Thanksgiving weekend was in many ways a strange time for women’s basketball. Teams were in tough tournaments in faraway places with a lack of a video stream. As a result, it’s tough to get a sense of where these teams stack up, both in terms of their performance and their strength of schedule. By next week, there should be enough games played to have a comprehensive view of the conference, but until then the teams aren’t moving as much as they possibly should.
Speaking of this upcoming week, it’s time for the annual ACC-Big Ten challenge. This year presents a pair of ranked matchups and a cluster of other quality games on Wednesday and Thursday. This week’s edition of the power rankings includes a quick preview of each team ahead of their game (all times are CST).
1. No. 7 Maryland Terrapins • (6-0) • Last week: 1
Maryland picked up another pair of solid wins in the Puerto Rico Clasico over Morgan State and Georgia. Shakira Austin has not been quite the scoring threat she showed potential to be but is second in the nation in blocks per game. The Terps have one more slightly tricky game against Georgia Tech, then they can cruise through the rest of non-conference play likely undefeated.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 5:30 PM vs Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets won five straight after starting the season with a double-overtime loss at Houston, including a win over then-ranked Georgia. Still, they’re unlikely to pose a problem against Maryland.
2. No. 14 Iowa Hawkeyes • (4-1) • Last week: 2
The Hawkeyes weren’t at their best during their weekend in the Bahamas, but still came away with an impressive split. In their win, Iowa battled back from down as many as 24 against West Virginia. Megan Gustafson took over with 17 points in the fourth quarter as part of the biggest comeback in Big Ten women’s basketball history. But the Hawkeyes had no such luck against a potentially underrated Florida State team, a three-seed in last year’s tournament, losing by four. In limiting Gustafson to just eight shots from the floor (she made all eight), the Seminoles showed everyone how to beat Iowa.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:00 PM at No. 1 Notre Dame: This game is as tough a matchup as it gets. Notre Dame, who already has three ranked wins, gets to use this game to prepare for their showdown with No. 2 Connecticut on Sunday, which is why Iowa might be able to catch the Fighting Irish napping. The Hawkeyes have the talent to keep it close, but an upset would be stunning.
3. No. 20 Minnesota Golden Gophers • (5-0) • Last week: 4
Minnesota has yet to face a tough opponent, and they’ve easily won all their games thus far. Against Cornell, Taiye Bello was strangely limited to one rebound after entering the game averaging nearly 17, but she has emerged as a premier rebounder. The Golden Gophers get a huge challenge on Thursday against No. 12 Syracuse.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 5:30 PM vs No. 12 Syracuse: The Orange lost by two at Oregon earlier in November. This past week they beat DePaul in overtime for their second ranked win of the season. A win at The Barn will be huge for whichever team gets it.
4. Michigan Wolverines • (5-1) • Last week: 3
The Wolverines played three games this weekend in the Gulf Coast Showcase, winning two of them impressively. In the first game, a 70-54 win over Missouri, Michigan was able to find success despite just 16 combined points from Hallie Thome and Amy Dilk, leading by as many as 28 in the third quarter. Then, Michigan went down for the first time this season against No. 10 Texas after scoring just 14 points in the first half, but the Wolverines bounced back nicely with an 80-73 win over Washington on Nicole Munger’s 27 points.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:00 PM at No. 13 N.C. State: The Wolfpack are a perfect 6-0 this season, though they’re yet to face a team as good as Michigan. This matchup looks to be a tough test for the Wolverines on the road.
5. Northwestern Wildcats • (5-0) • Last week: 5
The Wildcats got some down time and emerged with a dominant win over UT-Martin. This was despite missing forward Abi Scheid and point guard Veronica Burton. Australian first year Jess Sancataldo came out of nowhere to score 20 points, and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah now leads the Big Ten with 14 rebounds per game. Even with injuries, Northwestern has the rotation depth to play with any team on their schedule. Kunaiyi-Akpanah missed a dunk and might try again soon, so keep an eye out for that.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 7:00 PM vs Pitt: The Panthers have had a grueling start to their 4-4 season with losses already to Wisconsin and Youngstown State. Northwestern should be able to take care of them easily.
6. Purdue Boilermakers • (5-2) • Last week: 6
Purdue had to travel to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for three games in three days in the Paradise Jam. The third, against No. 2 Connecticut, went as expected. But the first was concerning, a 68-62 loss to St. John’s (but it’s worth noting the Red Storm did tie the Huskies through three quarters the next day). With Dominique Oden shooting an alarming 22 percent from three, the Boilermakers need their best shooter to find her stroke.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:00 PM vs No. 21 Miami: Purdue has a chance for a good win at home, as Miami is 6-1 with a loss to No. 23 Iowa State. If someone gets hot for the Boilermakers, they’ll give the Hurricanes a run for their money.
7. Michigan State Spartans • (4-1) • Last week: 8
Michigan State came so close against No. 13 N.C. State, cutting the deficit to two with 15 seconds left, but they couldn’t tie the game or get the big upset. Still, it’s starting to look like Michigan State is ready to take the next step. So far, it’s been a balanced attack for the Spartans, with no player averaging more than 13.4 points per game.
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6:00 PM vs Virginia: It’s been a tough season for the Cavaliers, with losses this past weekend to Saint Louis and Central Michigan. Michigan State may have drawn the easiest matchup in the conference this week.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers • (2-3) • Last week: 7
This has not been the start that Nebraska envisioned to their season. They had a chance to get back on track against No. 21 Miami but lost by 14. They did get a win by 38 points against Radford, but with a matchup against No. 5 Louisville on Thursday, their season may be falling out of reach fast.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:00 PM at No. 5 Louisville: Asia Durr and the Cardinals are legitimate championship contenders. It will be impressive if Nebraska can even keep it close on the road.
9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights • (5-2) • Last week: 10
Like other Big Ten teams, Rutgers missed a turnaround opportunity with bad losses in a foreign country––Canada, in this case. No. 24 Drake is sneaky good, but the way Rutgers coughed up a 15-point halftime lead by scoring just 15 points in the second half is discouraging. Gonzaga may also be tougher than they appear, but Rutgers needs to score more than 40 points, like they did in their loss to the Bulldogs. Zipporah Broughton and Sierra Calhoun are back and should provide some much-needed scoring.
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6:00 PM at Virginia Tech: The Hokies are off to a perfect start through seven games and will look to keep it that way against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights need to find a reliable scoring option to keep pace.
10. Penn State Nittany Lions • (4-2) • Last week: 9
Just as things were starting to turn around, Penn State took a bad home loss to Stony Brook, 81-70, after a first-quarter injury to senior guard Amari Carter. Teniya Page scored 34 points in the losing effort, but she cannot continue to score nearly half of her team’s points if Penn State is going to be successful.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:00 PM at Florida State: The Seminoles are quietly off to a great start at 6-1 with a win over Iowa despite not being ranked in the AP poll after a great season last year. Florida State has not allowed more than 67 points this season, so they could stifle Penn State’s offense.
11. Indiana Hoosiers • 5-0 • Last week: 11
Indiana got to stay home over Thanksgiving and feast against Northern Illinois with a 91-73 win. It’s still tough to make sense of this Hoosier team, which has played just one road game and no games against any team with more than two wins this season.
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6:00 PM at Wake Forest: Wake Forest looks to break a three-game losing streak this week. This could be an ugly game to watch that finishes in the 50s, with both teams looking strong defensively and weak offensively.
12. Ohio State Buckeyes • (1-2) • Last week: 12
After fires prevented the Buckeyes from making a two-game road trip to northern California, Ohio State now has 18 days between two games. The last game OSU played was the loss to No. 2 Connecticut back on November 11. Hopefully the rest and extra practice time helps them mesh as a team.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:00 PM vs North Carolina: UNC got a win over an injured South Florida team, then lost to Kentucky this weekend. Ohio State will have fresh legs against them, so this should be a close game.
13. Wisconsin Badgers • (6-1) • Last week: 13
After a 6-0 start, the Badgers finally fell on Sunday night to Arkansas in a nail-biter. That followed two straight wins in which Wisconsin held their opponents under 55 points and scored under 60 themselves. Imani Lewis won her first Freshman of the Week award.
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 8:00 PM vs Duke: Wisconsin might have a chance against an underperforming Duke team that is off to a 3-3 start. Surprisingly, the Blue Devils look like they’ll end up near the bottom of their conference.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini • (4-1) • Last week: 14
Illinois played the craziest game that nobody saw. 216 combined points. 99 total missed shots. Nine lead changes. And yet, only 152 people were in attendance in San Luis Obispo and there was no video stream. If there was, we would have been able to watch Sacramento State make a layup with 2 seconds left to beat Illinois by a score of 109-107.
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6:00 PM at Clemson: Clemson snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Oklahoma. Earlier this season they held Lipscomb to just 26 points.