As the NCAA women's basketball regular season approaches its end, every game feels like a big game. Conference standings are constantly changing during conference play. Upsets are already happening across the country and it's not even March yet. Fans are blessed with action-packed games almost daily. Amidst all the action and chaos, a handful of games each week manage to stand out on the schedule as must-see, marquee match-ups. Here are our picks for this week's must-watch NCAA women's basketball games in chronological order.
#17 Oregon State (18-3, 7-3) @ #4 Colorado (19-3, 9-2), Sunday, February 11, 2 p.m. EST
Where to watch: PAC-12 Network
The Buffaloes and Beavers face off in a rematch of January 26th, when the Beavers picked up a 68-62 victory. This time, though, Oregon State won't have home-court advantage.
In the first meeting between these teams, OSU used a balanced team effort to overcome an off night from leading scorer Reagan Beers, recording assists on over half of their made field goals. They also utilized their advantage in the paint effectively, outscoring Colorado 34-24 inside. Defensively, the Beavers did a great job forcing the Buffaloes' supporting players into bigger roles and limiting Aaronette Vonleh's touches, holding her to just 6 field goal attempts. They did not have much of an answer for Jaylyn Sherrod, but held the rest of the team to just 35% shooting.
On the other side, Colorado needs to do a better job of keeping their best players out of foul trouble and on the court. They also need to focus on improving their ball movement in the rematch - Oregon State held the Buffaloes to just seven assists in the first game, 12 below their season average. One way they could do this is by pushing the pace as often as possible. The Buffaloes' pace this year has been roughly four points higher than the Beavers', according to HerHoopStats data.
Regardless of outcome, this game will be a fun one to watch. There's a lot of talent on both sides of the court. Plus, there's something in this game for everyone: the Beers-Vonleh match-up for fans of forwards, Sherrod-Talia von Oelhoffen for the guard gurus, and plenty of firepower on each side's bench.
#12 Notre Dame (17-4, 7-3) @ #15 Louisville (19-4, 8-2), Thursday, February 8, 6:00 p.m. EST
Where to watch: ESPN
Two ACC powerhouses face off in this one, and the outcome will have a major impact either way it goes. As of now, Louisville sits tied for second in the conference with NC State, while Notre Dame is one game behind them. In a conference with 10 teams under 10 losses on the season, every win is vital down the stretch.
This game features plenty of intrigue beyond the standings, too. The stylistic match-up between these two teams should create plenty of wrinkles throughout.
One of the key areas to watch for will be turnovers and points scored off of them. Notre Dame averages just under 12 steals per game, leading to many transition opportunities. Both teams average the same amount of turnovers (15 per game), but Louisville has an assist-to-turnover ratio under one, meaning turnovers are usually a lot more detrimental to them than most teams. The Cardinals attempt to make up for this with their half-court defense, holding opponents to 41 percent shooting and forcing 20 turnovers a game. Still, against an offense of Notre Dame's caliber, they'll need to play near flawless on offense to have a chance.
For the Irish, they'll need a big game from Maddy Westbeld on both ends. Westbeld will likely draw some of Louisville's stronger players on defense, and she'll be key in opening up the floor for ND's guards on offense. Limiting her fouls will be vital, too, as she is the Irish's best rebounder. Without her, they may not have much of an answer for Olivia Cochran or Nyla Harris on the boards.
#16 Virginia Tech (18-4, 9-2) @ #3 NC State (20-2, 8-2), Thursday, February 8, 8 p.m. EST
Where to watch: ESPN
As one ACC battle ends, another begins, and this time, the top teams in the conference face off. Both come in riding five-game win streaks. When these two teams met on January 7, VT won on a last-second shot from Elizabeth Kitley.
The rematch should be just as exciting, especially with the top spot in the ACC on the line. Both teams are among the best scoring offenses in the country, but the ways they go about scoring are incredibly different.
Virginia Tech is a prolific 3-point-shooting team, hoisting 26 attempts per game. Georgia Amoore, Matilda Ekh, and Cayla King have shot more threes as a trio than NC State has as a team. While Kitley is their leading scorer and more of a post presence, her supporting cast is much more perimeter-oriented, creating a pretty typical inside-out dynamic.
NC State, on the other hand, shoots just 19 3s per game but gets to the free-throw line at a much higher rate. This is largely due to their different brand of inside-out basketball. The Wolfpack feature multiple dynamic athletes who are more slashing-oriented. Led by Saniya Rivers, Aziaha James, and Zoe Brooks, NC State specializes in more of a drive-and-dish offense, keeping the defense moving and forcing them out of position, allowing their athletes to finish over, around, and through off-balance defenders.
In the previous match-up, both teams' defenses were on display. Both teams only allow around 60 points per game. Some defensive trends to watch for in the rematch are turnovers, fouls, and rebounding.
Both teams are near the bottom of D1 in turnovers forced and combined for just 21 last game. If either side can ramp up the pressure and force a few extra TOs, it could shift the game in their favor. Fouls will be important, too. Only 17 were called in the previous match-up, and only 12 free throws were attempted. Considering NC State averages 20 free throw attempts per game, look for them to be more aggressive at drawing fouls, particularly on Kitley. Lastly, the rebound differential last game was just two. If either team can stretch that out, especially on the offensive side, it could swing the game in their favor.
#2 Iowa (21-2, 10-1) @ Nebraska (15-8, 7-5), Sunday, February 11, 1 p.m. EST
Where to watch: FOX
If you haven't heard, Caitlin Clark is only 65 points away from breaking Kelsey Plum's all-time scoring record. Scoring 32.4 points per game, Clark is on pace to break the record against Nebraska on Sunday. The "Caitlin Clark Effect" is already making waves in Nebraska, too, driving ticket prices through the roof. With six games left to play after this one, Clark has a chance to create a sizable gap between her and Plum. What's even more incredible to consider is that Clark could reasonably come back for another season at Iowa, and further increase the gap.
There is no analysis for this game. It is a chance to witness history and greatness at a level we don't get to see often. Embrace and enjoy it while it's here.
#11 UConn (19-4, 8-2 AWAY) @ #1 South Carolina (21-0, 10-0 HOME) , Sunday, February 11, 2 p.m. EST
Where to watch: ESPN
"Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" may be a name given to one of college football's oldest rivalries, but it might as well be shared for this match-up, too. If you've ever been on Twitter (or X, whatever it's called now) during, well, pretty much any dialogue between the loudest members of these two fanbases, you know how cutthroat it can be. Both fanbases are two of the most vocal and passionate in the game and can find something to go back and forth on any given day.
Fans following along should expect nothing less this Sunday. And that's one of the beauties of this match-up. It truly is (mostly) clean, old-fashioned hate.
While fans battle it out online, two titans will clash in Columbia. On one sideline, you have Geno Auriemma, one of the greatest and most polarizing coaches ever. On the other, Dawn Staley is widely loved yet equally polarizing in her own way. The coaching battle alone depicts so many of the elements that make this match-up so intriguing. There's Geno, a crass, my-way-or-the-highway coach who was the face of a college basketball powerhouse unlike any we've ever seen before. Then there's Dawn, an empathetic but in-your-face coach who expects nothing less than the best from every player who dons a SC jersey and by all appearances is forming the next dynasty. Factor in the racial and gender dynamics, and the intrigue continues to grow.
There's also a hell of a basketball game to be played, too. South Carolina is the lone undefeated team left in college basketball. They stifle opponents, leading D1 in blocks, opponent field goal percentage, and scoring margin. This year's Gamecock squad feels different on offense, though, where they score 89 points per game. Oh, and they lead the nation in 3-point percentage. They also feature one of the best benches in the nation, with 34 points per game coming from bench players. The Gamecocks are battle-tested, deep, and cohesive, and don't show any signs of slowing down any time soon.
UConn has had some unfortunate injury luck this year, yet they've managed to preserve their winning ways. Paige Bueckers is healthy and reminding everyone of who she is. Aaliyah Edwards has continued the play that had her in NPOY conversations last year. KK Arnold has made an impact as a freshman. Nika Muhl is still Nika Muhl. The Huskies are one of the best offenses in the nation, too. They are in the top 15 in 3-point percentage, assists per game, and assist-to-turnover ratio. They will be hard to rattle, even for South Carolina's raucous fans.
One of the biggest factors in this game will be the absence of Kamilla Cardoso, who is playing with the Brazilian National Team during their qualifying event this week. South Carolina's backup forwards will have their hands full with Edwards inside. For the Huskies, they will need at least one, if not two, of their role players to step up. South Carolina has more capable depth than anyone in the country, and Edwards-Bueckers-Arnold, as good as they are, won't be able to beat them alone.