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Around the NCAAW: The Florida State Seminoles are ascending to the top of the ACC

The most impressive team in a week full of exciting women’s college basketball action? The Florida State Seminoles, who scored wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

2023 Invesco QQQ Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase - Florida State v UCLA
Behind the sharpshooting Sara Bejedi, Florida State scored upsets over North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Approximately two weeks into conference play and things are starting to get a bit wild in women’s college basketball, with upsets rocking the standings and raising questions. Here’s a look back on the action and accomplishments from Monday, Jan. 8 to Sunday, Jan. 14.


The Seminoles are on a roll

If you’re an ACC team fresh off an upset and feeling pretty good about yourself, you don’t want to see No. 21 Florida State (14-4, 5-1) on your schedule. Both No. 20 North Carolina (11-5, 3-1), coming off a big win over then-No. 16 Notre Dame in South Bend, and No. 11 Virginia Tech (13-3, 4-1), riding high after handing then-No. 3 NC State their first loss of the season, discovered as much this past week.

In both contests, fifth-year senior guard Sara Bejedi’s prowess from behind the arc propelled the ‘Noles, as she was 5-for-9 from 3 against the Tar Heels and Hokies. She finished with 23 points in the 70-62 home win over UNC on Thursday; in Sunday’s 89-80 upset of Virginia Tech, she totaled a career-high 31 points. Junior forward Makayla Timpson was solid in both contests, stepping up with an 11-point and 11-rebound double-double against UNC followed by 18 points, five boards and four blocks against Virginia Tech. Junior guard O’Mariah Gordon also continues to provide key contributions for the Seminoles, chipping in 12 points and four assists on Wednesday and 17 points and four assists on Sunday.

That FSU earned back-to-back impressive wins despite sophomore super scorer Ta’Niya Latson not having the kind out-of-this-world performances she is capable of—she scored just eight points against UNC before finishing 20 points and eight assists against Virginia Tech—indicates not only the depth of the Seminoles, but also how dangerous they could be in ACC play. They’re currently among a mass of ACC teams sitting with one loss in conference, but, because the Seminoles have played six conference games, they’re currently tied atop the standings.

A peek at the Power Five standings

The ACC’s log jam, along with the number of notable in-conference upsets that rolled across women’s college over the past week, makes it an interesting moment to take an early look at the Power Five—ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC—conference standings.

ACC

As mentioned above, Florida State claims a share of first place in the ACC. The other team at the top? No. 15 Louisville (15-2, 4-0). The Cardinals scored breezy wins over Pitt (6-12, 0-5) and Wake Forest (4-13, 0-5) last week. With one loss, No. 6 NC State (15-1, 3-1), No. 11 Virginia Tech (13-3, 4-1), No. 20 North Carolina (11-5, 3-1) and Syracuse (14-2, 4-1) loom as contenders.

Big Ten

Although Michigan State (12-4, 2-3) gave them a scare, No. 3 Iowa (17-1, 6-0) otherwise has rolled to their 6-0 mark in conference play, with Saturday’s thrashing of No. 14 Indiana (14-2, 5-1) confirming the Hawkeyes’ perch atop the Big Ten.

Big 12

Somewhat surprisingly, No. 12 Kansas State (17-1, 5-0) and Iowa State (12-4, 5-0) currently rule the Big 12. Both certified their status on Saturday, as Iowa State handed No. 4 Baylor (14-2, 3-2) a second-straight loss and K-State toppled No. 10 Texas (16-2, 3-2) for the first time in nine tries. Those two teams don’t meet until mid-February, presenting plenty of time for the favored teams from the state of Texas to re-emerge as conference threats.

Pac-12

After No. 9 USC (12-1, 2-1) and JuJu Watkins defeated No. 2 UCLA (14-1, 3-1) in this season’s second battle of LA, No. 5 Colorado (15-1, 5-0), fresh off an authoritative win over No. 8 Stanford (15-2, 4-1), is alone in first place in the Pac-12. This week, the Buffs welcome the two LA teams to Boulder, with the pair of battles having the potential to shake up the conference standings.

SEC

On Sunday, four teams were undefeated in SEC play. That number now stands at one, thanks to the Tigers of Missouri and Auburn and the Aggies of Texas A&M. Missouri (10-7, 1-3) edged Vanderbilt (16-2, 3-1) to give their Commodores their first conference loss, while Auburn (12-5, 1-3) held off No. 7 LSU (16-2, 3-1) and Texas A&M (14-3, 2-2) took down Tennessee (10-6, 3-1).

No. 1 South Carolina (15-0, 3-0)—the nation’s only undefeated team—is now alone at the top, awaiting a match with Kentucky (8-9, 1-2) on Monday night.

More ups and downs for UConn

The No. 13 UConn Huskies (14-3, 6-0) lead what’s generally considered the nation’s sixth-best conference—the Big East—at a sparkling 6-0, most recently trouncing Providence 85-41 and St. John’s 92-49. And that’s despite another attack from the injury bug.

On Wednesday, the team announced that fifth-year senior forward Aubrey Griffin will miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL in her left knee. Griffin suffered the injury in the Huskies’ Jan. 3 win over Creighton.

When head coach Geno Auriemma settled on a reshuffled rotation after junior guard Azzi Fudd’s season-ending ACL injury, Griffin flourished as a super sub, injecting games with energy, effort and activity from off the bench. Although her per game averages were modest—9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds—her impact was eye-catching, oftentimes turning a defensive takeaway into an effortless transition score.

Griffin is the fourth Husky to see her season end prematurely because of a serious injury. Along with the aforementioned Fudd, sophomore forward Ayanna Patterson (knee) and freshman forward Jana El Alfy (Achilles) are sidelined. Junior guard Caroline Ducharme also remains out indefinitely with head and neck spasms.

Since getting thumped by Texas on Dec. 3, UConn has won 10-straight games, appearing to rediscover that classic Husky dominance. Thrust into larger roles, freshman guards KK Arnold and Ashlynn Shade have responded with reliable play, forming a solid starting group alongside senior big Aaliyah Edwards, senior guard Nika Mühl and redshirt junior guard Paige Bueckers. While Shade has a sweet jumper and is unafraid to fire away, Arnold is an aggressive defender who pushes the pace. As a reserve, freshman guard Qadence Samuels has succeeded in approximating Griffin’s energy, running the floor, crashing the glass and more willingly shooting as she has played at least 15 minutes over the past six games.

Now, the Huskies need freshman forward Ice Brady similarly to step up. Her performance against St. John’s was uneven; while she scored an efficient 17 points, she also had six turnovers and only four rebounds. If Brady cannot provide positive impact, UConn is severely undersized and overly dependent on Edwards. Although likely able to win the Big East with this current mix, it’s hard to imagine the Huskies surviving, much less thriving, in March without some sort of boost.

Big-time stat lines, milestone-making plays and more

Let’s look back at some of the best performances from the past week, beginning with a career night from fifth-year senior center Taiyanna Jackson in Kansas’ upset of previously undefeated Baylor.

  • The 6-foot-6 Jackson led the Jayhawks in their runaway win over the No. 4 Bears on Wednesday night with a dominant double-double of 27 points and 19 rebounds. The Jayhawks, who entered the game winless in the Big 12, reeled off a 16-0 run across the second and third quarters to take control of the game and cruise to the 87-66 victory. It was Kansas’ first win over a team ranked in the top five since 2009. Jackson, who also scored her 1,000th-career point in the game, said afterwards, “We just wanted it. We had so much fun playing. We played as a team. We stayed connected, even when they went on their little runs. We just had fun for 40 minutes.” Our Eric Nemchock also has his eyes on Jackson as an intriguing WNBA prospect.
  • No. 8 Stanford traveled to Salt Lake City on Friday night and survived a showdown with No. 19 Utah, 66-64. While head coach Tara VanDerveer, who now sits one win behind former Duke head coach Mike Krzyewski’s record of 1,202 college basketball victories, threw multiple defensive looks at Utes senior star Alissa Pili, junior forward Kiki Iriafen provided the offensive punch for the Cardinal, finishing with a monster double-double of 25 points and 16 rebounds; six of her boards were of the offensive variety. She also had two steals and a block. However, the Friday night battle appeared to take it’s toll on Stanford, as they struggled to put the ball in the basket in a 71-59 loss at No. 5 Colorado on Sunday.
  • Sophomore forward Raegen Beers’ 20-20 game helped Oregon State edge Arizona, 73-70, in double-overtime #Pac12AfterDark thriller on Friday night. The Beavers hit a pair of improbable 3s in the game’s final 35 seconds—the first from sophomore guard Adlee Blacklock, the second a buzzer-beater from junior guard Talia von Oelhoffen—to send the contest into extra time. In the overtimes, Beers, a 71.4 percent free throw shooter for the season, made 11 of her 13 attempts at the line to seal the game for Oregon State. On Sunday, Beers posted had another loud double-double, with 27 points and 15 boards in the Beavers’ domination of Arizona State, 92-55.
  • Leilani Correa continues to compile a convincing SEC Sixth Player of the Year case. On Sunday, the fifth-year senior guard scored a season-high 30 points—going 4-for-6 from 3 and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line—to lead Florida past Georgia, 78-69, and to their first conference victory. Aliyah Matharu—someone else Eric has identified as a WNBA prospect—added 21 points for the Gators.
  • TCU’s tumble continued due to Houston and Laila Blair. The senior guard dropped an efficient 33 points to help the Cougars to the 77-66 win on Saturday and send the Horned Frogs to a fourth-straight loss.
  • Fifth-year senior guard Gigi Gonzalez scored a career-high 30 points to spur Stony Brook to an eighth-straight win, defeating Towson 77-65 on Friday. Gonzalez was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc, while also grabbing six boards and tossing a pair of assists. The Seawolves are 3-0 in CAA play.
  • After a 95-73 win over Kentucky on Thursday, Vanderbilt ran their record to 16-1 and 3-0 in the SEC—the program’s best start to a season since 1992-93. Against the Wildcats, the Commodores were led by junior guard Iyana Moore, who finished 10-for-12 from 2 and 4-for-5 from 3 as she scored 37 points. Moore also had seven assists, four boards and three steals, while grad guard Jordyn Cambridge contributed a double-double of 12 points and 12 assists. On the other side, senior forward Ajae Petty also had a double-double of 23 points and 23 rebounds for Kentucky. On Sunday, however, Vanderbilt couldn’t quite extend their unexpected success, with a subpar fourth quarter resulting in them falling just short, 65-63, to Missouri.
  • Fairfield won their 11th-straight game and ran their record to 13-1—the best start in program history—with a dominating 72-44 win over Iona on Thursday. Senior guard Izabela Nicoletti Leite led the way with an almost-perfect performance, making all six shots from the field as she scored 18 points. While Nicoletti Leite missed one of her three free throws, she also tallied 10 assists and a trio of steals. With win over Siena on Sunday, Fairfield continued their stellar start, headlined by a 6-0 mark in the MAAC.
  • SMU eventually prevailed over Memphis in a double-overtime AAC thriller, 91-86, on Thursday. Fifth-year guard Tiara Young assumed a heavy load for the Mustangs, scoring 38 points and grabbing 15 boards.
  • On Thursday, Georgia Southern fended off Appalachian State 83-77 behind a big-time double-double of 35 points and 11 rebounds from senior wing Terren Ward.
  • Sophomore guard Taleyah Jones poured in the points as Oral Roberts used a 30-point fourth quarter to outpace South Dakota, 91-78, on Thursday. Jones’ five 3-pointers propelled her to 37 points. Before a single-point loss to St. Thomas on Saturday, the Golden Eagles had won seven-straight games; they’re still 3-1 in the Summit League.
  • Desi-Rae Young turned in another do-everything performance on Wednesday, posting 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals as No. 25 UNLV cruised to the 91-55 win against San Jose State. On Saturday, she did it again, with a double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds—seven of them offensive—to push UNLV past Air Force, 76-64. The Lady Rebels also have started 4-0 in Mountain West play.
  • No. 23 Marquette continued to rebound from two-straight losses with a second-consecutive win, besting Seton Hall 75-54 behind a 30-point outburst from senior forward Liza Karlen. Karlen also scored her 1,000th career point in the Wednesday night win.
  • Sophomore guard Ny’Ceara Pryor helped Sacred Heart rout Saint Francis, 86-47, with 19 points, nine assists and four steals. The 5-foot-3 Pryor also grabbed eight rebounds, half of them offensive. Named NEC Player of the Week, Pryor has Sacred Heart off to a 3-0 start in conference behind her steady, all-round play.
  • Wagner fifth-year senior guard Taleah Washington went 5-for-6 from 3 as she scored 29 points to lead her team to the 75-66 win over Long Island on Monday. Washington also added six assists, five boards and three steals.
  • Last Sunday, George Mason raced past Duquesne, 101-75, behind 30 points, nine boards and eights assists from fifth-year senior guard Sonia Smith. She also drained five of her team’s school record 18 3-pointers. Mason followed up the shooting showcase with another solid victory, defeating Davidson 79-41 on Wednesday.
  • Charlotte has begun AAC play 4-0, in part due to a big 91-69 win over UAB last Sunday. The 49ers got 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals from junior guard Dazia Lawrence. She earned AAC Player of the Week honors for her excellence.

A look ahead

The aforementioned Pac-12 battles in Boulder, with both UCLA and USC visiting Colorado highlight the week’s most intriguing matchups.

Thursday, Jan. 18

No. 21 Florida State vs. Syracuse (7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra)

Friday, Jan. 19

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 5 Colorado (8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 9 USC vs. No. 19 Utah (9 p.m. ET)

Sunday, Jan. 21

No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 17 Ohio State (12 p.m. ET, Peacock/NBC)

No. 15 Louisville vs. No. 20 North Carolina (2 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Colorado (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 1 South Carolina. vs. Texas A&M (5 p.m. ET, SEC Network)