There were matchups between ranked opponents in three different conferences this week until the anticipated ACC showdown was postponed because of COVID-19. Those remaining, including two in the Pac-12, will will be pivotal come time for conference tournament seedings.
First, what’s not happening. No. 3 N.C. State (10-0, 5-0 ACC) remains in COVID-19 protocol dating back to their last game on Jan. 3. The Sunday afternoon matchup with ACC foe and No. 2 ranked Louisville (10-0, 3-0 ACC) was postponed late on Wednesday. Louisville will instead host Florida State in a game originally scheduled for Dec. 17 but pushed to Feb. 23, and now moved back up again.
It’s a blow to basketball fans, but there’s still plenty to keep an eye on this weekend.
No. 10 Oregon and No. 11 Arizona are battling to keep up with No. 1 Stanford and No. 25 Washington State in the Pac-12. (No, not a typo there. The Cougars are comin’.) That game is in the Thursday prime-time spot on ESPN.
Then on Sunday it’s an SEC matchup between No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 14 Mississippi State that kicks off back-to-back feature games on Sunday. The Bulldogs are the only team other than No. 5 South Carolina to win the SEC regular season title or tournament over the past five years, but the Aggies are currently 12-0.
Grab the snacks. The full schedule, and results, are here.
No. 10 Oregon (9-2, 7-2 Pac-12) at No. 11 Arizona (8-2, 6-2)
Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN — Arizona 57, Oregon 41
TEAM CATCH UP: Oregon came back from back-to-back losses to rout California by 59 points last week. This game is the young Ducks’ fourth top-15 opponent and third top-11 opponent of the season. They’re 1-2 in those three games with the one victory a 20-point trouncing of Oregon State (3-3, 1-3).
Arizona lost to Washington State, 71-69, at the buzzer in their only game last weekend though it’s tough to call it an upset given the competition in the conference. The Wildcats are on a 10-game losing skid against Oregon, including all three contests last season. They are the only Pac-12 opponent Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes has yet to beat.
KEY PLAYERS: Nyara Sabally leads the Ducks with 8.1 rebounds per game and is second in scoring with 12.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting. Erin Boley is the threat from the 3-point line; she ranks fifth in career 3s in Ducks program history.
Aari McDonald has scored in double figures for 76 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation, and is the NCAA’s active career scoring leader. She’s averaging 25.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. McDonald is shooting 51 percent and averaging 2.5 3-pointers per game. Keep an eye on Sam Thomas, the career leader in blocks among active Pac-12 players.
No. 14 Mississippi State (8-2, 3-1 SEC) at No. 7 Texas A&M (12-0, 3-0)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ESPN2
TEAM CATCHUP: Mississippi State took down rival Ole Miss for a 14th consecutive time and will come into Sunday’s game after playing Alabama on Thursday. Texas A&M is riding high with back-to-back wins over Kentucky and Arkansas, both ranked in the top 13, last week. They take on LSU on Thursday. The Aggies are 4-8 all-time against Mississippi State and have lost the last seven meetings.
KEY PLAYERS: Mississippi State junior forward Jessika Carter had 44 points and 25 rebounds in wins over Florida and Ole Miss last week. She averages nearly a double-double (17.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and is 58.8 percent from the field. She’s an underrated top player in a conference full of stars.
N’dea Jones, a 6-foot-2 senior, is stepping into the void left by Chennedy Carter, who entered the WNBA early and was a contender for Rookie of the Year with the Atlanta Dream. Jones is averaging a double-double again this season (13.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and is 58.4 percent from the field. The team shoots a combined 50.4 percent, ranking sixth in the nation.
No. 25 Washington State (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) at No. 8 UCLA (7-2, 5-2)
Sunday, 2 p.m. Pac-12
TEAM CATCHUP: Washington State is ranked for the first time in program history. The Cougars were the only Power 5 team not to be in the AP top-25 ranking before their inclusion on Monday. Their buzzer-beater against Arizona pushed them into second place in the conference behind the nation’s No. 1 Stanford.
UCLA defeated Utah by nearly 30 points in their single game last weekend and had the Friday night matchup with Washington postponed. This is a tune-up for a rematch against Stanford on Jan. 22.
KEY PLAYERS: Michaela Onyenwere for UCLA with 18.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg and 2.0 apg. She’s shooting 34.8 percent from the 3-point line and 47.9 percent overall. Charisma Osborne averages 16.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.3 apg and 1.8 spg.
Charlisse Leger-Walker is a freshman to watch this season. She forced overtime against Arizona and hit the game-winning layup. Her 19.0 points per game lead the team and she adds on average 5.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.3 steals per game.
Big Ten Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Michigan State (8-2, 3-2) at No. 13 Michigan (9-0, 4-0), 12:30 p.m.
Update (1/16): The in-state rivalry game is postponed because of COVID-19 protocols with Michigan State
Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) at No. 18 Indiana (7-3, 5-1), 2:30 p.m.
Update (1/14): This game has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns with Rutgers.
Purdue (5-4, 2-3) at Iowa (8-2, 4-2), 4:30 p.m.
The Big Ten Network will have a triple header on Monday, a prime opportunity to watch the conference with the most teams in the top 20 of the most recent NCAA NET rankings for tournament evaluation. They have five in the top 20 and eight in the top 40, both highs for any conference. Five programs are ranked in the AP Top 25 poll, with two others getting votes. They are:
No. 9 Maryland (9-1, 5-0), No. 13 Michigan and No. 15 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) hold historically high rankings. No. 18 Indiana and No. 22 Northwestern (6-2, 4-2) are also in the poll while Michigan State and Iowa received votes.
The Big Ten comes into the week of games leading all conferences in scoring (77.0 ppg), scoring percentage (.448) and assists (16.2 apg). Michigan junior Naz Hillmon is the third-leading scorer in the nation (25.7 ppg) and has missed the 20-point mark only once. Her 11.6 rebounds per game rank ninth and she’s missed the 10-rebound mark twice. She’s shooting 64.2 percent (ninth).
A Monday nightcap is on ESPN2 between No. 17 Arkansas at No. 5 South Carolina. The SEC matchup is at 7 p.m. ET.
What’s the deal with UConn?
A rocky schedule for the Huskies (7-0, 6-0 Big East) continued this week with three more postponed games. Their game Wednesday against Seton Hall was postponed out of “an abundance of caution,” UConn said, because they played Providence last weekend and that program is now on a COVID-19 related pause.
The game against Villanova on Saturday is postponed because that program is on pause. (The Wildcats’ games against Providence and No. 19 DePaul on Jan. 20 are also postponed.)
UConn is scheduled to return to the court on Jan. 19 against Butler when coach Geno Auriemma can surpass Pat Summitt in career victories. He tied her 1,098 wins last weekend.
Top-25 programs on pause
No. 3 N.C. State, No. 6 Baylor and No. 24 Syracuse, which has been on pause for a month now, are scheduled to return to the court this weekend. Missouri State, which has also been off for a month and fell out of the AP rankings this week, is scheduled to play two games against UNI this weekend.
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