The women’s college basketball season is almost here, and an offseason that was filled with talk of the transfer portal, coaching changes and recruiting has died down. The search to see who will compete for a national title in Dallas begins Nov. 7, with South Carolina and Stanford entering the season No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP’s opening poll. But before the ball tips for real, let’s run through 10 of the games we’re most excited to see that you should mark on your calendar.
November 11: Villanova at Princeton
Is this a matchup of two Final Four favorites? No. But it does present a couple of schools that could cause attacks on others that could be. The Tigers were one of the group destroyers last March, eliminating Kentucky and future No. 1 pick Rhyne Howard in the first round. While current Ivy League player Abby Meyers transferred to Maryland, Princeton still brought back its next two leading scorers in shooting guards Julia Cunningham and Kaitlyn Chen. The Tigers’ backcourt could wreak havoc on Villanova in this game, against Texas on Nov. 27 and UConn on Dec. 5. On the other hand, Villanova senior forward Maddy Siegrist is set to have another prolific season, having scooped Big East Player of the Year Awards last winter. A versatile scorer, she anchors a talented Wildcats team looking to become the first team to top UConn for a conference regular-season title since 2006.
Nov. 20: South Carolina at Stanford
The defending champion Gamecocks certainly aren’t taking the easy way out in the regular season. On their non-conference roster, they have matchups with Maryland, UCLA, South Dakota State and UConn, among others, in addition to this potential title game preview. For Cardinal, two-time All-American Haley Jones is now her leader in handling the ball, and her ability to create chances for herself and her teammates will be tested early against the Gamecocks. How South Carolina chooses to defend the size of Jones and Stanford is one of the other intriguing parts of this matchup. The previous two meetings between these teams came down to the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, so expect another exciting event in mid-November.
December 1: North Carolina State at Iowa
The Hawkeyes and Wolfpack have had big March aspirations in recent years, making this early-season matchup a strong marker of where each program stands and where each needs to grow. Iowa, led by star shooting guard Caitlin Clark, enters this season as the favorite to win the Big Ten. If he performs like he did last year, he will repeat as conference champion for the first time since 1992–93. North Carolina State, meanwhile, has been the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons, but lost four of its starters through graduation. Still, junior guard Diamond Johnson, senior flanker Jakia Brown-Turner and senior center Camille Hobby return. And the addition of transfer guard Saniya Rivers, the No. 3 player in the class of 2021, gives NC State a talented and intriguing roster.
December 4: Notre Dame at UConn
Two of the best sophomores and players in the country will meet on December 4, as all eyes should be focused on the perimeter battle between UConn’s Azzi Fudd and Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles. Both stood out in their debut college campaigns, especially during the NCAA tournament, when Miles became the first freshman in college basketball history to record a triple-double. UConn has made 14 straight Final Four appearances, but shooting guard Paige Bueckers’ season-ending knee injury could jeopardize that streak. The Fighting Irish field one of the most dangerous rosters in the country, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them solidify their case as title contenders in this one.
Jan 8: Oregon at Arizona
Both the Ducks and Wildcats enter this season looking to be at or near the top of the Pac-12 title race. Oregon boasts an experienced backcourt of all-conference shooting guards, Te-Hina Paopao and Endyia Rogers, and has redshirt Sedona Prince patrolling the lane, as well as every other great in the nation. Freshman guard Chance Gray should also be a factor: She was the No. 7 recruit in the class of 2022 by espnW, the second-highest-ranked recruit in the show’s history behind guard Sabrina Ionescu. The Ducks enter this season with the second-best freshman class in the nation, but Arizona also has potential difference-maker rookies coming to Tucson. Look for forward Maya Nnaji, the younger sister of Nuggets center Zeke Nnaji, to play a key role in helping bolster a team led by fifth-years Shaina Pellington and Cate Reese.
Jan 15: Iowa State at Texas
In each of Texas coach Vic Schaefer’s first two seasons with the program, the Longhorns have fallen into the Elite Eight. Now, having added BYU shooting guard Shaylee Gonzales via the transfer portal, they will try to make it to the Final Four for the first time since 2003. Gonzales and sophomore shooting guard Rori Harmon could be one of the top duos in the country and make a team that was No. 9 in defensive rating last season even more dangerous. The Cyclones are a perennial NCAA tournament team, and their strong core of Ashley Joens, Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski would make a potential Big 12 title unsurprising.
Feb 2: Maryland at Iowa
This year’s Maryland team will look a little different as the Terrapins lost five players to the transfer portal. But coach Brenda Frese was active in bringing in new players, as the arrival of Meyers from Princeton and the arrival of forward Brinae Alexander from Vanderbilt highlight a group of key incoming contributors. Throw in guard Lavender Briggs, who transferred midway through last season from Florida but didn’t play with the Terps due to injury, and Maryland looks poised to extend its decade-plus NCAA tournament streak. Frese has won six Big Ten titles in the past decade and Iowa, last year’s conference champion, represents her biggest test in terms of bringing another flag back to College Park.
February 5: South Carolina at UConn
Two Hall of Fame coaches with contrasting styles. Two of the most talented teams in the country, each arriving each season with national championship aspirations. Is there much more to say? Plus, the timing of this matchup offers a great break from conference play.
February 16: Louisville at Notre Dame
The Cardinals might have lost star forward Emily Engstler to the WNBA, but first-team All-ACC shooting guard Hailey Van Lith will look to build on her stellar sophomore season and lead Louisville back to the Final Four. The key to doing just that will be putting together another solid defensive performance (Louisville was No. 6 in defensive rating last season) and this season-ending matchup against Notre Dame offers a tough test as the tournament week approaches. The conference.
February 27: Baylor at Texas
In their penultimate game of the season, the Bears go on the road to play the Longhorns. Coach Nicki Collen led Baylor to a 28–7 record in her first year in Waco, but this year’s roster will be without greats NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo, who were the top five picks in the WNBA draft. , as well as guard Jordan. Luis. However, expect big things from Stanford transfer Jana Van Gytenbeek, Missouri transfer Aijha Blackwell (who was a second-team All-SEC last season), and Kentucky transfer Dre’Una Edwards. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this matchup have big implications for the conference title.
More college basketball coverage:
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• SI Men’s ACC Preseason Basketball Rankings
• Five Outstanding Men’s Team Candidates for 2022-23