Women’s college basketball – Who are the best unbeaten Power 5 teams?

The unbeaten teams in women’s college basketball range from a program that has won 11 national championships (UConn) to one that made its only NCAA tournament appearance nearly 30 years ago (Washington State). Through Sunday’s games, 16 teams in the Power 5 conferences and the Big East remain undefeated (minimum three games played).

Are they best defined as unbeaten or untested? The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, has tested every team, literally and figuratively. Plus, there are some one-loss teams — led by South Carolina and Baylor — that are in the top 10 of the rankings.

But in terms of competition, how do the unbeaten teams stack up? Our top-10 unbeatens are Stanford, UConn, NC State, Louisville, Oregon, Texas A&M, Arizona, Northwestern, Michigan State and Michigan.

Now let’s look by conference.

Pac-12

Unbeaten teams (four): No. 1 Stanford (6-0), No. 6 Arizona (6-0), No. 7 Oregon (6-0), Washington State (3-0)

It was a celebratory week for the Cardinal, as they secured coach Tara VanDerveer’s record-breaking 1,099th victory Tuesday. Befitting its top ranking, Stanford is one of the most balanced teams in the country, with five players averaging in double figures, led by sophomore forward Haley Jones (16.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG). The Cardinal haven’t been pushed yet; their closest game was Saturday’s 80-60 victory at USC. But their next four opponents, starting Monday — UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon — could all shed some light on how the Cardinal handle more pressure.

All but the Sun Devils are ranked, and the meeting with Oregon — which beat Stanford three times last season, including in the Pac-12 tournament title game — will be one of the most anticipated matchups nationally this season.

The Ducks might be a bit under the radar compared to last season because of the departures of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthie Hebard and Satou Sabally to the WNBA. But while Oregon is less star-driven, it is still a fun team to watch, as new standouts such as forward Nyara Sabally (Satou’s younger sister) and guards Te-Hina Paopao and Sydney Parrish emerge. Five Ducks have led the way in scoring in their six games; senior forward Erin Boley averages a team-best 12.7 points. Oregon’s closest game was a 20-point victory: 79-59 over Oregon State.

Arizona has already survived three squeakers, all against Pac-12 foes: 68-64 over UCLA, 78-77 against USC and 62-59 at Colorado on Friday. The UCLA game was expected to be tough; both teams were ranked in the top 10 at the time. Against the Trojans, the Bruins struggled from 3-point range (2-of-12), and against the Buffs, they shoot poorly overall (33.9%). But senior Aari McDonald — a predicted lottery pick in the WNBA draft — is averaging a Pac-12-best 21.7 PPG, plus 6.0 RPG for the Wildcats, who start the new year hosting Stanford on Jan. 1.

Washington State is rarely in the Pac-12 conversation. The Cougars’ most recent winning conference record was 10-8 in 1991, when they made their NCAA tournament trip. They’ve had one winning record overall in the past 20 seasons: 17-15 in 2014-15. But Washington State snapped a 37-game losing streak to ranked teams by upsetting No. 21 Oregon State on Saturday for the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since a victory again No. 9 UCLA in January 2017. Washington State also has defeated in-state rival Washington. With Oregon coming up Monday, the Cougars aren’t likely to be unbeaten much longer. But it has been a good start.

Predicted last undefeated team: Stanford

SEC

Unbeaten teams (four): No. 10 Texas A&M (8-0), Alabama (7-0), Georgia (7-0), Ole Miss (6-0)

Alabama hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1999. Led by senior forward Jasmine Thomas — who averages 22.1 PPG and 9.9 RPG and is someone to watch in the WNBA draft — maybe the Crimson Tide will return. Their best win so far has been at Oklahoma State, and the Tide will get a big test early in SEC season when they host No. 5 South Carolina on Jan. 4.

Georgia’s best win was 75-69 at Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs are led by senior center Jenna Staiti (15.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG), and we’ll see how they match up with No. 13 Mississippi State in their SEC opener.

Ole Miss, which most recently made an NCAA tournament appearance in 2007, had a nightmarish 2019-20 season, at 0-16 in the SEC and 7-23 overall. Transfer forward Shakira Austin (17.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG) coming from Maryland has helped a lot. The Rebels’ best win came against Kansas, but the rubber meets the road Dec. 31, when they travel to take on conference favorite South Carolina.

Predicted last unbeaten team: Texas A&M

Big Ten

Unbeaten teams (four): No. 16 Northwestern (3-0), No. 17 Ohio State (4-0), No. 19 Michigan (5-0), Michigan State (6-0)

Northwestern didn’t open its season until Dec. 10. The Wildcats have looked good so far — including dominant wins over Big Ten opponents Minnesota and Purdue — led by guard Veronica Burton (22.7 PPG). The Wildcats looked poised for perhaps their deepest NCAA tournament run in 2019-20 before the pandemic cut the season short. This year’s players could have that in them, too.

Michigan State isn’t ranked, but that could change soon. The Spartans’ best victories are against Iowa and Central Michigan, with guard Nia Clouden averaging a team-best 19.2 PPG. Michigan State was 16-14 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten last season and wasn’t close to making Charlie Creme’s final Bracketology. But the Spartans were in the field nine times in the previous 11 seasons and could be headed back.

Michigan’s top victory thus far was against Notre Dame. The Wolverines were supposed to start the Big Ten season against Illinois on Saturday, but COVID-19 protocols postponed the game. Junior forward Naz Hillmon averages 24.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG.

The Buckeyes have cruised so far, but they also haven’t played since Dec. 10. On a pause because of COVID-19, their next scheduled game is Jan. 4 against Penn State.

Predicted last unbeaten team: Northwestern

ACC

Unbeaten teams (two): No. 2 Louisville (5-0), No. 4 NC State (8-0)

The Cardinals are on a COVID-19 pause that has postponed their past three games. Whenever they come back, they’ll be tough to stop behind senior Dana Evans (ACC-leading 21.0 PPG) and freshman Hailey Van Lith (15.6 PPG), two outstanding guards. The Cardinals are averaging an ACC-best 89.8 PPG, and NC State is third in scoring at 83.3. Both teams lost some key players to graduation, but so far, they have lost no ground in the ACC.

The Wolfpack have what’s still the biggest win of the season, beating then-No. 1 South Carolina on the road 54-46 on Dec. 3. They had to rally against Boston College on Dec. 13, but it was hard to find much wrong with their 78-47 victory Sunday against Miami. Junior center Elissa Cunane is averaging a team-best 15.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG and showed off her 3-point range (3-of-5) against the Hurricanes.

The teams meet Jan. 17 at Louisville in what’s expected to be the ACC game of the season. The Cardinals’ defense won that matchup last year at NC State 66-59. Top-seeded Louisville fell in the semifinals of the ACC tournament to Florida State, which prevented a rematch, and the Wolfpack won the title.

Predicted last unbeaten team: Louisville

Big East

Unbeaten teams (two): No. 3 UConn (4-0), Villanova (7-0)

One of these teams will get its first loss Tuesday, when UConn and Villanova play in Philadelphia. It will be the first time that UConn’s Geno Auriemma will face the Wildcats without his friend Harry Perretta, who retired after coaching Villanova for 42 seasons, on the sideline. Former Wildcat player Denise Dillon is now Villanova’s head coach.

The Huskies’ four victories are by an average of 40.8 points, with freshman Paige Bueckers leading them in scoring twice and juniors Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams leading the other two times.

Auriemma said he is concerned about communication on defense, but for a team with six freshmen, that is not surprising. UConn gave up 29 points to Seton Hall guard Lauren Park-Lane on Dec. 15. On Tuesday, the Huskies face one of the best sophomores in the country in forward Maddy Siegrist (24.4 PPG, 12.6 RPG).

“She’s got a lot of ways to beat you,” Auriemma said. “That’s going to be really good for us because we have to be able to identify who can shut down somebody on the other team without needing help every time down the floor. They’re going to have a tough job, whoever that is.”

Villanova’s closest call this season was a 48-46 victory at Drexel — where Dillion coached for 17 seasons — on Dec. 13.

Predicted last unbeaten team: UConn

Weekly superlatives

Player of the week: Arella Guirantes, Rutgers

The Rutgers senior guard averaged 27.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists in a loss to Maryland and wins over Hampton and Sacred Heart. Guirantes is averaging 24.2 PPG this season for the 4-1 Scarlet Knights.

North Carolina center Janelle Bailey (averaged 19.3 points and 11.0 rebounds in a loss to Miami and wins against No. 18 Syracuse and Wake Forest) and Central Michigan guard Micaela Kelly (combined 55 points in a win against Miami of Ohio and loss to Michigan State) also get shout-outs.

Team of the week: South Dakota State

After losing road games to Kansas State and Northern Iowa, South Dakota State fell out of the Top 25. But the Jackrabbits bounced back by beating Drake and No. 20 Missouri State, the latter on the road, behind a combined 40 points and 21 rebounds from junior forward Myah Selland. That might not propel them back into the poll, but it was a strong bounce back.

Coach of the week: Tara VanDerveer, Stanford

You guessed it. The Cardinal coach got her Division I-record 1,099th victory Tuesday and No. 1,100 on Saturday.

“It’s been really overwhelming,” VanDerveer said of all the well wishes. “I feel a lot of love.”

Win of the week: DePaul 86, Kentucky 82

The third try against a ranked team this season went the way of No. 24 DePaul, as the Blue Demons upset No. 9 Kentucky 86-82 on Wednesday behind Sonya Morris’ 23 points. DePaul, which lost earlier this season to ranked Texas A&M and Louisville, followed the upset with a 72-54 win over Georgetown.

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