Longtime Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly couldn't remember the last time his team had such an important stretch.
"It's a really big week going to Texas where we haven't played them very well lately and Oklahoma is playing at a very high level," Fennelly said. "It's one of those weeks you hope to have in February."
The Cyclones, who were sixth on Jan. 7, 2002, hold a one-game lead over Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 standings. Iowa State has only won the conference's regular-season crown once, in 2000.
This is only the second time in the program's history that the Cyclones have reached 20 wins in their first 23 games, joining the 200-01 team. Iowa State was missing star Ashley Joens, who averages 19.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, when it lost to Texas because of COVID-19 protocols. She is back now.
"This team is evolving into a really solid team that has done things the right way," Fennelly said. "We've gotten healthier over time and that has helped us and we've won some close games."
Louisville and NC State are two of six Atlantic Coast Conference teams ranked this week. The SEC and Big Ten each have five teams in the poll. The Big 12 has four and the Pac-12 two among Power 5 conferences.
UConn's nine-year undefeated run of conference games ended against Villanova last week; the Huskies hadn't lost a regular season or postseason conference game in either the Big East or the American Athletic Conference since 2013, when they fell to Notre Dame. UConn rebounded with wins over DePaul and Marquette and still has not had back-to-back losses since 1993.
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 12 Tennessee at No. 1 South Carolina, Sunday. The top two teams in the SEC will square off, with the Gamecocks hoping to put some space between themselves and the rest of the conference. ESPN will be on hand for the third College GameDay at a women's basketball game.