Just once in the past 11 years has any Big 12 women's college basketball team besides Baylor taken home the conference's regular-season trophy or tournament trophy.
This week could determine whether the league's other teams can get their hands on that hardware again. And nothing against Baylor, but the Big 12 race is more intriguing having teams besides the Bears in first place heading into February.
Kansas State is 6-3, and Texas is 5-3. Those five squads plus 4-4 Kansas are all currently NCAA tournament teams, according to Charlie Creme's Bracketology. The Jayhawks, who have the longest NCAA tournament drought of the group, haven't been in the field since 2013; their biggest win so far this season was at Texas.
Oklahoma travels on Wednesday to Baylor. The Bears are riding a five-game win streak after losing their first two conference games, at Kansas State and at Oklahoma. Baylor's next four, though, will be against ranked opponents, including Texas twice this week.
The Bears and Longhorns will meet at 8 p.m. ET Friday at Baylor, making up a game postponed from Jan. 9, then at 4 p.m. ET Sunday at Texas. Both games are on ESPN2. Texas has beaten Baylor just once since the 2010-11 season; that was in 2017. The Longhorns are coming off a 65-63 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday.
The Big 12's other marquee matchup this week is Kansas State at Iowa State on Wednesday; the Cyclones won the first meeting 73-70 on Jan. 11. The game will feature the top two scorers in league play, Wildcats center Ayoka Lee (26.8 points per game) and Cyclones guard Ashley Joens (20.3 PPG). Lee and Joens had 38 points and 27 points, respectively, in the previous matchup.
Baylor has been the top scoring team in the Big 12 every season since 2011, and Iowa State has led the league in 3-pointers made in all but three campaigns since the Big 12 began in 1996-97. This season, Oklahoma is the top scoring team (85.9 PPG overall, 81.7 in Big 12 play). And while Iowa State still leads in overall 3-pointers (219, 10.4 per game), Oklahoma has the most in league play (82, 9.1).
In March, Baylor won its 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title and 12th overall. West Virginia shared the regular-season crown with Baylor in 2014 and beat the Bears in the league tournament final in 2017.
There are still five weeks of regular-season play left to see whether Baylor regains control of the league before the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City starts March 10. But just the fact that the conference will start February with first place not feeling like a forgone conclusion is a different atmosphere for the Big 12 than has been the case in a while.
Player of the Week: Aneesah Morrow, DePaul Blue Demons
The freshman nearly gave DePaul coach Doug Bruno his first win over UConn, with 30 points and 14 rebounds in a 80-78 loss on Wednesday. But the Blue Demons rallied from that disappointment to beat St. John's on Friday and Seton Hall on Sunday.
Morrow had 22 points and 18 rebounds versus the Red Storm and 22 points and 27 rebounds against the Pirates. It was the most rebounds by a player in a Division I women's game since Cal's Kristine Anigwe had 30 against Washington State on March 3, 2019. It also broke the Big East record previously held by UConn's Peggy Walsh with 25 in 1986.
Morrow is averaging 20.8 PPG and 12.8 rebounds per game, with 15 consecutive double-doubles.
Win of the Week: Auburn Tigers 71, No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols 61
The Tigers lost their other two games last week, to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. In between those, who would have thought they would knock off Tennessee? It was Auburn's first victory over a top-five team since the 1997 SEC tournament (Georgia), and it ended a streak of 23 consecutive SEC losses. Sophomore Aicha Coulibaly had 26 points and seven rebounds against Tennessee.
Team of the Week: Mississippi State Bulldogs
It has been a challenging season for the Bulldogs, including losing the SEC's leading scorer, Rickea Jackson, last Monday when she announced she was entering the transfer portal. The Bulldogs at that point had lost three games in a row.
They responded by beating Missouri 77-62 on Thursday and Texas A&M 78-58 on Sunday to get to .500 (4-4) in the SEC. Transfer Anastasia Hayes had a combined 46 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in those games.
Coach of the Week: Karl Smesko, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Star guard Kierstan Bell is out after having surgery on Wednesday to repair a partially torn meniscus in her knee. The hope is that she can return in four to six weeks, but there's no guarantee she'll make it back. Bell already has said she will enter April's WNBA draft.
Even with Bell's future uncertain, the Eagles keep rolling under Smesko, beating Eastern Kentucky and Bellarmine last week behind a combined 61 points from senior guard Tishara Morehouse. Smesko is one win away from his 600th career victory, which could come Thursday at Central Arkansas. His record of 599-126 gives him a winning percentage of .826. FGCU, 19-1 overall and 8-0 in the Atlantic Sun, has Division I's longest active road winning streak at 26.
1. South Carolina Gamecocks (20-1)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: vs. Alabama (Thursday)
Look who is on top of the SEC standings again. After victories over Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Florida this past week -- along with Tennessee's stunning loss to Auburn -- the Gamecocks lead the league at 8-1, with the Lady Vols at 7-1. South Carolina is outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 20 points per game.
2. Stanford Cardinal (16-3)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: at UCLA (Thursday), at USC (Sunday)
As if Stanford needed more weapons, sophomore guard Jana Van Gytenbeek had a season-high nine points in Friday's victory over Arizona State then a career-high 18 in Sunday's win over Arizona. Fellow sophomore Cameron Brink had 25 points and 15 rebounds in the national championship rematch with the Wildcats.
3. NC State Wolfpack (19-2)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: at Notre Dame (Tuesday), vs. Florida State (Thursday)
The Wolfpack's 66-58 victory over North Carolina was a lot closer than their first meeting at NC State on Jan. 6, a 72-45 Wolfpack triumph. But a win is a win, and the Wolfpack are 10-0 atop the ACC. It speaks to their depth that they have had a different leading scorer in each of the past four games.
4. Louisville Cardinals (18-2)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Miami (Tuesday), at Clemson (Thursday), at Syracuse (Sunday)
With wins at home over Florida State and Duke last week, the Cardinals will spend this week on the road, starting in Florida and ending in New York. That could be a test of endurance, as they look to stay on the No. 1 seed line.
5. Michigan Wolverines (18-2)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. Indiana (Monday), at Illinois (Thursday), vs. Iowa (Sunday)
The Wolverines beat Purdue then had a 19-point statement win over ranked Ohio State last week. Naz Hillmon had a combined 52 points and 24 rebounds in those games, and she is now the program's all-time leading rebounder. Monday's matchup (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2) with Indiana (6-0 in the Big Ten) could put the Wolverines (9-1) in first place in the league.
6. Tennessee Lady Vols (18-2)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Arkansas (Monday), at Florida (Thursday), at UConn (Sunday)
The Lady Vols lost forward/center Keyen Green to an ACL injury suffered in their Jan. 23 win over Georgia, and that disappointment seemed to impact them on Thursday at Auburn. But that alone doesn't explain their most baffling loss of the season to a Tigers team that had dropped 23 consecutive conference games. The 28 points Tennessee allowed off turnovers hurt a lot. This week will challenge the Lady Vols, who have to bounce back quickly against a surging Razorbacks team that has won four of its past five and must then travel to Florida and Connecticut.
7. Baylor Bears (15-4)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. Oklahoma (Wednesday), vs. Texas (Friday), at Texas (Sunday)
The Bears got victories on the road against Texas Tech and West Virginia last week. Posts NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo went a combined 19-of-22 from the field for 40 points against the Mountaineers. A big week now awaits Baylor.
8. Arizona Wildcats (15-3)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: vs. Oregon (Friday), vs. Oregon State (Sunday)
The Wildcats beat UCLA on Wednesday, had their game against Cal postponed by COVID-19 protocol on Friday and had a battle with Stanford on Sunday. But as was the case in the national championship game in April, the Cardinal came out on top. This week, the Oregon schools visit Tucson, and the Ducks are not likely to have a warm welcome considering how things went Jan. 15, when Arizona lost 68-66 in overtime in Eugene.
9. Indiana Hoosiers (14-2)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: at Michigan (Monday), vs. Minnesota (Thursday), vs. Purdue (Sunday)
Because of COVID-19, the Hoosiers haven't played since beating Purdue on Jan. 16. And leading scorer and rebounder Mackenzie Holmes remains out with an undisclosed knee injury. Indiana is still leading the Big Ten at 6-0 but has a challenging week ahead.
10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-4)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: at Duke (Tuesday)
With victories over Boston College and at Clemson last week, the Yellow Jackets have won seven of their past eight. As for their four losses this season, they have all been by single digits, including the past three by a combined four points.
11. Maryland Terrapins (15-6)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: at Michigan State (Thursday), vs. Nebraska (Sunday)
Wins over Rutgers and at Penn State last week helped get the Terps back on the right track. Combined with their victory over Northwestern on Jan. 23, Maryland has won three in a row after back-to-back losses. Freshman Shyanne Sellers had a combined 15 assists and eight steals against the Scarlet Knights and Nittany Lions.
12. LSU Tigers (18-4)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: No games
The Tigers weren't happy to see their defense shredded at Arkansas in a 90-76 defeat on Thursday. That gave them their first back-to-back losses of the season, following a Jan. 23 defeat at Florida. The Tigers bounced back with a 78-69 victory over Kentucky on Sunday, and now they have a week to rest and practice before traveling to Ole Miss on Feb. 7.
13. Iowa State Cyclones (18-3)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: vs. Kansas State (Wednesday), vs. Oklahoma State (Saturday)
The Cyclones got victories over Kansas and Texas Tech last week, with sophomore guard Emily Ryan getting a combined 34 points and 16 assists. Iowa State is tied atop the Big 12 with Oklahoma. The Cyclones needed a banked-in 3-pointer to win at Kansas State on Jan. 11; how will the rematch this week with the Wildcats go?
14. UConn Huskies (13-4)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: at Creighton (Wednesday), vs. Butler (Friday), vs. Tennessee (Sunday)
The Huskies escaped 80-78 at DePaul on Wednesday, after getting both Azzi Fudd and Christyn Williams back in the lineup. UConn also had a tight game at Providence on Sunday, prevailing 69-61. The Huskies are 8-0 atop the Big East, with DePaul and Creighton both at 10-2. The Bluejays could be a challenge, especially in Omaha, Nebraska. Then the Huskies end the week with their last nonconference game, as the Lady Vols visit Connecticut.
15. Georgia Lady Dogs (16-4)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: vs. Vanderbilt (Thursday), vs. Florida (Sunday)
16. Oregon Ducks (13-5)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: vs. Arizona State (Tuesday), at Arizona (Friday), at Arizona State (Sunday)
The Ducks have won seven in a row, including a forfeit by UCLA on Friday. Nyara Sabally had a combined 38 points in wins over Utah and USC last week. The Ducks have a makeup of a postponed game at home with Arizona State then travel to Arizona for the weekend.
In the waiting room
BYU Cougars (18-1): The Cougars cruised over San Diego, Santa Clara and San Francisco last week. Coming up Saturday, they will face fellow West Coast Conference co-leader Gonzaga.
Oklahoma Sooners (18-3): The Sooners had a big bounce-back week after giving up 61 points to Ayoka Lee in a Jan. 23 loss at Kansas State. They pounded rival Oklahoma State by 26 points and edged Texas by two. Oklahoma beat Baylor earlier this season; can the Sooners make it a sweep on Wednesday?
Texas Longhorns (15-4): The Longhorns have won four of their past five, including decisive victories over Iowa State and Kansas State by the same 66-48 score. They have two shots against nemesis Baylor this week.