Games to Watch Week 14

TWELVE ranked-vs-ranked matchups made for tough picking

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This week, there are TWELVE matchups between ranked teams, including two top-10 ones, so while we took a quick glance at games involving just one ranked team and/or any rivalry games, there were too many good options just among the 12. The five we picked cover six of the eight conferences that are the strongest in basketball year after year, are on a variety of days, and feature matchups of teams that were separated by six or fewer AP slots as of the January 27 poll.

The seven that missed the cut:

#8 Mississippi State at #23 Tennessee-- 2/6 at 6:30 p.m. ET (SECN)

#1 South Carolina at #25 Arkansas— 2/6 at 8:30 p.m. ET (SECN)

#12 Arizona at #3 Oregon— 2/7 at 9:00 p.m. ET (PAC12N)

#19 Arizona State  at #9 Oregon State— 2/7 at 11:00 p.m. ET (PAC12N)

#12 Arizona at #9 Oregon State— 2/9 at 3:00 p.m. ET (PAC12N)

#15 Kentucky at #25 Arkansas— 2/9 at 4:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

#19 Arizona State at #3 Oregon— 2/9 at 5:00 p.m. ET (PAC12N)

#3 Oregon at #4 UConn— 2/3 at 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Even with the twelve ranked-vs-ranked matchups this week, this one stands above the rest. It is a battle of the third and fourth-ranked teams in the nation. It is also a matchup of teams that are blowing opponents out. Oregon is beating teams by 29.8 points per game, while UConn is not far behind at 25.1, good for second and fourth in the nation, respectively. The three meetings in previous seasons between these two teams will most likely be in no way indicative of how this game will go, as they were all Huskies wins, all blowouts (average margin of victory, 42.67 points), but in all three games, UConn was ranked No. 1 while the Ducks were unranked.

This season, not only is Oregon beating teams by a lot, but the Ducks are also scoring a lot, period. Their 86.8 points per game are best in the nation, as are their 122.5 points per 100 possessions is best nationally, 8.7 points ahead of Baylor. Those numbers, plus their top rankings in two-point percentage, effective field goal percentage, points per scoring attempt, and assist-to-turnover ratio, combine to give Oregon the No. 1 slot in our Her Hoop Stats Offensive Rating, which takes into account the strength of a team’s opponents. The Ducks manage all those impressive numbers even with the No. 2 Simple RPI of any team in the nation, 66.6%.

UConn has played the third-hardest schedule, according to opponent average win percentage. The only categories the Huskies are best nationally in continue to be foul rate and fouls per game, but there are numerous categories UConn is top-10 in. That said, what may be most impressive about the Huskies is that they are nearly as dangerous offensively and defensively. They are eighth nationally in both field goal percentage, at 47.4%, and effective field goal percentage, at 54.1%. They are one and two spots better, respectively, in the same categories when their opponents are taking the shots, with a 33.6% opponent field goal percentage and  38.1% opponent effective field goal percentage. As the AP rankings would indicate, this matchup is one of two VERY strong teams and will be a great way to start the week.

#17 Florida State at #5 Louisville—2/6 at 8:00 p.m. ET (ACCN)

This game is a tale of two teams heading in different directions. Going into the week, Louisville is 10-0 and alone atop the ACC standings and coming off a 32-point win over Notre Dame, while Florida State is 6–4 in the conference, including a loss last week to 11–9 Boston College, albeit without second-leading scorer Nausia Woolfolk. Despite being in different spots, record-wise, the Cardinals and the Seminoles are surprisingly similar in a number of categories, including being top-20 and four or fewer spots apart in field goal percentage, with the Cardinals in the lead.

Florida State, despite being behind Louisville, is still a top-20 team in both overall field goal percentage, ranking 16th at 45.6%, and two-point percentage, 20th at 50.9%. One spot the Seminoles are a stronger rebounding team than the Cardinals. Florida State’s best stat is their 55.8% total rebounding rate, which is 14th in the country and 13 spots ahead of Louisville. Individually, the Seminoles’ best scorer, sophomore Kiah Gillespie, who is averaging 15.4 points per game, is also their leading rebounder, at 8.7 per game.

Louisville’s best scorer, junior Dana Evans, is also the Cardinals’ leading rebounder, at 18.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. As a team, Louisville’s best stat is its 10th-ranked 107.1 points per 100 possessions, but right behind are its 11th-ranked 13.7% block rate and 12th-ranked 46.2% field goal percentage. What is somewhat interesting about both Louisville and Florida State is that they have both defensive and offensive statistical categories in which they are particularly strong. The Cardinals’ Her Hoop Stats Offensive Rating is six slots higher than their Defensive, while the Seminoles are three spots better defensively than offensively, but are 1th and 21st, respectively, in overall HHS rating, and that balance should make for an interesting game.

#13 Maryland at #18 Indiana — 2/6 at 8:00 p.m. ET (BTN)

These two teams have already met once this season, a 76–62 Maryland win, which gave the Terrapins an 8–0 record in the all-time series. In that game, the Hoosiers only scored six points in the second quarter, which gave Maryland a 34–21 halftime lead that Indiana was never able to fully dig out from. While the Terrapins are ranked higher in the AP poll and all three HHS Rating categories, the Hoosiers are not far behind in ranking or HHS Overall and Defensive Ratings. The Offensive Rating gap, the largest among the four categories, is nine, as they rank 15th to the Terrapins sixth.

Going into the week, Maryland is alone in third, behind a tied Northwestern and Iowa. The Terrapins split the season series with the Wildcats, and lost once to the Hawkeyes, with a meeting still to come on February 13th. Overall, the Terrapins are an impressive 10–1 at home, but just 5–3 on the road, which should make this game closer than the 14-point margin in the first meeting. Maryland is beating teams by an average of 24.0 points, fifth-best in the nation. The Terrapins are also scoring 81.1 points per game, eighth-best nationally, but what is really helping them take down opponents is the combination of their third-ranked 12.9 steals per game, good for a second-ranked 15.0% steal rate, and their third-ranked 22.8 opponent turnovers per game, good for a fourth-ranked 26.4% turnover rate.

Indiana is not nearly as strong as Maryland in any of those categories, but the Hoosiers have their own impressive offensive/defensive combination. They are appreciably better shooters than the Terrapins, particularly from two-point range. Indiana’s 47.3% field goal percentage is ninth nationally, while its 53.5% two-point percentage is seventh. At the same time, the Hoosiers are allowing opponents to connect on just 35.8% of their field goal attempts, 27th nationally, while really locking down from beyond the arc, allowing just a 25.3% opponent three-point field goal percentage, good for eighth. Similar to Oregon vs. UConn, both Maryland and Indiana have strengths on both sides of the ball, but the slight difference in where in each area each team excels, and whether the other team can shut down that excellence, may determine the result of this game.

#10 UCLA at #6 Stanford — 2/7 at 11:00 p.m. ET (PAC12N)

Stanford has a 62–25 lead in this series, including a two-game win streak and a 29–10 record in home games against UCLA. If you like fast basketball, this probably isn’t the game for you, as the Bruins and Cardinal are 197th and 238th, respectively, in possessions per 40 minutes. Despite that slow pace, Stanford is 24th nationally in points per game, at 75.4, while UCLA is eight slots behind at 73.8, and each team has just two losses on the season.

UCLA is, as indicated above, a weaker scoring team than Stanford, but are outstanding in a number of categories that have helped the Bruins to their 18–2 record. They are second nationally in opponent steal rate, at 5.8%, just 0.4 percentage points behind leader Arkansas, third in turnover rate, fourth in opponent steals per game, and sixth in offensive rebounds per game. In that offensive rebounds per game category, UCLA is led by junior Lauryn Miller’s 3.1 per game, closely followed by freshman Charisma Osborne’s 2.7 and junior Michaela Onyenwere’s 2.6. Onyenwere is also the team’s leading scorer, and her 19.4 points per game rank 26th nationally.

Stanford‘s best individual scorer, sophomore Lexie Hull, is “only” averaging 13.5 points per game, but as we mentioned, the Cardinal are better shooters than the Bruins as a team. Their 51.3% two-point percentage is 18th nationally, while their 45.4% overall and 51.7% effective field goal percentages are 16th and 19th, respectively. While Stanford is, overall, a better offensive than defensive team, as evidenced by its No. 9 slot in the HHS Offensive Rating compared to its No. 13 slot in the Defensive, the Cardinal’s best statistical category is their ninth-ranked 36.1% opponent two-point percentage, followed closely by their 10th-ranked 44.9% opponent assisted shot percentage. UCLA’s slots in HHS Offensive and Defensive Ratings are just three apart, 26th and 29th, and while Stanford is favored in this game based on its AP ranking, all three HHS Ratings and its shooting numbers, UCLA’s balance and a big game from Onyenwere could make this game closer than expected.

#16 Texas A&M at #8 Mississippi State— 2/9 at 1:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The series between these two teams has only been played since 2011, and Mississippi State is 7–4 in those games, including wins in each of the last six. Both the Bulldogs and Aggies rely heavily on the the two-pointer, getting 66.6% and 67.2% of their points, respectively, from inside the arc.

While Mississippi State is the better shooting team, Texas A&M is the appreciably better rebounding one. The Aggies are better than the Bulldogs in all six rebounding categories (offensive, defensive, and total rebounds per game, and offensive, defensive, and total rebounding rate). Individually, Texas A&M junior N’dea Jones is 15th nationally in total rebounds per game with 11.0, while her 7.4 defensive rebounds per game are 18th. The Aggies also have the highest scorer between the two teams in junior Chennedy Carter, whose 21.9 points per game are 10th nationally, but she has not played since spraining her ankle January 9th.

Mississippi State’s leading scorer, graduate student Jordan Danberry, is averaging “just” 13.6 points per game, but freshman Rickea Jackson is just 0.1 PPG behind her, while sophomore Jessika Carter is just 0.1 PPG behind Jackson. Jessika Carter is also the most accurate shooter on either team, shooting 58.9% overall and from two-point range (she has not taken a single three all season). As a team, the Bulldogs rank seventh nationally in overall field goal percentage at 47.9%, 2.9 percentage points behind leaderBaylor. Mississippi State also ranks 16th nationally from two-point range at 51.6%. This game will be a tough one for Texas A&M, with or especially without Chennedy Carter. Not only are the Bulldogs stronger shooters, but their best category overall is opponent assist-to-turnover ratio, where their 0.48 mark is third nationally, just 0.04 behind leaderBaylor.

Check out our new feature, Lobo’s Look, for comparing any two teams in the country. Here it is for Oregon at UConn, but have fun putting in whichever teams you want to see.

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All stats are from Her Hoop Stats for games through February 2. AP rankings are up to date as of the February 3 poll.

Thanks for reading the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter. If you like our work, be sure to check out our stats site, our podcast, and our social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.