College Women’s Basketball Stays Competitive During the Pandemic
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This season of women’s college basketball has been exciting for fans to watch, with many great matchups and an impressive freshman class. Here are some of the top teams to look out for as the race to the NCAA title intensifies:
Despite being down three players due to the pandemic, the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal have been dominant all season, going 7-0 in the PAC-12 and 10-0 overall in the NCAA. Coached by former Cardinal Tara VanDerveer, the Cardinal boast both a strong defensive and offensive game, recording a +30.7 scoring margin, averaging 83.7 points per game, and allowing their opponents only 53.0 points per game. They have even won games against some of their most competitive opponents, such as the Arizona Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins, in double digits.
Sophomore guard Haley Jones has been a huge contributor to the Cardinal’s success, averaging 15.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game this season. Her excellent scoring efficiency, creative shot-making ability, and unique basketball IQ have allowed her team to flourish on both ends of the court. She has shined throughout her sophomore season and will continue to be a powerful weapon for the Cardinal as the season progresses.
University of Connecticut Huskies
You can’t have a discussion about women’s college basketball without mentioning the University of Connecticut Huskies, better known as the “UConn Huskies,” who are currently ranked fourth in the NCAA. The team’s skillful playmaking has made them a threat in the Big East Conference, as they are 6-0 in the conference, and 7-0 overall in the NCAA. A team with many great scorers, the Huskies boast a +37.3 scoring margin and an average of 87.0 points per game. The team has many young, developing athletes—six of the 11 players on the roster are freshmen—and incredible depth that extends beyond the starters.
Freshman guard Paige Bueckers has led the team, averaging 18.9 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. Her skillful court vision and IQ, combined with her exceptional scoring efficiency, have made her a huge threat to her opponents, as she can easily throw a quick pass to force an easy layup and shoot from anywhere on the court. Her awareness of the court and feel for the game have translated well into the college scene, as she’s already been given a chip on her shoulders by coach Geno Auriemma. Equipped with Bueckers’s rising talent and its talented roster, the Huskies will be poised to dominate future seasons.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
The North Carolina State Wolfpack, dubbed the “NC State Wolfpack,” have shown why they are the top team in the ACC and one of the best teams in the country, ranked third in the NCAA. The team has been averaging 82.1 points a game, featuring a +23.4 scoring margin. In addition to going 5-0 in the ACC conference and 11-0 overall in the NCAA, the Wolfpack celebrated a huge win against last season’s top-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks and solidified their position as one of the best.
The Wolfpack are led by center Elissa Cunane and forward Kayla Jones and coached by Wes Moore. Cunane has been the star player of the Wolfpack, averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 assists, and 1.4 blocks this year. She plays like a true center—a dominant post up player who can gracefully catch and shoot, as well as score from the three-point line. Jones has also been a great help, as her aggressive scoring inside the paint has turned her into a reliable option for Moore. The Wolfpack’s phenomenal frontcourt players have asserted their dominance all season long, consistently proving why they are not to be underestimated.
The Cardinals have gone 3-0 in the ACC Conference and 10-0 overall in the NCAA to place them at number two in the NCAA. The Cardinals have continued to be a competitive threat, as exemplified by their amazing scoring (averaging 85.7 points per game with a +27.2 scoring margin) and equally impressive defense.
The Cardinals are led by guard Dana Evans, who leads the team with 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, and coached by Jeff Walz. Evans has great versatility on both ends of the court; she can do it all, from scoring the ball and running the offense to defending the ball and catching steals from opponents. Her aggressive style of play and hustle make her unstoppable and allow her to strengthen areas the Cardinals previously struggled to improve in. In addition to Evans, the team has great depth as many players are both accurate shooters and strong defenders, making the Cardinals a very formidable team.
These four teams have risen to the challenges of the pandemic by remaining resilient and competitive. As team positions shift throughout the remainder of the season, we will see which team is ultimately the best, making for a great basketball competition come the postseason.