10 non-conference women’s basketball games that will impact the bracket in March
Resume, resume, resume. They are central to every NCAA tournament selection discussion in February and March. However, much of any team’s resume — those game-changing plays — is built in the non-conference portion of the schedule in the first two months of the season.
Women’s NCAA tournament seeding can often depend on what happens in November. That’s why half of the matchups on this list of the best non-conference games of the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season will take place over the next few weeks. And — not surprisingly — we don’t have to wait long for the best non-conference matchup: Just 13 days into the season, the second-ranked Stanford Cardinal host No. 1 South Carolina Game Cox on Nov. 20. In the battle of two past national heroes.
The best teams tend to schedule the best, so it’s no surprise to see top 10 teams play in these games. These tournaments should offer some of the best basketball, but will also have the most impact on the fate of these programs on Sunday, March 12.
And while they didn’t make the list, the Jamie Way Classic Dec. 4 — Virginia Tech Hokies at Tennessee Lady Volunteers (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN) and UConn Huskies at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3 p.m. ET Eastern), the ABC/ESPN program) — are also must-see early season games. And we’ll take a closer look at the contests around Thanksgiving a little later this month.
Our ranking of the top 10 non-conference games in order:
South Carolina Gamecocks at Stanford Cardinal
Nov. 20, 3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
It’s tough to go up against No. 2 two weeks into the first season. and Gamecocks vs. The Cardinal has quickly become the hottest bicoastal rivalry in the country. Stanford won the 2021 national championship thanks to a one-point victory over South Carolina in the national semifinals. Last year’s rematch came just before Christmas, and after Aliyah Boston’s 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, the Gamecocks pulled off the biggest comeback in program history, rallying from 18 down to win 65-61. In Haley Jones and Cameron Brink of Boston and Stanford, the game has three of the top six players in our recent ranking of the nation’s top 25 players.
Nov. 14, 6:30pm ET, FS1
Seven UConn games could make the list — the Huskies have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country — but this game at Gampel Pavilion ranks highest because it’s the first game and, given UConn’s new look, naturally Potential is the most important. . There are a lot of questions for the Huskies with their personnel losses and injuries. The Longhorns will provide an early litmus test of how UConn has adjusted to losing Christian Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Ovina Westbrook to graduation and Paige Bookers to a torn ACL. The Longhorns have Final Four aspirations and also have a handful of new players. Both Geno Auriemma and Vic Schaefer know how their teams stack up against the rest of the country after this one.
Dec. 7, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN
Always a great intrastate rivalry, the Cy-Hawk Race has never been bigger. Each team has the second-best preseason rankings in program history (No. 4 Iowa in the AP preseason poll and No. 8 Iowa State) and are among the best offenses in the nation. Last December, the Cyclones won their first series since 2015 behind Ashley Jones’ 26 points. This year, Jones joined Iowa’s Caitlin Clark as first-team preseason All-Americans.
Tennessee Lady Vols at Stanford Cardinal
Dec. 18, 3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
This game may be the best indicator of whether the Lady Vols are truly ready to challenge South Carolina in the SEC. At this point in the season, Stanford has already faced the Gamecocks, so how Tennessee fares against the Cardinal may be an accurate gauge 11 days before SEC play begins. This will be Stanford’s last non-conference game. It will likely make a lasting impression on the selection committee as it relates to the selection of four No. 1 seeds.
Nov. 20, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN+
No match in this list represents a change of list in the hand of the transfer portal like this. Each team welcomes eight new players to the roster, many of whom come from other programs. What better way to see how the chemistry comes together in the early stages of the season than playing against a team that faces the same challenges. Both the Terps and Bears enter this game in the unusual position of not being favored to win their conference. Maybe the winner of this game will walk away with the confidence to do so.
November 30, 7:30pm ET, ACCN
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is full of high-quality matches. This one might be the best. The new-look Cardinals, with three potential new starters, meet a Buckeyes team that’s gone with four of its top five scorers. In a bid to earn a top three or four seed in the NCAA Tournament, the winner of this game gets some breathing room heading into the rugged conference tournament. The loser will be left with little margin for error.
UConn Huskies at Tennessee Lady Vols
Jan. 26, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN
The last time Tennessee beat UConn, Candace Parker was a Lady Vol. Of course, 13 years passed without a game between the two definitive programs of this sport. Since the contest resumed in 2020, the Huskies have won all three games by an average of 13 points, including last season’s 19-point victory for UConn’s Ozzie Fudd (25 points). This could be the best Tennessee team since Parker, and nothing would set the Lady Vols up for a stretch run better than beating the Huskies.
Nov. 7, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The first night of the season features a game that may have implications heading into March. If jackhammers need some general attention, they can really use this board. Coming off an Elite Eight run, the Blue Jays will have more opportunities to build their resume in the Big East, but their growth could fluctuate greatly based on this result and the next games against Nebraska and Arkansas.
South Carolina Gamecocks at UConn Huskies
February 5, noon ET, FOX
The Huskies’ grueling non-conference schedule concludes here with a game at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. For better or worse, this could be a completely different team than the one that played Texas in mid-November, depending on how the young players develop and the health of the roster. The Gamecocks will probably be exactly what they have been for the past few years: one of the best, if not the best particle for direct object South Carolina, the best team in the nation, enters this matchup with four straight wins in the series, one that the Huskies have dominated in the early days.
December 1, 6pm ET, BTN
It’s the second of two ACC/Big Ten Challenge games on our list — NC State at Iowa and Maryland at Notre Dame are the other two quality matchups tonight — and it’s a showcase of games that could have big implications. . To seed the NCAA Tournament, both programs have seen rebirths over the past few seasons with the same formula: Get a core group of players together and create incredible chemistry. The Hoosiers start the season ranked 11th, and North Carolina is immediately ranked 12th. The battle to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament begins here for both teams.
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