Holiday tournaments can produce surprising results and statement wins. This year was no different, but it also included a few odd happenings. Before we get to the weekly awards and women’s college basketball Power Rankings, here are five things you need to know or might have missed about “Feast Week.”
1. Big wins in Portland: UConn and North Carolina both had noteworthy wins in taking the championships at the Phil Knight tournaments in Portland, Oregon. Even with Dorka Juhász currently sidelined and Paige Bueckers out for the season, it’s not too early to say the Huskies once again have the pieces needed for another Final Four run.
The Tar Heels’ last Final Four appearance was 2007, but this junior-led squad hopes it is building back to that level. The ACC is going to be a gauntlet, as usual, but getting two victories over ranked teams in Portland is key nonconference preparation for UNC.
2. A ‘major miss’ in Vegas: The Las Vegas Invitational was, in the words of its beleaguered site manager, a “disaster.” Basketball tournaments can be played in hotel ballrooms, but they must have the right accoutrements and infrastructure, and this event didn’t. It looked embarrassingly bad on social media photos and put a spotlight on the necessity of such events being thoroughly vetted before teams show up. Indiana won two games there, but standout guard Grace Berger suffered a knee injury. Indiana coach Teri Moren said the court and surroundings had nothing to do with Berger getting hurt, but she was disappointed — as were the other teams and coaches — in the setup and called it a “major miss.” Additionally, paramedics took more than 40 minutes to arrive to the court when Auburn’s Kharyssa Richardson was injured after hitting the floor hard while scrambling for a loose ball in a game Saturday.
3. Georgia ejections: At the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, Georgia defeated VCU on Friday despite having five players ejected and another foul out. Four were tossed in the first quarter when forward Jordan Isaacs objected to the Rams’ defense by shoving two VCU players. After that fracas, the Rams shot eight technical free throws. In the third quarter, a fifth Lady Bulldog, Chloe Chapman, was ejected after kicking at a VCU player when both were on the floor.
Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, in her first season a Georgia’s coach, didn’t plan to suspend the five for Saturday’s game against Seton Hall. The SEC, however, stepped in and suspended Chapman for that game based on “the NCAA definition of fighting,” a league spokeswoman said. Georgia lost its first game of the season to the Pirates.
4. Razorbacks resurgence? Another SEC team at the Paradise Jam, Arkansas, didn’t have such drama, but moved to 8-0 with three wins in the Virgin Islands, including over previously unbeaten Kansas State. Obviously, it’s early and the Razorbacks have faced only one ranked team in K-State. But they have the most victories thus far of SEC teams, a strong start for the squad picked to finish fourth in the conference.
5. Strong showing for the Pac-12: Stanford is the overwhelming Pac-12 favorite, but it’s still going to be a very interesting conference race. The 8-1 Cardinal comfortably won their three Rainbow Wahine Showdown games in Hawaii. UCLA (Battle 4 Atlantis), Utah (Baha Mar) and Arizona (San Diego Thanksgiving tournament) also won holiday events. Those three schools are still undefeated, as is USC, which didn’t play in a Feast Week event but won two games at home.
The Wildcats are 6-1, and not surprisingly Siegrist has led them in scoring every game. She totaled 76 points and 18 rebounds as Villanova went 2-1 in the Gulf Coast Showcase. In Sunday’s victory over South Florida, Siegrist became the third player in program history to top 2,000 career points. The senior now has 2,007, which means first place — Wildcats legend Shelly Pennefather’s 2,408, set from 1983 to ’87 — is well within Siegrist’s sights. She is currently averaging 27.4 PPG.
North Carolina beat ranked teams Oregon and Iowa State for the Phil Knight Invitational title, edging closer to a top-five ranking in the AP poll. The Tar Heels haven’t been there since November 2009. Deja Kelly was the tournament MVP; she and fellow juniors Alyssa Ustby and Kennedy Todd-Williams combined for 60 of UNC’s 73 points in the championship game win over the Cyclones.
The Wolverines lost Naz Hillmon off last season’s Elite Eight team, but with four of their top-five scorers back, they are off to a 7-0 start. At the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida, Michigan defeated Air Force and previously unbeaten South Florida before meeting Baylor. The No. 22 Wolverines had five players score in double figures — Emily Kiser led the way with 26 points and 13 rebounds — in topping No. 21 Baylor.
Coach of the Week: Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, Virginia Cavaliers
In her first season at Virginia, “Coach Mox” has brought back hope to the Cavs, who have made the NCAA tournament once in the last 12 seasons. Their 8-0 start is the program’s best since 1992-93, the season after Dawn Staley graduated with three Final Four trips. That opening streak 30 years ago was ended by back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Ohio State, which both reached the Final Four that season. The current Cavs won’t face any opponents of that caliber until they meet the ACC’s best. But the Virginia native Agugua-Hamilton is off to a strong beginning, with wins this past week over Campbell, Minnesota and East Carolina.
South Carolina cruises to an 85-38 victory over Hampton to remain undefeated.
After their big comeback win last week against Stanford, it was a pretty easy week for the Gamecocks with dominant victories over Cal Poly and Hampton. They held both teams below 40 points. The concern is star Aliyah Boston, who was in a walking boot on her right foot after a fall in Sunday’s game. It will be interesting to see how also undefeated UCLA matches up against South Carolina, especially if Boston is out.
The Cardinal might have felt a lingering sting from their overtime loss to South Carolina on Nov. 20, but a successful trip to Hawaii helped. They defeated Florida Gulf Coast, Grambling and Hawaii, with a different leading scorer — Haley Jones, Hannah Jump and Ashten Prechtel — in each game.
Azzi Fudd leads the Huskies with 24 points as UConn outlasts Iowa to win the Phil Knight Legacy Championship.
The Huskies had no trouble with Duke and were able to rally against Iowa to win the Phil Knight Legacy tournament championship. Sophomore Caroline Ducharme, who has been slowed by injury and totaled just six points in her first three games, scored 15 against Iowa, which bodes well for the Huskies’ matchup Sunday at Notre Dame.
Guard Jacy Sheldon missed the Buckeyes’ victories over Wright State and North Alabama with a lower-leg injury that coach Kevin McGuff says is day-to-day. The good news for the Buckeyes is they scored 105 points in each of those games even without Sheldon, as Rebeka Mikulášiková led the way with a combined 41 points. Obviously, it would be helpful to have Sheldon back to face Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Center Lauren Ebo, who is finishing her career at Notre Dame after stops at Penn State and Texas, had her best game with the Irish thus far Saturday. Her 20 points and nine rebounds led them over Arizona State in the Goombay Splash tournament in the Bahamas. This week provides two challenges, both at home.
The Hoosiers wait to hear the status of injured Grace Berger, but they are getting stellar play from forward Mackenzie Holmes. In Indiana’s two victories in Las Vegas, over Auburn and Memphis, Holmes made a strong run at player of the week honors, making 22 of 25 shots from the field for a combined 53 points, and grabbing 17 rebounds. And now there’s a big top-10 matchup with the Tar Heels coming to town.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-0)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Indiana (Thursday)
The Tar Heels have a chance to beat their third consecutive ranked team when they travel to Indiana this week. In their wins over Oregon and Iowa State at the Phil Knight Invitational, they attempted 23 and 28 free throws — the kind of aggressive offense they want. North Carolina also finished strong in both those games, scoring its most points in the fourth quarter.
Stephanie Soares gets up for the rejection
The Cyclones are surely steamed to have lost their first game of the season after building a 17-point lead against North Carolina. They might take out their frustration on the winless Cougars this week. Still, there were several positives in the Phil Knight Invitational for Iowa State — the nation got to see how good NAIA transfer center Stephanie Soares is — but the Cyclones’ struggle against the Tar Heels’ physical defense needs to motivate them.
Caitlin Clark makes smooth jumper vs. UConn Huskies
We saw some stretches of the Hawkeyes’ best against UConn, and that’s the team that is scary to face. Can Iowa bring that against NC State this week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge? Most opponents won’t be able to hold Monika Czinano to single-digit scoring like the Huskies did, although Kate Martin going 6 of 6 from 3-point range made up for it. Caitlin Clark had a combined 53 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists against Oregon State and UConn, numbers that are basically routine for her.
10. NC State Wolfpack (6-1)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: at Iowa (Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The Wolfpack and the Hawkeyes, who meet Thursday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, have a loss to UConn in common. NC State struggled more against the Huskies, but regrouped this past week with victories over Vanderbilt and West Virginia in the Cancun Challenge. Center River Baldwin, a transfer from Florida State, had her best game so far for the Wolfpack with 18 points and 11 rebounds against West Virginia.
At the Goombay Splash event this past week in the Bahamas, the Tigers’ run of 100-point games ended at five, as they scored 80 against George Mason and 99 against UAB. Angel Reese had a combined 46 points and 29 rebounds in those two games as the Maryland transfer’s transition to LSU continues to go smoothly.
Creighton has claimed state bragging rights with victories over both Nebraska (Nov. 15) and Omaha (last Tuesday). The Bluejays had their closest game yet with a six-point win against Xavier last Friday, and now they head into a key conference game at Villanova on Friday.
Longwood Lancers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies: Full Highlights
The Hokies got victories against SEC teams Kentucky and Missouri at the Baha Mar Hoops tournament in the Bahamas, then came home to crunch Longwood. Elizabeth Kitley averaged 21.7 PPG and 12.3 rebounds in those games, and should have interesting matchups at center this week against Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski and Tennessee’s Tamari Key.
The Battle 4 Atlantis didn’t go as the Cardinals hoped, as they lost twice in the Bahamas, including Monday to South Dakota State. They followed that with a 63-point blowout of Longwood. The Jackrabbits outrebounded Louisville by 17, and the Cardinals will have to be wary of that if they hope to upset Ohio State this week in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.
At the Baha Mar tournament in the Bahamas, the Utes beat SEC teams Alabama and Ole Miss. Alissa Pili, the 2020 Pac-12 freshman of the year who transferred from USC, had a combined 39 points in those two games.
The Bruins jump into the Power Rankings just in time to face the No. 1 Gamecocks. UCLA won the Battle 4 Atlantis title with an overtime victory against Marquette last Monday. Senior Charisma Osborne leads UCLA in scoring and rebounding, while freshman Kiki Rice is tops in assists and steals.
Fell out: Maryland