Thanksgiving creates some chaos in the women’s college basketball schedule this week, but holiday tournaments could provide some monster matchups.
Welcome back to FanSided’s weekly look around the women’s basketball world. Looking for some games to watch this upcoming week? We’ll be highlighting three of them that should be on your radar.
Whether you’re a long-time viewer who’s just looking for a shortcut to see what you should watch or you’re just getting into the sport and want to know about compelling storylines, we have you covered. And at the end, I’ll include a short “other games to watch” section, if you want to take your basketball watching further.
Let’s dig into the third week of the women’s college basketball season! This week, the schedule is a little more up in the air than usual, since we have some Thanksgiving tournaments that shake things up.
Here are the women’s college basketball games you won’t want to miss this week
3. No. 13 UNC vs. No. 21 Oregon
Thursday, Nov. 24 — 5:00 PM — ESPNU
The Tarheels and Ducks meet in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational, and these two teams are arguably better than their records—both are in the top 10 in Her Hoop Stats rating, for instance.
North Carolina is 4-0 and has been dominant, winning games by 34.5 points per game, the 12th-best average margin in the country. A lot of that has been because of efficiency inside the arc, as the team is 26th in two-point field goal percentage. UNC’s scoring has been spread out, with five players — Alyssa Ustby, Kennedy Todd-Williams, Deja Kelly, Eva Hodgson and Destiny Adams — averaging over 10 points per game.
If you want one player to keep an eye on, it’s Kelly, who is also averaging 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. I first watched Kelly when she was a high school senior, leading her team to a state championship in Texas, and you could already tell then that she’d be around women’s basketball for a long time.
As for Oregon, the Ducks are also undefeated and have thumped opponents to the tune of an average margin of 41.0. Oregon, even without the post presence of Sedona Prince anymore, ranks fifth in Division I in scoring offense, and like UNC, the scoring has been spread out. Keep an eye on freshman Chance Gray, who is currently averaging 10.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. Gray is part of a great group of freshmen in the Pac-12 this year — in fact, I’d say that a more general storyline to watch this season overall is the young talent playing out on the west coast.
2. No. 5 UConn vs. Duke
Friday, Nov. 25 — 6:00 PM — ESPN2 or ESPNU
UConn is back. Okay, they never really went away, but the Huskies lost six games last year, which is a lot for UConn to lose. This is a program that’s more accustomed to going undefeated than losing six times. But at least for now, this team is just going out there and destroying teams — and not easy teams! UConn has the seventh-best scoring offense in Division I and the 15th-best average margin per game despite two of their three games coming against ranked opponents, including Sunday’s 91-69 win over NC State. Full disclosure: I picked NC State to win that one. The Huskies’ early success can largely be attributed to sophomore Azzi Fudd, who is currently averaging 30.0 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting. Fudd is making an early statement in the race for National Player of the Year and is appointment viewing.
As for Duke, Kara Lawson’s squad is intriguing. The team is 5-0 and has the 13th-best scoring defense in Division I, but they’re really struggling to shoot from deep, connecting on just 21.1 percent of their treys. This is a talented squad led by Celeste Taylor, averaging 2.2 steals per game, and there’s some good young talent like freshman Ashlon Jackson. Duke has the players to hang tough with UConn, but they have to play their absolute best in this one.
1. Thanksgiving Tournament Finals
Alright, I’m cheating on this last one, but only because there are a handful of really compelling games that you might get to see, depending on how these tournaments shake out.
Phil Knight Legacy
Sunday, Nov. 27 — 1:00 PM — ABC
The expectation here is that we get UConn and Iowa facing off, though that matchup has lost a bit of its intrigue without Paige Bueckers, since people had this highlighted preseason as a chance to see Bueckers vs Caitlin Clark. Still, if this matchup happens, it’ll be a fun one between two good offensive teams. Duke and Oregon State also have chances to make it to the final here — see above for more about the UConn/Duke matchup.
Phil Knight Invitational
Sunday, Nov. 27 — 7:30 PM — ESPN2
The winner of the UNC/Oregon game that I mentioned above will face the winner of Thursday’s Iowa State and Michigan State game. The Cyclones will be the favorite in that one, as the team is led by one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country, Ashley Joens. But don’t count out a Spartans team that has been demolishing its opponents this season. The opponents have been bad, but here are the team’s scores so far: 85-53, 97-49, 85-39, 109-44, 84-54.
Gulf Coast Showcase
Sunday, Nov. 27 — 7:30 PM — FloHoops
Of the eight teams in this tournament, the most likely final would be Baylor — a talented team that’s dealing with some serious injury concerns after Aijha Blackwell went down with a potentially season-ending leg injury. Provided the Bears beat Saint Louis and then the winner of Belmont/Villanova, they would likely face the winner of a Michigan/Georgia Tech semifinal.
Other Games To Watch
- No. 14 Virginia Tech vs Kentucky — Monday, Nov. 21, 12:00 PM — FloHoops
- No. 7 Iowa State vs Michigan State — Thursday, Nov. 24, 7:30 PM — ESPNU
- No. 19 Maryland vs DePaul — Friday, Nov. 25, 11:00 AM — FOX Sports 2