Oklahoma coach Jennie Baranczyk got to see her daughter Jordi's youth basketball game Saturday morning, not something she was expecting considering the Sooners had a women's college basketball game at Kansas that afternoon.
But in these unusual times, teams can never be sure what road trips will be like. Because of COVID-19 protocol, the Sooners didn't fly out until later that morning, arriving at Allen Fieldhouse a few hours before their 4 p.m. local time tipoff. Oklahoma looked as if was still in transit during the first quarter, then trailed by 16 in the second quarter, before things changed dramatically.
When you have one of the nation's top offenses -- the Sooners are averaging 87.9 PPG, second only to DePaul's 92.1 in Division I -- you can make such deficits disappear pretty quickly. Oklahoma did that, beating the Jayhawks 82-68, as Baranczyk continues what has been a successful transition thus far from legendary coach Sherri Coale.
Baranczyk is one of the best stories among the new faces in Power 5 places: coaches who took over programs in one of the major conferences this season. At 13-2, she has the best record next to LSU's Kim Mulkey at 15-2 -- although Mulkey was the furthest thing from new to the Power 5 after 21 years and three NCAA titles at Baylor.
Baranczyk, who played at Iowa, rose to prominence as a head coach in nine seasons at Drake, and during that time several Power 5 schools were interested in her. But it took Oklahoma to lure her away from her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.
"It's like a perfect fit, in terms of culture and chemistry, with this team," Baranczyk said. "I don't just mean they like each other. They play well together. You have Madi Williams and Taylor Robertson, who have so much experience, and all they want is to win games.
"I told Sherri, 'Not many coaches get to walk into situations like this.' It's years of an incredible foundation with this program, and that's a credit to her for all those years of putting teams together here."
Oklahoma -- which went to three Final Fours under Coale, who stepped down last spring after her 25th season -- was hit hard by injuries last season, at times suiting up just six players and finishing 12-12. This season, Robertson, a 3-point sharpshooter, is averaging 19.1 points and Williams 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. Robertson is so good from behind the arc -- 66 of 137 (48.2%) -- that sometimes defenses try to force her to drive to the basket instead.
"That's OK. I'll take the layup," she said, smiling. "But everybody on our team can score. We can all shoot the 3, and that makes it easy to play in a system that's built for that. And our transition game is one of the best things; when we get that rolling, it can be hard to stop."
No. 23 Oklahoma moved into the AP Top 25 poll last week, the Sooners' first appearance in the rankings since 2017-18. Some misfortune has hit the Sooners again. Junior Gabby Gregory, for example, has played just one game due to injury and illness, but Oklahoma's second-leading scorer last season is expected back soon and should fit in well when she is up to speed.
Catching up might take a little while -- this is a team that doesn't slow down. "I enjoy playing fast, and I enjoy the energy that everybody brings and that Jennie and her staff bring," Williams said. "We know what we went through last year, and we know what we're made of. We can compete and fight through adversity."
Other new coaches at Power 5 schools this season who are off to solid starts include:
Nicki Collen, Baylor: She knew it would be difficult replacing Mulkey, but Collen brings pro and college experience to the Bears, who are 10-3. But they have not defeated a ranked opponent yet and lost to Kansas State recently for the first time since 2004. This past week, COVID-19 stalled Baylor, which faces Oklahoma next.
Kelly Rae Finley, Florida: As an assistant to Cam Newbauer, who resigned during the summer amid abuse accusations, Finley took over as interim head coach with some baggage. But the Gators players stood up for her. They are 11-5, and just defeated No. 25 Texas A&M in double overtime Sunday, despite having lost top scorer Lavender Briggs for the season due to injury.
Shea Ralph, Vanderbilt: The longtime UConn assistant is 10-6 so far with the Commodores in her first head-coaching job. Up next is a familiar foe from her playing and coaching days with the Huskies, as Tennessee visits Nashville on Thursday.
Lindsay Gottlieb, USC: She's very familiar with the Pac-12 after eight years at Cal, which included a 2013 Final Four appearance. After spending time as an assistant with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, Gottlieb is back in the college game, and the Trojans are 8-4, coming off handing Arizona its first defeat this season Sunday.
Doug Novak, Mississippi State: He was hired as an assistant in September, then elevated to interim head coach in October when Nikki McCray-Penson stepped down due to health concerns. He has worked on the men's and women's side in college basketball. The Bulldogs are 11-4 and are coming off victories over Alabama and Vanderbilt.
Elissa Cunane puts up 19 points and 13 rebounds as she helps elevate NC State to a 72-45 win over North Carolina.
Player of the Week: Elissa Cunane, NC State Wolfpack
In a big rivalry game Thursday against previously unbeaten North Carolina, the senior center was 6-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line for 19 points, plus had 13 rebounds. Then at Miami, she had 19 points (8-of-10 from the field, 3-of-3 from the line), 5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 3 assists. For the week, she shot 77.8% from the field and 100% from the line; her numbers for the season are 55.5% and 82.8%.
Team of the Week: Colorado Buffaloes
The Buffs are the last undefeated team in Division I, moving to 13-0 with victories over USC and UCLA on Friday and Sunday. Admittedly, Colorado still hasn't played a ranked team, which will change Friday when the Buffs host No. 2 Stanford. But they did beat the Cardinal last year in Boulder, Colorado. Fifth-year senior Mya Hollingshed is leading the Buffs, averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Win of the Week: USC 76, No. 4 Arizona 67
Because of COVID-19 issues, neither team had played since the weekend of Dec. 17-19 until both returned to action Friday. The Wildcats beat Washington State to stay unbeaten, while the Trojans fell at Colorado. But Sunday in Los Angeles, USC handed Arizona its first loss with a 27-point outburst in the fourth quarter. Junior guard Alyson Miura led the way with 15 points and six assists.
Coach of the Week: Kellie Harper, Tennessee Lady Vols
The Lady Vols got their third victory over a ranked team this season with a 73-45 blowout win Thursday over No. 25 Texas A&M at home. Then Tennessee notched a 70-58 victory at Ole Miss on Sunday. In her third season at her alma mater -- and 18th season overall as a head coach -- Harper has the Lady Vols off to 15-1 start and trailing only SEC rival South Carolina in Division I rebounding margin.
Lexie Hull connects on seven 3-pointers and scores a career-high 33 points to lead No. 2 Stanford past Oregon.
1. South Carolina Gamecocks (15-1)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: vs. Texas A&M (Thursday), at Arkansas (Sunday)
In what might be the first of many exciting showdowns with Kim Mulkey's LSU squad, the Gamecocks beat the Tigers 66-60 on Thursday, and then defeated Kentucky 74-54 on Sunday. Those were their seventh and eighth victories over ranked teams this season. National player of the year favorite Aliyah Boston had a combined 37 points, 33 rebounds and 8 blocked shots, and the Gamecocks defense held Kentucky's Rhyne Howard to nine points on 2-of-14 shooting.
2. Stanford Cardinal (11-3)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: at Colorado (Friday), at Utah (Sunday)
Guard Lexie Hull had one of the best games of her career with 33 points -- going 7-of-10 from 3-point range -- in an 80-68 victory Friday over Oregon. Then with Stanford's scheduled game against Oregon State postponed Sunday because of COVID-19 issues, it instead faced Gonzaga for a second time this season, having traveled to Spokane, Washington, in November. This one was also a Stanford victory, with Hannah Jump scoring 21 points in the 66-50 win. Colorado is next; can the Cardinal hand the Buffs their first loss of the season?
No. 13 LSU extends its lead to double digits against No. 1 South Carolina as Khayla Pointer finds Alexis Morris on the break for the layup.
3. Tennessee Lady Vols (15-1)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: at Vanderbilt (Thursday), vs. Kentucky (Sunday)
Tennessee's only loss remains to Stanford. The Lady Vols got victories over Texas A&M and Ole Miss this past week, led by junior guard Jordan Horston with a combined 38 points and 24 rebounds.
4. Louisville Cardinals (13-1)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: vs. Syracuse (Thursday), at Boston College (Sunday)
The Cardinals kept rolling with their 13th victory in a row -- 81-39 over Pitt on Thursday -- but their Sunday game at Miami was postponed due to COVID-19 protocol.
5. NC State Wolfpack (14-2)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: vs. North Carolina (Thursday), at Notre Dame (Sunday)
The Wolfpack burst the undefeated bubble of rival North Carolina 72-45 on Thursday, then adjusted their schedule by traveling to Miami on Sunday. The Wolfpack's originally scheduled game with Notre Dame was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Irish, while Louisville couldn't make its scheduled game with Miami for the same reason. The change of plans didn't bother the Wolfpack, who won 76-64 and lead the ACC at 5-0.
6. Indiana Hoosiers (12-2)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. Nebraska (Thursday), at Purdue (Sunday)
The Hoosiers had no letdown after their big win over Maryland on Jan. 2, beating Wisconsin 76-53 on Wednesday behind Ali Patberg's second consecutive 18-point game. At 4-0, they are the only team unbeaten in Big Ten play.
7. LSU Tigers (15-2)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. Missouri (Thursday), vs. Vanderbilt (Sunday))
The Tigers' 66-60 loss to top-ranked South Carolina didn't cost them any ground in the Power Rankings; with some other teams' losses, they actually moved up. It helped that LSU followed up its second defeat of the season with a 76-48 win at Auburn, led by Khayla Pointer's 24 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
8. Maryland Terrapins (12-4)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: vs. Michigan (Sunday)
The Terps' four losses are all to teams ranked in the top eight in the country. They bounced back from their overtime loss at Indiana on Jan. 2 with victories over Penn State and Minnesota this past week. Now they have a week to prepare for another ranked foe in Michigan.
9. Iowa State Cyclones (14-1)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: at Kansas State (Tuesday), at Oklahoma State (Saturday)
The Cyclones passed their first tough road test in the Big 12 with an 81-71 victory over Oklahoma on Wednesday, then clobbered TCU 78-47 at home Saturday. Next up, they will face the other team that is unbeaten in Big 12 play so far: Kansas State.
10. UConn Huskies (7-3)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: at Butler (Wednesday), Xavier (Saturday)
The Huskies finally were back in action after not having played since losing to Louisville on Dec. 19. They defeated Creighton 63-55 on Sunday, led by freshman Caroline Ducharme's 17 points. Geno Auriemma said it was like playing their first game of the season again after so long off; it was Creighton's first Big East loss.
11. Michigan Wolverines (13-2)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Penn State (Thursday), at Maryland (Sunday)
The Wolverines struggled against Nebraska's defense in a 79-58 loss Tuesday in which they went 1-of-12 from 3-point range and Naz Hillmon was held to 10 points. She had 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists Sunday as Michigan bounced back with 76-47 victory over struggling Rutgers. The road is tough in the Big Ten, so this week could challenge Michigan.
12. Baylor Bears (10-3)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: at Oklahoma (Wednesday), at Kansas (Sunday)
COVID-19 protocol postponed the Bears' games against TCU and Texas this past week, so they have been sitting on their Jan. 2 loss at Kansas State. Their two road trips this week could be difficult.
13. Texas Longhorns (11-2)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: vs. Kansas (Wednesday), vs. West Virginia (Saturday)
Texas had a fall in the Power Rankings this week after a dispirited-looking 74-61 loss at home to Texas Tech in which the Lady Raiders shot 50% from the field and made 34 of 44 free throws. The Longhorns' scheduled game against Baylor, postponed by the Bears' COVID-19 protocol, was replaced with UT Rio Grande Valley, but that 93-58 victory doesn't tell Texas much. What will is the Longhorns' performance in their two home games this week.
14. Arizona Wildcats (11-1)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: at Oregon State (Thursday), at Oregon (Saturday)
It has been hard to get a true gauge on the Wildcats because they've played just one ranked opponent -- beating Louisville on Nov. 12 -- and were out of action between wins on Dec. 17 at Northern Arizona and Jan. 7 against Washington State. Their first loss came Sunday at USC 76-67, although it was a big game for senior forward Cate Reese with 29 points.
15. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-3)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: at Pittsburgh (Tuesday), vs. Florida State (Thursday), at Miami (Sunday)
What was expected to be an interesting matchup with Duke was postponed because of COVID-19 protocol Thursday. That was followed by a collision between Georgia Tech's outstanding defense and Virginia's underwhelming offense in a 67-31 Yellow Jackets victory Sunday. Lorela Cubaj continues to rack up the rebounds; she is one of the nation's best at 12.7 per game.
16. Duke Blue Devils (11-2)
Previous ranking: NR
This week: vs. Virginia Tech (Thursday), at NC State (Sunday)
We didn't get to see the scheduled matchup with Georgia Tech on Thursday because of COVID-19 protocol, but Duke won 74-65 at Syracuse on Sunday and climbed back into the Power Rankings. Coming up is one of the Blue Devils' toughest ACC games, as they make the short trip to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack.
In the waiting room
North Carolina Tar Heels (14-1): After a deflating first loss this season at NC State on Thursday, the Tar Heels got their winning ways back by pounding Virginia Tech 71-46 on Sunday.
Oklahoma Sooners (13-2): The Sooners have a chance to shake up the Big 12 a little more when they face Baylor on Wednesday.
Georgia Bulldogs (13-3): After a loss at Kentucky on Thursday, Georgia might have given its football team some good mojo by beating Alabama on Sunday.