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NCAAW what to watch: Future WNBA talent meets in No. 2 South Carolina vs. No. 3 UConn

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·7-min read

It was a win that shifted the tiers of women’s college basketball. You could feel it. The packed house of 18,000 raucous fans knew it. And the million more watching on TV could sense it.

The fans are mostly staying home this season, but the South Carolina-UConn series is back in action on Monday and it’s the game to watch this week.

The No. 2 Gamecocks got their first win in school history against a UConn squad that was still stellar, but not up to its stout standards. Now Paige Bueckers is in town and their young No. 3 ranked squad has more experience. There’s no doubt it will be one of the games of the year.

By the time they meet their rankings could elevate. No. 4 N.C. State soundly defeated No. 1 Louisville last Monday night, creating a mountain of “but who is the best?” questions for AP pollers to figure out.

Here is the full schedule for the weekend, who to watch and how to watch.

South Dakota (10-3, 6-0) at No. 23 South Dakota State (13-2, 6-0)

Friday, 6 p.m. ESPN3 & Saturday, 6 p.m. ESPN3

CATCH UP: South Dakota and South Dakota State are in-state rivals and conference foes. They are the last remaining undefeated teams within the Summit League conference standings.

With so much uncertainty around conference postseason championships and the NCAA tournament selection process, it could be a year both get into the field. The selection committee has the difficult task of comparing teams in a season where the vast majority of games have been in-conference and there are few common opponents across lines. There’s also the difficulty in assessing teams that have been forced into long scheduling lulls because of COVID-19 postponements.

But back to the Summit League. South Dakota State opened its season with an upset over Iowa State and have three wins against ranked opponents this season. They’re on a 23-game consecutive league winning streak, the longest in Summit history. But it was South Dakota that controlled the series last year and earned the AP ranking.

Both teams were off last week because of COVID-19 issues in their opponents’ programs.

LOOKING BACK: South Dakota won both regular season contests last year as the AP ranked Summit League squad. The Coyotes won, 83-48, in mid-January and 77-67 a month later. South Dakota also won the Summit League tournament championship, 63-58.

The Jackrabbits lead the all-time series, 59-33.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Myah Selland. She leads South Dakota State with 18.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. The redshirt junior forward is shooting 50.8 percent and cracked 1,000 career points last month. Selland is making her way on to some WNBA draft boards in the third round.

For South Dakota, it’s senior center Hannah Sjerven and Chloe Lamb. Sjerven is shooting 57.14 percent, ranking 17th in the nation, and had outings of 16 and 15 points against the Jackrabbits last season. The one game she was in single digits, Lamb scored a game-high 22. This season they each average about 17 points per game with Sjerven adding on average 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.

No. 16 Arkansas (9-1, 3-5) at No. 7 Texas A&M (16-1, 7-1)

Sunday, 3 p.m. SEC Network

CATCH UP: It says a lot about the SEC (and this odd season at large) that Arkansas is sub-.500 in conference play but ranked one of the best in the country. The Razorbacks showed it last week with an impressive win over Connecticut.

These teams already met on Jan. 10. Jordan Nixon banked a floater in with 0.4 seconds on the clock to give the Aggies a 74-73 win.

Texas A&M is going for win No. 7 against ranked opponents this season. They haven’t lost a single one. Arkansas’ losses all came against opponents either ranked at the time or currently: Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia.

This game was moved up one week from Feb. 14. It replaced the scheduled contest between Texas A&M and Tennessee.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Chelsea Dungee, obviously. She scored 21 on 6-of-15 shooting in the first meeting. She was 5-of-9 from 3-point range. The redshirt senior’s 22.2 average points per game is top-15. Arkansas hit 14 of 31 3-point attempts in the first meeting.

Aaliyah Wilson led all scorers with 27 points last time out and N’dea Jones had a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double. She averages 13.7 and 10.8, respectively. Her 183 total blocks ranks fifth in the nation.

No. 2 South Carolina (14-1, 9-0 SEC) at No. 3 UConn (12-1, 10-0 Big East)

Destanni Henderson and Christyn Williams on the court.
Connecticut guard Christyn Williams, right, and South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson will meet again on Monday. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Monday, 7 p.m. FS1

CATCH UP: It’s rematch time. South Carolina got its first win, 70-52, in school history against Connecticut one year ago. The Gamecocks lost all eight contests heading into their home hosting duties last year, but kept the Huskies to one two-point bucket in the first quarter to ride a win.

That matchup will be closer this time around. South Carolina is as good as ever with sophomore Aliyah Boston channeling a deeper power in the post and shooting guard Zia Cooke leading the production with 16.1 points per game.

UConn has the addition of freshman Paige Bueckers, who upped her career-high in a 32-point outing Wednesday night. Olivia Nelson-Ododa has also showed an improved game down low.

They are two of the top 10 best scoring offenses in the nation averaging more than 82 points per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Not to cop out of this one, but — everyone. These two squads have future WNBA stars on them whether first-round talent or even an undrafted inspiration story.

Bueckers has shown a new level, if that’s even possible, in the past week. Boston is one of the most exciting players in the game to watch right now. There’s a reason this is a primetime Monday night showcase.

No. 9 Arizona (11-2, 9-2) at No. 12 Oregon (11-3, 9-3)

Monday, 7 p.m. ESPN2

CATCH UP: Also getting some love on Monday night is the Pac-12 with a lead role on the ESPN networks. Don’t look now Stanford, but competition has closed in for the Pac-12 title.

The Wildcats are scheduled to return to the court on Friday for the first time since Jan. 22 because of a COVID-19 pause. Their two losses are to Stanford and Washington State, with close calls against UCLA, USC and Colorado.

Oregon was just pulling out of a three losses in four games skid when they also went on pause. They’re scheduled to play for the first time since Jan. 24 when the Ducks face UC Davis on Saturday.

Arizona won the first meeting, 57-41, on Jan. 14 at home.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Arizona’s Aari McDonald, a top-notch talent who could have entered the WNBA draft last May. She’s averaging 18.8 points per game and had 16 in the first meeting along with four steals. She’s the playmaker the Wildcats run through.

The Ducks have had equal scoring production on average from three stars: Nyara Sabally (11.9 PPG, .550 FG%, 8.0 RPG), Te-Hina Paopao (11.1 PPG, 4.6 APG) and Erin Boley (11.1 PPG, .410 3P%, 5.0 RPG). Taylor Mikesell and Sedona Prince are each averaging 9.2 PPG.

Sabally had a team-high 15 points against Arizona in the first meeting and all but two players scored only five points or fewer. They out-rebounded the Wildcats, 41-31, but were hurt by 26 Arizona points off 23 turnovers.

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