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Preview: Get ready for No. 23 Washington State, Maryland and more at the Cancun Challenge

No. 23 Washington State, Maryland, Creighton and Georgia Tech are among the 10 programs competing at the Cancun Challenge.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Maryland at South Carolina
Can Shyanne Sellers and Maryland use a strong showing at the Cancun Challenge to return to the top 25?
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Women’s Cancun Challenge will begin Thursday, Nov. 23 and continue through Saturday, Nov. 25. The tournament, now in its 18th year, takes place at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico. All games are streamed on FloHoops.

The women’s tournament splits 10 teams into two groups: one comprising four teams (the Mayan Division) and one made up of six (the Riviera Division). Unlike the men’s tourney, each division features round-robin play with no bracket—and therefore no champion. Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity for teams to rack up wins early on in the season and enjoy some out-of-conference play.

Mayan Division

Each of the following teams will play a three-game round robin.

University of Wisconsin Green Bay Phoenix (2-1)

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Last Year’s Record: 28-6

What to know: The Phoenix are coming off of a road upset win over Creighton, and have an experienced starting roster—all five starters are at least in their third season. UWGB hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2018, but did win the Horizon League Championship last year. Maddy Schrieber, one of the team’s top players, missed the last two months of last season but is now back and healthy. Jasmine Kondrakiewicz and Bailey Butler both return as leading scorers on the roster.

Maryland (2-2)

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Last Year’s Record: 28-7

What to know: For the first time since 2010-11, Maryland women’s basketball has fallen out of the top 25. Both South Carolina and UConn crushed Maryland this month—38- and 32-point defeats, respectively. Maryland will look to bounce back at the Cancun Challenge with several games against unranked opponents. The team is coming off of a two-point win against Syracuse on Sunday, in which they were led by Allie Kubek, who had 23 points off the bench, and Shyanne Sellers, one of last year’s standout players who had 19 points.

University of Massachusetts Amherst (1-4)

  • Conference: Atlantic 10
  • Last Year’s Record: 27-7

What to know: On the heels of not making last year’s NCAA tournament, the Minutewomen are off to a tough start this season, already suffering losses to Harvard, Monmouth, Northeastern and Maine. They’ll be led by Stefanie Kulesza and Bre Bellamy, but are missing key players like Sam Breen, the program’s all-time points leader. UMass is the only team at the Cancun Challenge currently with a losing record.

No. 23 Washington State (5-0)

  • Conference: Pac–12
  • Last Year’s Record: 23-11

What to know: The Cougars are off to a hot start, led by center Bella Murekatete and guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, each of whom are averaging 14.8 points to start the year. They crushed Cal Poly, Idaho State, Montana and Prairie View A&M, and defeated Gonzaga in overtime. Their match-up against Maryland on Thursday will be particularly intriguing.

Riviera Division

Each team here plays two games.

Creighton (3-1)

  • Conference: Big East
  • Last Year’s Record: 22-9

What to know: Creighton narrowly defeated Nebraska on Sunday. Their only loss this season so far comes at the hands of Green Bay; they’ve racked up victories against North Dakota State, South Dakota and Nebraska. Lauren Jensen (17.3 points per game), Morgan Maly (17.0) and Emma Ronsiek (16.8) have shouldered the scoring load. Creighton lost in the first round of last year’s NCAA tourney.

Georgia Tech (4-0)

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast
  • Last Year’s Record: 21-11

What to know: The Yellow Jackets have started the year strong, led by Kayla Blackshear (18.8 points per game), Tonie Morgan (16.8 points and 6.2 assists per game) and Rusne Augustinaite. They missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years last year.

James Madison (4-1)

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Last Year’s Record: 26-8

What to know: James Madison won the Sun Belt last year and subsequently earned a berth to the NCAA tournament as a 14th seed; they lost in the first round to Ohio State. The Dukes currently have three double-digit scorers: Peyton McDaniel (12.2 point per game), Jamia Hazell (10.6) and Kseniia Kozlova (10.0).

Michigan State (4-0)

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Last Year’s Record: 16-14

What to know: DeeDee Hagemann (19.5 points per game) and Moira Joiner (13.5) have led the Spartans in scoring through four victories. Last year, after missing the NCAA tournament, MSU declined a bit to the NIT, in part due to the Michigan State shooting.

Montana State (3-1)

  • Conference: Big Sky
  • Last Year’s Record: 20-11

What to know: Katelynn Limardo (13.3 points per game) and Lexi Deden (11.5) have led the Bobcats to three wins this year. Last year, the team lost to Portland State in the first round of the Big Sky tournament.

New Mexico (4-0)

What to know: Nyah Wilson (16.5 points per game), Viane Cumber (13.0), Aniyah Augmon (12.8) and Paula Reus (10.0) spearhead a well-rounded Lobos team that is undefeated so far this season.

Game schedule

Thursday, Nov. 23

11 a.m. ET: Maryland vs. Washington State

1:30 p.m. ET: UMass vs Green Bay

4 p.m. ET: Georgia Tech vs Creighton

6:30 p.m. ET: Michigan State vs James Madison

9 p.m. ET: Montana State vs New Mexico

Friday, Nov. 24

11 a.m. ET: Washington State vs UMass

1:30 p.m. ET: Green Bay vs Maryland

4 p.m. ET: Creighton vs Michigan State

6:30 p.m. ET: New Mexico vs Georgia Tech

9 p.m. ET: James Madison vs Montana State

Saturday, Nov. 25

11 a.m. ET: UMass vs Maryland

1:30 p.m. ET: Washington State vs Green Bay