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NCAA Women’s Basketball: Top Early Season Non-Conference Matchups
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It’s September, many students are back on campus, and we’re just two short months away from the start of the 2022-23 NCAA women’s basketball season. That’s enough to be excited for in itself, but there are also plenty of great games scheduled early in the season to look forward to. Here’s a look at some of the best non-conference matchups set to happen before the new year:
This early-season matchup already had lots of intrigue since it features two teams likely to rank among the preseason top five. With Paige Bueckers’ season-ending ACL injury, the Huskies could fall lower in initial polls, but this contest still has a lot of potential. For the Longhorns, we’ll get a look at what last year’s Big 12 Freshman of the Year Rori Harmon looks like in her sophomore campaign against top competition and how grad transfers Sonya Morris (DePaul) and Shaylee Gonzales (BYU) fit into the Texas system. For UConn, this game will be a great early measuring stick for where a Bueckers-less squad stands among the nation’s top teams.
There’s not much more you can ask for in an early-season matchup than a clash between the two most recent champions and what figures to be two of the best teams in the country next season. With the likes of Aliyah Boston, Haley Jones and Cameron Brink, this game has no shortage of star power and is likely to be decided in the frontcourt. Both the Gamecocks and the Cardinal will have some questions to answer in the backcourt this season. South Carolina will need to find a way to replace Destanni Henderson’s production, and Stanford struggled throughout last season with finding a solution at the point. This game will be a good test of which team has it figured out early on.
This figures to be a battle between two teams which look almost entirely different than they did last season. However, both have made some big moves in the transfer portal which, if the pieces come together, could land them among the country’s best teams. Maryland returns Diamond Miller and adds Lavender Briggs (Florida), Abby Meyers (Princeton) and Elisa Pinzan (USF) to fill the holes left by the players that transferred out of Brenda Frese’s program. Baylor’s biggest pickups include SEC standouts Dre’Una Edwards (Kentucky) and Aijha Blackwell (Missouri) in Nicki Collen’s second season, which could help lessen the blow of losing NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo to the WNBA.
NC State has plenty of questions to answer heading into the new season with the graduations of Elissa Cunane and Rayna Perez, but the Wolfpack have made some solid offseason acquisitions, including Maryland transfer Mimi Collins and South Carolina’s Saniya Rivers. Iowa, on the other hand, is set to look very similar to last season. The nation’s top offense returns all five starters, including dynamic duo Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano. With roster changes for the Wolfpack and the Hawkeyes coming off a disappointing second-round NCAA tournament loss last season, both teams face some uncertainty heading into the 2022-23 campaign. This game, which features the country’s top two offenses from last season, will give fans a compelling look at what both squads look like against top-25 caliber competition.
Tennessee figures to be back in the national contender conversation this season after slowly climbing their way back up through the rankings over the last few years. While South Carolina is still the overwhelming favorite in the SEC, the return of Tamari Key and Jordan Horston should have the Lady Vols as strong contenders for second. The pair also makes for an intriguing matchup against the Hokies’ All-American center Elizabeth Kitley and Maryland transfer Ashley Owusu. Tech should be considered a contender to win the ACC this season, leaving this as a riveting battle between two standout power conference teams.
While part of a double-header with UConn at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, this should actually be the game of the day. Coming off another strong Big 12 season last year, Iowa State figures to be among the top ten teams in the country with Ashley Joens forgoing the WNBA draft to return for another season. Villanova likely won’t be ranked to start the year but poses a sneaky good matchup with the Cyclones. Senior Maddy Siegrist, the reigning Big East Player of the Year and among the best players in the country, should make for an interesting matchup with Joens. While some may think Iowa State will run away with this one, it could be much closer than expected.