NCAAW what to watch week 7: Pivotal SEC games while 6 top-10 teams off due to COVID-19 issues

Cassandra Negley
·9 min read

It’s a messy situation for the Division I women’s basketball schedule seven weeks into the season. Six of the top 10 teams in the Associated Press top-25 rankings are either on pause or had a game called off because of COVID-19 related issues this past week.

The postponements correlate with surging cases all over the United States in the weeks after the holidays and New Year’s. Teams are approaching the halfway point of the season.

To keep up with what to watch this weekend — including two SEC matchups of ranked opponents — here is where the teams on pause stand and which top games are scheduled to be played as of Friday afternoon.

COVID-19 pauses: UConn, South Carolina, Baylor, Syracuse, NC State

UConn-Baylor matchup canceled

Geno Auriemma and Paige Bueckers on the court.
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Paige Bueckers. UConn was impacted again by COVID-19 related issues. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)

The much-anticipated matchup between No. 3 UConn and No. 6 Baylor was canceled on Tuesday after Bears coach Kim Mulkey tested positive for COVID-19. UConn (6-0, 5-0 Big East) announced the following day their scheduled game on Jan. 13 against Xavier is postponed due to contact tracing with the Musketeers.

Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette and St. John's are also on a COVID-19 pause in the Big East. The Huskies delayed the start to their season by two weeks due to a positive test in their group.

Baylor (8-1, 3-0 Big 12) is one of five top-25 programs on a pause this weekend due to positives in its own group. The Bears are scheduled to return to action on Jan. 13.

Five top-25 programs pause activities

N.C. State (10-0, 5-0 ACC), which is tied with UConn at No. 3 in the AP poll, postponed its two games this week due to contact tracing in its program and ACC protocol. The Wolfpack were to play Virginia Tech on Thursday and Wake Forest on Sunday.

No. 5 South Carolina (7-1, 2-0 SEC) is paused after a positive result in Wednesday’s batch of testing. The Gamecocks Thursday game against Georgia was postponed due to the positive test, contact tracing and quarantine guidelines set force by the SEC. As of Friday afternoon they are still scheduled to play No. 10 Kentucky on Sunday. Head coach Dawn Staley put it into perspective:

No. 24 Syracuse (5-1, 2-1 ACC) is still on a break after announcing a positive COVID-19 test on Dec. 27. The Orange postponed its scheduled game against Notre Dame on Sunday. It’s the program’s fourth consecutive game, and fifth overall, that has been canceled of postponed because of COVID-19 issues. The Orange’s next scheduled game is Jan. 14 at Georgia Tech, a break of three weeks since their last game.

No. 25 Missouri State (4-2) has a positive test among its Tier 1 personnel and postponed its weekend series against Loyola. The Bears haven’t played since Dec. 19 when they were upset by South Dakota State. Their series against UNI set for Jan. 1 and 2 was postponed due to a positive test and has been rescheduled for Jan. 15 and 16.

Canceled games for top-25 teams

There are also three top-25 teams that had games canceled due to COVID-19 related issues.

No. 7 Arizona (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) had its Friday night game against Washington postponed because of “recent COVID-19 impacts.” Washington’s game against Arizona State on Sunday had already been postponed due to issues in the Wildcats program. The Huskies will no longer play No. 9 UCLA and USC next weekend.

No. 20 DePaul did not play its scheduled game on Thursday due to changes by the Big East. The conference postponed DePaul’s game against Butler to move the Butler at Providence matchup from Feb. 24 to that slot. The Blue Demons are off until Jan. 13.

No. 9 UCLA has a different but related issue. The Bruins decided not to play their scheduled game against Colorado on Friday due to injury concerns and a lack of players.

“Our medical team made the really tough decision that we don't have enough healthy players to play our game on Friday," coach Cori Close said in a statement. "The health and well-being of our student-athletes are the priority, and I trust our medical team's decision.”

UCLA will not meet the Pac-12 required minimum of seven healthy scholarship players. They are hoping to reschedule the game. The Bruins have dressed only eight players all season. Two freshmen have been unable to get from Australia to California due to pandemic related travel restrictions. They are still scheduled to play on Sunday against Utah.

NCAAW: What to watch in week 7

Providence (5-6, 3-3) at No. 3 UConn (6-0, 5-0)

Time/TV: Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on

WHY: This is less a competitive game than one for the history books. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma is one win away from tying Tennessee legend Pat Summitt with 1,098 victories. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer passed Summitt last month for most all-time wins in Division I women’s basketball history. She’s currently at 1,103 wins as of Wednesday afternoon.

TEAM CATCHUP: UConn is coming off an unexpected nearly two-week long break after its Baylor game was canceled. The Huskies have a 28-game win streak against Providence and is nearly perfect at home against them (20-8). Their last meeting was in February 2013 and UConn won, 105-49, on the road.

KEY PLAYERS: Freshman Paige Bueckers is playing nearly every minute and averages 18.2 points a game on 55.1 percent shooting. She’s 9-of-18 from the 3-point line. Her scoring, assists (5.2 apg) and steals (2.7 spg) all lead the Huskies and she adds on average 6.0 rebounds per game. Bueckers, junior Christyn Williams and junior Olivia Nelson-Ododa were named to the Wooden Award midseason top 25 list released Wednesday.

Mary Baskerville leads Providence in points (14.1 ppg, .566 FG%), rebounds (7.3) and blocks (1.7 bpg).

No. 8 Texas A&M (11-0, 2-0) at No. 13 Arkansas (10-3, 1-2)

Time/TV: Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network

WHY: The two are some of the best in the SEC and their match-ups will prove pivotal for SEC Tournament seeding. For Texas A&M, they’re in a better position to give powerhouse South Carolina a run for the conference. The Aggies won, 84-77, during the 2019-20 regular season meeting but lost in the first round of the SEC tournament, 67-66.

TEAM CATCH UP: Texas A&M is coming off a 77-60 win over No. 10 Kentucky that matches their best start since 2014-15. Their longest win streak is 12, which they last did during the 2011 national championship run.

Arkansas is coming off a 88-73 loss to Tennessee (7-1, 1-0), which hurt them in the conference standings. They have already played Kentucky, ending the 2020 calendar year with a 75-64 loss.

KEY PLAYERS: Texas A&M senior forward N’dea Jones was named to the Wooden Award watch list. She’s averaging 13.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Her seven double-doubles are tied for most in the country and is fifth in total rebounds (112).

Arkansas senior Chelsea Dungee, another Wooden Award watch list player, dropped 30 on Tennessee, the ninth time she’s scored at least 30 in her career. Dungee has 16 straight games scoring in double figures and averages 20.4 per game. Her seven rebounds and five steals were also season-highs despite the loss.

No. 5 South Carolina (7-1, 2-0) at No. 10 Kentucky (9-2, 2-1)

Time/TV: Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

WHY: Same as above. It’s a big weekend in the SEC with two match-ups of top-25 ranked teams. South Carolina will be coming off limited athletic activity due to the COVID-19 pause earlier this week (if this game is played at all) and it’s a chance for Kentucky to steal a win against the team that ended the 2019-20 season at No. 1. The Gamecocks won both of last season’s match-ups.

TEAM CATCH UP: South Carolina defeated Alabama, 77-60, on Monday. They won the boards, 55-31, with more offensive rebounds (26) than Alabama had on defense (24). It was the third time in their last four games South Carolina pulled down at least 20 more rebounds than their opponent. They took advantage with 22 second-chance points.

Kentucky lost a tough one to Texas A&M, though the week prior it had wins over Arkansas and No. 12 Mississippi State. They went into halftime against the Aggies tied at 31, but lost steam in the second half of a tiring game. Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said post-game the plan was to tire out reigning SEC Player of the Year Rhyne Howard quickly. They also struggled from the 3-point line (4-of-17).

KEY PLAYERS: It’s the sophomores for South Carolina. Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke were both named to the Wooden Award watch list. Boston is averaging 12.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. She is one of two SEC players averaging a double-double who ranks in the top-10 in the nation in blocked shots (1.6 bpg, sixth), per the Gamecocks.

Cooke has scored double digits in every game to average 18.8 per game overall, and 22.0 in SEC contests. She’s shooting 51.4 percent from 3-point range.

Rhyne Howard, a leading Wooden Award candidate, is still one of the top scorers in the country at 19.1 points per game. The 6-foot-2 junior guard adds on average 7.1 rebounds per game. She twisted her ankle late in the game against the Aggies.

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