevas-Moore from last season’s championship team. They added Lindsey Spann (Penn State) and Te’a Cooper (Tennessee, sitting out due to transfer rules). And after sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Alexis Jennings has made her presence known on the court (13.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg).
Head coach Dawn Staley has never been one to rest on past success, and so far this season, it doesn’t look like the Gamecocks have slowed down one bit. They may not get love from their peers, but I don’t think that will matter come March Madness.
3) NEVER COUNT UCONN OUT
You wouldn’t blame the Connecticut Huskies if they licked their wounds a little bit after not only losing in the national semi-finals, but also losing their record 111-game winning streak (note: that was the second big winning streak they have posted; the first was 90 games between 2008 and 2011).
But if you've been watching women's college basketball for the last 20 years (or have been avoiding reality), you that head coach Geno Auriemma has never been one to back down from a fight. And based on the most recent polls, the media and basketball peers recognize that, as the Huskies (7-0) maintained their number one ranking after survived a close test against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
If you watched the Sunday afternoon tilt, it was no secret that the Huskies are not the same dominant team that has run roughshod over the NCAA for a good part of 20 years. Notre Dame was up by as many as 12 points, and going into the fourth quarter; the Irish had Connecticut on the ropes.
It took a herculean effort from Azurá Stevens (10 of her 17 points in the fourth) and a 26-9 run to put away Notre Dame. All this without senior Gabby Williams (sat the entire second half) and junior Katie Lou Samuelson (limited action in the fourth). The two All-Americans have been beset with injuries most of the season, but UConn has always found a way to make more of less.
Need scoring? Four Huskies scored in double figures. Rebounding? Stevens had eight of them on Sunday and has been a beast on the boards all season. Three-pointers? Pass Kia Nurse the rock, and she'll turn it into diamonds.