Normally by late January, the large image in ladies’s school basketball has began to take form. However Thursday’s outcomes added solely extra questions for the 2020-21 season. No. 2 NC State and third-ranked UConn have been each upset as every suffered their first losses of the season, which suggests No. 1 Louisville is now the one undefeated crew within the AP Prime 25. ESPN.com’s Mechelle Voepel and Charlie Creme focus on the most important takeaways and the way the outcomes affect Bracketology.
Chelsea Dungee scored 37 factors — essentially the most by any participant in opposition to UConn since 1999-2000 — as No. 19 Arkansas upended the Huskies. What went improper for UConn, and with its hardest stretch of the season thus far developing, is there trigger for concern?
Voepel: That is extra a case of what Chelsea Dungee did proper than what UConn’s protection did improper in Arkansas’ 90-87 win. She’s one of many nation’s elite scorers, and has put up at the least 30 factors 11 occasions in her Arkansas profession, in opposition to all types of defenses designed to cease her. Coach Mike Neighbors talked about how a lot Dungee wished to embrace the second of dealing with UConn, relatively than be intimidated by it. She’s a fifth-year senior who has had quite a lot of excellent performances, however contemplating the opponent, the win and her contribution, this was the most important.
That mentioned, the Huskies are one of many higher defenses yr in and yr out, but the 52% Arkansas shot from the sphere is the very best proportion UConn has allowed since 2011. UConn additionally dedicated 23 fouls, its most since 24 in a 2014 loss to Stanford, and allowed 90 factors, its most in a regulation recreation since 2001. The Huskies should look at what they may have finished higher in opposition to Dungee and the Razorbacks, as a result of they will face one other difficult offense on Sunday at No. 17 DePaul.
“That is what you go to apply for, to strive to determine the place defensively you can also make some changes,” mentioned Auriemma, whose Huskies have not misplaced consecutive video games since March 1993 (1,003 video games). “There have been fairly a number of occasions when our large guys got here out to assist on our ball-screen protection, and their guys simply went proper round them like they have been standing nonetheless. In order that’s a problem.
“Can that be mounted? I do not know. Supplied the fellows doing it need to repair it.”
Creme: Mechelle nailed it. I do not suppose there are any large issues for UConn heading into this stretch of video games that additionally contains South Carolina on Feb. 8. However Arkansas uncovered some small issues.
The Huskies haven’t got that one defender on which they will persistently rely. Christyn Williams was usually matched up with Future Slocum and shut her down (5 factors, 2-of-7 taking pictures), but it surely was no contest when Williams was on Dungee. Olivia Nelson-Ododa must be that participant on the rim, defending in opposition to the form of drives on which Dungee thrived. However a mixture of foul hassle and ineffectiveness put Nelson-Ododa on the bench for greater than half the sport.
UConn will not play a crew like Arkansas or a participant like Dungee once more (assuming there is not an NCAA event rematch), however they want Nelson-Ododa to be a dependable defender for half-hour a recreation in opposition to the nation’s greatest groups.
Auriemma additionally elected to play freshmen Mir McLean and Nika Muhl extra minutes than they usually common, maybe throwing them into the hearth in opposition to a superb crew on the highway with out as a lot concern for this end result as for the advantages these minutes may present within the postseason. Mix that with the truth that Nelson-Ododa scored solely two factors, Aaliyah Edwards fouled out within the third quarter, the Huskies have been once more with out Anna Makurat and the sport got here down to at least one possession, the Huskies are simply effective.
That Williams hasn’t mounted her taking pictures woes from final season is the one space that is perhaps of bigger concern. After lacking all 5 of her 3-point makes an attempt in opposition to Arkansas, Williams is now 4-for-24 from deep up to now three video games and taking pictures simply 28.1% from 3-point vary on the season (in comparison with 33.3% final season). She nonetheless will get to the basket in addition to anybody and is scoring 15.6 PPG, however Williams’ leap shot has deserted her.
Evina Westbrook and Paige Bueckers mixed to make eight of ten 3-pointers, which helped compensate. However UConn wants Williams to seek out her vary once more.
What did Virginia Tech’s historic win over No. 2 NC State — the highest-ranked crew the Hokies have ever crushed — inform us about each packages?
Camille Pastime sinks a game-tying trey on the buzzer on a damaged play, however Virginia Tech regroups in additional time to upset No. 2 NC State.
Creme: Each program within the nation goes by means of its personal model of hardship associated to COVID-19, attempting to get this season in as safely and efficiently as doable. NC State has been hit arduous, and Thursday’s 83-71 additional time loss to Virginia Tech may need been the fruits of a monthlong wrestle managing the virus.
After a three-week pause for this system, the Wolfpack returned to motion Sunday, however with out their greatest participant, Elissa Cunane, who hasn’t been capable of rejoin the crew as a consequence of COVID-19 protocols. With out her, NC State was lucky to beat Virginia Tech on Sunday in Raleigh.
Each video games illustrated simply how vital Cunane is to the Wolfpack. The offense can run by means of her within the publish. She protects the paint and permits NC State’s perimeter defenders to gamble a little bit extra. Counting on her to deal with the defensive rebounding helps ignite the Wolfpack’s transition recreation. They want her again for the crew to succeed in its full potential. With Louisville looming on Monday, the return of a very wholesome Cunane cannot come quickly sufficient.
Voepel: Virginia Tech might be the final program you’d need to face with out your beginning middle, as a result of the Hokies’ 6-foot-5 sophomore Elizabeth Kitley is so arduous to cease. She and Cunane each grew up in Summerfield, North Carolina, and are good associates who performed membership ball collectively. Everybody was trying ahead to seeing the 2 elite facilities match up, however Cunane did not get to play in both of these video games, and Kitley had a mixed 47 factors and 24 rebounds.
Senior Aisha Sheppard scored 28 factors, together with 16 in additional time, to prepared the ground Thursday. This win was so large for the Hokies, as a result of they’ve had greater than their share of heartbreakers. Coming into Thursday, they’d misplaced 5 video games in January by a median of three.2 factors. That features a 71-67 loss to present No. 1 Louisville on Jan. 7. It was virtually like all of Virginia Tech’s frustration was exorcised in that 26-point additional time, which was a Division I ladies’s report for factors in an OT.
Coach Kenny Brooks was poised to doubtlessly get his first NCAA event journey with the Hokies final yr (they have been 21-9 total and 11-7 within the ACC) earlier than the occasion was canceled. Now in his fifth season in Blacksburg, Brooks may construct on this win for a run on the event this yr.
Which different crew or participant impressed you Thursday?
Creme: Ohio State is the very best crew within the Large Ten. After a formidable win at Indiana on Thursday, the Buckeyes have now crushed Michigan, Maryland and the Hoosiers — the opposite three groups within the league with only one loss — in succession and moved to 6-1 in league play.
However the extra the Buckeyes win, the extra important their self-imposed postseason ban is — and the extra doubtless that the Large Ten will not have its prime crew within the NCAA event. It additionally means the league will not have a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. If eligible, Ohio State would doubtless be a 2-seed on this week’s Bracketology. However the losses the Buckeyes are handing to the convention’s different prime groups are taking a toll on their profiles.
Ohio State has nice steadiness, with 5 gamers averaging in double figures. That is how the Buckeyes received Thursday regardless of prime scorers Jacy Sheldon and Madison Greene combining for 11 factors on 1-for-15 taking pictures.
Voepel: Georgia Tech (9-3) is quietly sitting in third place within the ACC at 7-2. However be careful for the Yellow Jackets, whose 70-56 win at Miami was their fifth victory in a row. Lorela Cubaj, a senior ahead from Italy, led Georgia Tech with 14 factors and 14 rebounds. Subsequent up for the Jackets is Syracuse on Tuesday; the Orange are 5-3 within the convention.
How did Virginia Tech beating NC State and Arkansas toppling UConn affect Bracketology? Who’re the No. 1 seeds now?
Creme: Regardless of enjoying a really uncharacteristic recreation in opposition to Arkansas, UConn stays a No. 1 seed, falling from No. 2 total to No. 3. Typically perspective will get misplaced when a prime crew loses, however the Huskies entered the sport No. 1 total within the NET rankings. Keep in mind, this was simply their first loss. Extra importantly, there merely is not a worthy candidate to knock UConn off the highest line.
UCLA? The Bruins have two losses and a weaker schedule. Definitely not Baylor, which additionally has misplaced twice, together with to Arkansas. Maryland misplaced its second recreation 4 days in the past. Texas A&M is simply seventeenth within the NET and has struggled in two of its previous three wins and misplaced a recreation simply previous to that. There aren’t 4 different groups with higher credentials than UConn. South Carolina, Louisville and — as soon as once more — Stanford are the opposite No. 1 seeds.
NC State was knocked off the highest line. Sure, it was simply the Wolfpack’s first loss, and so they have been enjoying with out Cunane. However due to an extended COVID-19 break and maybe due to the residual affect of the pause, NC State hasn’t finished something of significance in a month. Contemplating the Wolfpack have been lucky to beat Virginia Tech on Sunday, Thursday’s loss wasn’t a shock.
The win was a significant breakthrough for the Hokies, who transfer from “Subsequent 4 Out” to “First 4 Out” on the bubble. The 8-7 report remains to be an issue for the résumé, however six of their seven losses have been by slim margins in opposition to NCAA tournament-caliber groups. The Hokies appear to be a doable event crew. A win Sunday in opposition to North Carolina and so they may return to the sphere.
Extremely, Arkansas has a dropping SEC report. If the common season ended after Thursday’s video games, the Razorbacks could be the No. 10 seed within the SEC event. But they’ve crushed two of the nation’s prime 5 groups. And that is why Arkansas strikes from a No. 6 to a No. 5 seed.
A 2-5 SEC mark coupled with wins in opposition to two of the nation’s greatest groups is an anomaly that should not be misplaced on anybody attempting to forecast the NCAA event. The Razorbacks is perhaps struggling within the SEC in opposition to groups they play on a regular basis as a result of opponents are extra conversant in their uptempo type characterised by spreading the ground, relentless drives to the rim and an unapologetic quantity of 3-point makes an attempt.
Making ready for Neighbors’ method is a puzzling enterprise in regular occasions, however particularly for nonconference opponents dealing with even much less apply time than traditional on this unpredictable season. Baylor and UConn rank within the prime 5 of almost each vital defensive metric, but allowed 83 and 90 factors, respectively, by the Razorbacks.
Thursday’s upset of UConn, which adopted a Monday loss to Georgia, signifies that due to its distinctive type in essentially the most uncommon of seasons, Arkansas is perhaps a median SEC crew and an actual Last 4 menace all on the identical time.