With the "Battle of the Undefeateds" going decisively to 25-0 South Carolina, the SEC regular-season champion looks to be decided. Or is it?
About the only thing that didn't go South Carolina's way Sunday was coach Dawn Staley's beloved Philadelphia Eagles losing the Super Bowl. In handing LSU its first loss, 88-64 earlier Sunday, the Gamecocks looked nearly invincible, and they remain firmly atop ESPN's women's college basketball Power Rankings.
But their remaining schedule includes trips to Tennessee and Ole Miss, which sit third and fourth in the SEC. The Gamecocks end the regular season at home against Georgia, which is in the middle of the SEC pack but took LSU to overtime on Feb. 2.
The Gamecocks clearly are the SEC's best team and will be favored in every game they play the rest of the season. But there is still some work to do for the regular-season title, and they are ready.
"Every time we get battle-tested like this, I think it just shows our maturity," South Carolina's Aliyah Boston said after the LSU victory. "We do a great job of taking care of the ball. We just need to continue to do that."
While the Gamecocks have been parked at No. 1 in the Power Rankings since the start of the season, Texas is back in the top 10 for the first time since Week 1 in November. Texas, which has won seven in a row and leads the Big 12 at 11-2, has had a long climb back after losing four of its first seven thanks in part to injury issues.
The Longhorns travel to face Iowa State on Monday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App) in a matchup of one team ascending and the other trying hard to regain its footing after three consecutive losses. The Cyclones, who fell out of the Power Rankings last week, have no real depth and have looked tired the past two weeks.
Iowa State isn't the only team to hit turbulence. At one point, both NC State and North Carolina were both top-10 teams. They meet at NC State on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ACC Network) with both out of the Power Rankings and in the middle of the ACC pack.
But a lot can still happen over the next two-plus weeks, with no Power 5 leader or UConn in the Big East having more than a one-game edge in league standings.
Marquette celebrates after upsetting No. 4 UConn
Player of the Week: Maddy Siegrist, Villanova
Siegrist becomes our second repeat winner for player of the week this season after a combined 77 points and 22 rebounds in wins over Georgetown and Seton Hall. The biggest highlight of another great season for Siegrist was her performance against the Pirates on Saturday: 50 points, more than anyone else has scored in a Division I game in 2022-23. The fact that she went 20 of 26 from the field was as impressive as the point total. At 29.1 PPG, Siegrist has the highest scoring average among Division I women and men.
Her 50 points and 20 made shots set Villanova and Big East single-game records, and she's also now the career scoring leader in Big East games. She has done exactly what Villanova legend Shelly Pennefather told her to do when she became a Wildcat: Break records. Plus, Villanova entered the Power Rankings this week.
Team of the Week: Houston
It might seem strange to highlight a team that is 10-13 overall and won't make the NCAA tournament without winning the American Athletic Conference tournament. Yet the Cougars deserve recognition for two things: Giving South Florida its first conference loss of the season, 71-69 on Sunday, and not getting discouraged by losing 10 of their first 13 games this season.
Nine of those 10 losses were by single digits, and three were in overtime. Then after conference season started, the Cougars lost three league games in a row by a combined seven points. Yet Houston took all these disappointments and kept working. The Cougars now have won four in a row and are tied in second place in the American at 7-3. That's resilience.
Grace Berger makes a nice move for the lay-in
Win of the Week: Marquette 59, UConn 52
Marquette entered last Wednesday's game 0-16 against the Huskies and facing the most daunting streak in women's basketball. UConn had not lost consecutive games since 1993, and the Huskies were coming off a hard-fought 81-77 loss to South Carolina.
But this at last was Marquette's night. Capitalizing on some uncharacteristic mistakes by the Huskies -- including 19 turnovers compared to just eight by the Golden Eagles -- Marquette got a landmark win as seniors Chloe Marotta and Jordan King combined for 37 points.
Coach of the Week: Dawn Staley, South Carolina
It's never easy to repeat a national championship, but Staley has guided the Gamecocks through mostly all smooth waters so far in that mission. She has not only recruited a lot of talent to South Carolina, but molded it.
With Sunday's victory over LSU, South Carolina now has won a program-record 31 games in a row: 25 are from this season, and only four of those have been by single digits. Staley has gotten buy-in from her players on how hard they play and in sharing minutes on a very deep team. The Gamecocks are the last Division I team, women or men, to still be unbeaten.
In wins against Auburn and LSU, one not-to-miss factor was the play of guard Kierra Fletcher, the transfer who missed last season with injury after playing four years at Georgia Tech. She played just 4 minutes, 23 seconds in South Carolina's Feb. 5 win at UConn, but bounced back to play more than 20 minutes in wins over both Tigers teams. She was a key part of the Gamecocks' perimeter defense, which continues to impress. Also of note: South Carolina shot 66.7% from the field in the first quarter against LSU and 76.9% in the fourth: A very strong start and even stronger finish.
Marquette hangs on late to beat UConn for the first time in program history, handing the Huskies two straight losses for the first time in 30 years.
The Hoosiers reach their highest spot in the Power Rankings this season after a big win over Iowa, led by Grace Berger's and Mackenzie Holmes' combined 50 points. After just one game last week, the Big Ten leaders have three this week, two against ranked teams. This is, obviously, a huge week for the Hoosiers in terms of trying to secure a Big Ten regular-season championship. The program hasn't done it since tying Ohio State for the title in 1982-83, the first season the conference began sponsoring women's basketball.
3. LSU Tigers (23-1)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Ole Miss (Thursday), at Florida (Sunday)
The Tigers had a tough start at South Carolina, but they made a game of it at least for a few stretches. Having just nine turnovers was a positive for a team that has been bothered by them. However, South Carolina negated one of LSU's biggest strengths, winning the rebounding battle 43-25, and the Tigers had just five assists. Much credit goes to how hard South Carolina makes post-entry passes, as the Tigers had trouble executing some of the things they've done well all season. Still, having just one loss at this point means LSU is in great shape.
After a kick-in-the-pants upset loss to Washington on Feb. 5, the Cardinal had a dominant visit to the desert. In an 84-60 win over Arizona, senior Haley Jones played one of her best games of the season with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Then in a 96-64 victory over Arizona State, Stanford -- which has had some inexplicably poor offensive performances this season -- topped 90 points for the first time since Dec. 31, when the opponent was also the Sun Devils. It was a good week for a Stanford team that's facing a tough end to the regular season, with three ranked opponents remaining.
Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes dismantle Rutgers in a 54-point home victory.
UConn's 30-year run of not losing back-to-back games finally ended when the Huskies fell to Marquette after losing to South Carolina. The length of the streak is so preposterous, it seems impossible it will ever be matched again. Coach Geno Auriemma gave credit to Marquette, but acknowledged his Huskies looked mentally exhausted. UConn subsequently beat Georgetown 67-59, but had 23 turnovers to the Hoyas' 14. The Huskies are still in the Power Rankings' top five, but that could be challenged this week, especially at Villanova.
Utah has no problems with Washington as they cruise to the large victory.
Despite 35 points and 10 assists from Caitlin Clark, the Hawkeyes weren't able to get the road win at Indiana last week, but it doesn't hurt their NCAA tournament standing. They went home and took care of business against Rutgers in a big way, topping 100 points for the fourth time this season. For just the second time in 25 games, Clark wasn't Iowa's leading scorer, as she played just 21 minutes with Iowa's bench getting lots of time. The Huskers might be a tricky foe this week; they lost by just four points when the teams met in Iowa City on Jan. 28.
After a dominant win over Northwestern, the Terps were in some trouble against Illinois, trailing 37-28 at halftime. But Maryland took over the third quarter 31-8 and then won by 11. This despite going 0-for-17 from behind the arc. What worked for Maryland was free throw shooting (18 of 18) and Diamond Miller, who had 31 points and has been playing especially well in February.
Shaylee Gonzales shows off vision with nice pass vs. TCU Horned Frogs
8. Utah Utes (22-2)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Arizona (Friday), at Arizona State (Sunday)
The Utes have the longest winning streak in the Pac-12 at seven in a row: Victories over Washington and Washington State last week kept them tied atop the Pac-12 with Stanford. After the Huskies had upset the Cardinal on Feb. 5, they had no such luck against Utah. The Utes won 92-69 and made 16 3-pointers, five of them by Gianna Kneepkens.
Duke's games might not be the most enjoyable to watch if you like offense: The Blue Devils don't score a lot of points and they give up even fewer. That was the case in wins over Boston College (68-27) and Miami (50-40) this past week. But it's a formula that has worked well, with the Blue Devils leading the ACC at 12-2 and going for their first regular-season conference title since 2013.
Olivia Miles shows off vision with nice dish vs. Syracuse Orange
This past week, the Longhorns avenged their last loss -- Jan. 18 at Texas Tech -- by topping Tech at home 80-71 and then beating TCU 70-50. It was a big week for transfer guard Shaylee Gonzales, who had a combined 41 points in those victories. Texas won the Big 12 tournament last season, but the Longhorns are trying to win their first regular-season league championship since 2004.
The Sooners had one of their most emotional victories of the season last week against Baylor, as they rallied in the final minute of regulation and won 98-92 in overtime. They followed with an 85-68 win against Kansas State to finish a good week on the road. Oklahoma has had five different players as leading scorers in the last five games. The Sooners lead the Big 12 in assists with 21.3 per game, including 26 and 27 this past week. At 10-3 and a game behind Texas in the Big 12, the Sooners are the only other team with a realistic chance of winning the league regular-season title.
The Irish didn't do anything wrong to drop two spots in the Power Rankings, they were just edged by slightly bigger weeks by Texas and Oklahoma. Notre Dame's 69-63 win over Pitt was closer than most expected -- but to be fair, the Panthers also got their first two ACC victories of the season in the past eight days. Notre Dame also downed Syracuse, and at 11-3 in the league the Irish are a game behind leader Duke.
13. Virginia Tech Hokies (20-4)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: vs. Duke (Thursday), vs. NC State (Sunday)
Speaking of ACC contenders, don't count out the Hokies. They are tied for third place in the league at two games behind Duke, but have a chance to draw closer as they host the Blue Devils this week. Virginia Tech is coming off two victories over ranked teams (NC State and Florida State) last week in which Georgia Amoore made a strong case for national player of the week with a combined 52 points and 15 assists.
14. Michigan Wolverines (20-5)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: at Indiana (Thursday)
Leigha Brown is a consistent force for the Wolverines, but seems to really relish facing her former team, Nebraska. Brown had 23 points, five rebounds and 10 assists on Sunday in an 80-75 victory over the Cornhuskers. In Michigan's win in December at Nebraska, Brown had 20, eight and seven. She played two seasons at Nebraska before transferring to Michigan, and is finishing her fifth season there. This week brings the Wolverines their second shot at Indiana; they lost to the Hoosiers on Jan. 23.
The NCAA top-16 reveal last week had five Big Ten teams, and the Buckeyes were one of them despite having lost four of their last six games. This past week, they clobbered Minnesota 93-63 even while short-handed. Ohio State didn't have guard Jacy Sheldon, who had returned the previous week after being out since November with a foot injury, and forward Rebeka Mikulasikova suffered an ankle sprain 4 minutes into the game and didn't return. The Buckeyes will need to work hard to hold onto their seed, as they face three ranked opponents in their last four regular-season games.
16. Villanova Wildcats (22-4)
Previous ranking: NR
This week: at St. John's (Wednesday), vs. UConn (Saturday)
Villanova, which makes its Power Rankings debut this week, also was in the NCAA committee's top 16. The Wildcats' losses have all been to ranked teams, including the most recent: Jan. 29 at UConn. The rematch with the Huskies is this week; last season the Wildcats gave UConn its only conference loss. Siegrist's huge performances earned her the national player of the week honors, but they weren't all there was to Villanova's wins over Georgetown and Seton Hall. The Wildcats also had a combined 49 assists in those games.
Knocked out: North Carolina (No. 11)