The Big 12 Conference is done with Week 10 of the 2021-22 women’s basketball season. So let’s dive in and check out our five takeaways for the week.
This is the Week, Iowa State
Iowa State remains the only team left with an unblemished record in Big 12 play, either men’s or women’s. The Cyclones’ only loss is to LSU, which at the time was not ranked but is now a Top 25 team.
The Cyclones have, thus far, dispatched with five Big 12 opponents. But Iowa State hasn’t had to tangle with Texas or Baylor yet.
That is about to change.
Iowa State hosts Texas on Wednesday and then travels to Baylor on Sunday.
The Cyclones have a golden opportunity to not just make a national statement, but put some clear separation between themselves (16-1, 5-0 in Big 12) and the two teams that many considered the favorites going into this season.
If Iowa State beats Texas, it builds a three-game lead on the Longhorns. If Iowa State beats Baylor, it builds a three-game lead on the Bears.
Iowa State hasn’t won a Big 12 Tournament title since 2001. The Cyclones haven’t won, or shared, a Big 12 regular-season title since 2000.
Two wins this week would put the Cyclones in firm control of the race with nearly half of their league games behind them. It doesn’t assure Iowa State of a league title, of course. But no team in the league is playing better, and has a better schedule set-up, to put them in the driver’s seat NOW than Iowa State.
Let’s Talk About NET
I wrote about the Big 12 men’s overall NET ratings in my takeaways piece on Monday. So, here are the women’s NET rankings, as of Monday evening:
7. Iowa State
20. Kansas State
52. West Virginia
70. Texas Tech
75. Oklahoma State
While the women have one team outside of the Top 100 in NET, like the men, the NET shows the quality of the league and why, when it comes to Bracketology, the league looks like a solid six-bid league. It could be seven, and that’s where you see West Virginia. In the last two ESPN Bracketology releases I’ve seen, it’s West Virginia that is on the outside looking in. Right now, the Mountaineers’ NET rating is likely a product of its slow start to Big 12 play, and it is keeping them out of the field. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State can still play their way into the field, based on their respective NETs. The Lady Raiders have shown they’re capable, with wins over Texas and Kansas State. What Oklahoma State needs is wins, period.
The women’s race to the NCAA Tournament has the makings to be as competitive as the men’s come March.
Let’s Talk About Records
Last week, the Big 12 had a big one fall, and another player inch closer to a program record. Oklahoma sharp-shooter Taylor Robertson became the all-time leading 3-point shooter in Big 12 history, while Iowa State’s Ashley Joens became the third Cyclone in program history to score at least 2,000 points.
And neither may be done yet.
Robertson broke her record in the mid-week game against Baylor. After doing so, she added two more 3-pointers against TCU to give her 395 for her career. What was lost in Robertson’s performance against Baylor is that she became the all-time leader in 3-pointers for men AND women.
She can now set her sights on breaking her own Big 12 record of 131 made 3-pointers in a single season (that’ll take about 4.4 3-pointers per game, which is her current pace). The NCAA single-season record is 154, set by Idaho’s Taylor Pierce in 2019. That might be a bit out of reach.
Robertson is also 102 3-pointers away from the NCAA career record of 497. That seems unreachable this season. But, there’s a catch — Robertson has a COVID year of eligibility to tap into, if she chooses to. We’ll have to wait to see whether Robertson wants to come back for a fifth year.
Joens passed 2,000 career points in the Cyclones’ come-from-behind win over Kansas State last Tuesday, pushing her to 2,013 career points. Then, against Oklahoma State, Joens scored 12 points push her career total to 2,025.
Like Robertson, she has more to do. Joens is just 124 points from tying, and 125 points from passing, Angie Welle, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,149 points. If Joens keeps her current scoring average of 20.3 points, Cyclones fans won’t have to wait long for her career milestone. And, if it works outright, it could happen at Hilton Coliseum. The target games look like Kansas State on Feb. 2 or Oklahoma State on Feb. 5.
And that would be fitting for a player that has redefined Iowa State women’s basketball.
Kansas is Getting There
I have a little experience with Brandon Schneider. He was the women’s coach at Stephen F. Austin, my alma mater, from 2010-15. We snagged him from Emporia State. Schneider never got us to the NCAA Tournament, but helped us retain respectability, with three 23-win seasons, two regular-season conference titles, and a WNIT berth, along with two WBI berths. He left us in good shape when he went to Kansas after the 2014-15 season.
I also have experience with Marian Washington, the legendary Jayhawks coach who built the program. Back in 1994, when I was covering the Ladyjacks, it was her Jayhawks that came to Nacogdoches, Texas, and eliminated us from the NCAA Tournament.
But, up until now, Schneider hasn’t been able to replicate the success that he had at both SFA and Emporia State. But this season may finally be different.
The Jayhawks went to Austin last week and beat Texas to win a game at the Erwin Center for the first time in a decade and beat a ranked team for the first time in four years. Then, on Sunday, the Jayhawks came within a hair of beating Baylor, which would have given them back-to-back ranked wins for the first time in more than a decade. The Bears prevailed. But the Jayhawks have served notice that their NCAA Tournament aspirations aren’t just a pipe dream.
The Jayhawks are built inside and outside. Inside, it’s 6-foot-6 Taiyanna Jackson, who is averaging 8.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Outside its Holly Kersgieter, who leads the team with 14.3 points and is the leading 3-point shooter on the team. Zakiyah Franklin averages 11.1 points and leads the Jayhawks with 57 assists, while Aniya Thomas averages 10.2 points. Kersgieter and Jackson have more than 50 steals combined.
What I saw against Texas was a team that is tough, plays great defense and is just plain hard to put away. Like several other Big 12 teams, the Jayhawks got a late start due to COVID. But the fact that Kansas was able to get off to this kind of a start, against these teams, says something about where the Jayhawks may be heading.
Three Games I’m Intrigued by This Week
Texas at Iowa State, Jan. 19: We’ve been over this.
Oklahoma at Kansas State, Jan. 23: I think they’re both making the NCAA Tournament. But if one doesn’t, this game might be a clear differentiator.
Iowa State at Baylor, Jan. 23: We’ve been over this, part two. Big week for the Cyclones.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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