The Big 12 Conference is done with Week 13 of the 2021-22 women’s basketball season. So let’s dive in and check out our five takeaways for the week.
How Good is Texas, Really?
The Texas Longhorns went to the Elite Eight in the last NCAA Tournament and signed one of the best recruiting classes in the country in 2021. Even with the loss of Charli Collier, who left a season early to become the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s WNBA Draft, the sentiment was that Texas could be at least as good as they were a season ago, if not better, by March.
Does that possibility still exist? Yes. But the pathways for that to happen are narrowing.
We forget that Big 12 play wasn’t particularly kind to Texas last year. The Longhorns went 11-7 and lost in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. But they had Collier to help them power through on the offensive end. She was basically a walking double-double most nights, sort of like Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith has been this season.
Texas doesn’t have that player this season. What they have is a collection of quality guards in Rori Harmon, Joanne Allen-Taylor, Aliyah Matharu and Audrey Warren. Matharu is Texas’ leading scorer with about 15 points per game, while Harmon and Allen-Taylor average close to 10 per game. Warren has her moments, but her defense and toughness are her best assets.
What Texas DOESN’T have, at least at the moment, is an approximation at forward that is anything close to the dynamic that Collier brought last year. The Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, Aaliyah Moore, was thrown off track by an injury that cost her most of non-conference and the first portion of Big 12 play. Outsiders may have thought she would be a bigger part of the offense by this point. Instead it’s Lauren Ebo, who is a solid rebounder, and DeYona Gaston, who is the only consistent scorer the Longhorns have inside, but she’s averaging less than half what Collier did last season.
What this season now appears to represent is a transition season under head coach Vic Schaefer. While the Longhorns will most assuredly reach the NCAA Tournament, I think they have a ceiling that keeps them from getting to the Final Four. I don’t see the Longhorns closing that gap.
If there’s good news, it’s this. The 2021 freshman class has tons of potential. Harmon looks like she’s going to run the point the next three seasons. Schaefer is sitting on another phenomenal class in 2022. Gaston can be a much better player next season. The Longhorns are an attractive programs for transfers. And, Matharu has another season ahead.
But, last year’s Elite Eight run may have sent everyone’s expectation to an unrealistic level.
Ashley Joens Record Check
Time for some math as we check in on Iowa State’s Ashley Joens and her pursuit of the Cyclones’ all-time scoring record (as of Feb. 7):
Career Points Scored in Iowa State History:
1. Angie Welle (1999-02) — 2,149
2. Bridget Carleton (2016-19) — 2,142
3. Ashley Joens (2019-present) — 2,106
Points remaining to pass Welle — 44
Joens and the Cyclones are off until Saturday when they face TCU in Fort Worth. After that, it’s a trip to Texas on Feb. 16. It’s possible she could achieve this milestone away from Hilton. If she doesn’t, the Cyclones return home against Oklahoma on Feb. 19, and you KNOW there will points scored that night. For more on that …
Oklahoma’s Scoring ‘Boost’
For the third time this season, Oklahoma scored at least 100 points in a game, as it beat West Virginia, 101-99, in double overtime. Previously, the Sooners scored 100 points against TCU and 101 points against Arkansas State. These Sooners are going to be a dangerous team in the Big 12 Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament because not only can they score a lot of points, but they have about a half-dozen different players that can lead the way.
But, this is about more than just this season for first-year Sooners coach Jennie Baranczyk, though I’m sure that’s her focus. No, the impact of this season will reverberate once it’s complete.
Why? Who WOULDN’T want to play for the second-highest scoring team in the country next season?
But, is there room for anyone to come to Norman?
The Sooners have four listed seniors on their roster — Nydia Lampkin, Ana Llanusa, Taylor Robertson and Madi Williams. Robertson and Williams have COVID seasons they could potentially tap into. Lampkin is listed as a senior, but she opted out last season due to COVID-19, so she could return next season, too. Llanusa missed all of last season with an injury, and this season was over after 10 games. This is her fifth season of college basketball, but it’s not unheard of for players to get an injury waiver for a sixth season, if she wanted to apply for one.
Baranczyk already has a four-player recruiting class for 2022 — Kayla Cooper, Beatrice Culliton, Kiersten Johnson and Reyna Scott.
It would seem that the Sooners are, for the moment, full. But if that changes, the chances look good that the Sooners could use the transfer portal to their advantage this upcoming offseason. And, if all of that talent stays, well the Sooners should be even better next season.
Either way, Baranczyk has quickly built a program that looks poised to last, and she’s making athletic director Joe Castiglione look really smart for hiring her. So even if OU doesn’t cash in this offseason, they’re primed to do so for years to come.
This Week in ‘Emily Ryan’s Stat Line is Insane’
So, Ryan did this against Oklahoma State on Saturday:
Ryan also did this:
As crowded as the field is for Big 12 Player of the Year is (Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee and Iowa State’s Ashley Joens), the field for the conference’s best point guard is pretty crowded too (Ryan, Texas’ Rori Harmon, Baylor’s Jordan Lewis and even Kansas State’s Serena Sundell). It’s not an actual award. But it’s a nod to the quality of the point guard play in the Big 12 this season. The great news? Only Lewis is leaving after this season.
Three Games I’m Intrigued by This Week
Kansas State at Baylor, Wednesday: Kansas State won the first meeting. But, Baylor wasn’t at full strength. The Bears are now.
Iowa State at TCU, Saturday: The Cyclones have a week off and TCU is capable of beating a ranked team. It’s one of those recipes we’ve seen before.
Oklahoma at Texas, Saturday: A big thank you to the powers-that-be for putting a game between ranked teams on the Longhorn Network. Great job making sure only half of your intended audience can watch.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.