November 19, 2023
Welcome to Blood Week, women’s college basketball
The carnage in the AP Poll through two weeks is reaching unprecedented levels
Ranked teams lose every week. But there comes a special moment in every season’s life when it’s time for a bunch of them to lose at the same time, when no one is safe, when charting week-to-week movement in the AP Poll looks less like mostly straight lines and more like a spider web. Every year, there is a Blood Week.
The Blood Week is a sacred principle in college football created by the podcast The Shutdown Fullcast. The podcasters on that show were asked if the specific week of college football was a Blood Week so often, they created an intentionally (mostly) inactive account on X, formerly known as Twitter, for it. Collegiate athletics anthropologists Ryan Nanni and Jason Kirk loosely outlined the requirements for a blood week as “at least five ranked teams suffering upset losses, with at least two being top-10 teams at the time,” with obvious caveats that blood weeks can theoretically include no top-10 losses but mass upsets from the Nos. 11-25 and that “upsets” such as the No. 13 beating the No. 10 are not blood week-worthy. And this concept is by no means limited to football.
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The biggest blood week in women’s college basketball history might have come last November. In Week 2, the poll’s No. 3 Texas, No. 4 Iowa, No. 6 Louisville, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 22 Nebraska all suffered big upsets; more bloodily, Oklahoma was the only one of that group to not have lost to an unranked team. Per Across The Timeline, the poll following that carnage featured what was then the most week-to-week movement in AP poll history.
Another strong blood week of recent years was, coincidentally, the second week of the 2020-21 season. No. 1 South Carolina, No. 4 Baylor, No. 6 Mississippi State, No. 18 Gonzaga and No. 23 Iowa State all lost either as heavy favorites and/or to unranked teams. Three top-10 losses in the same week is rare, and having two top-five losses including the No. 1 probably happens about as often as the mass emergence of cicadas.
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With that in mind, let’s just take a look at how this season’s preseason AP Poll fared over its first week. From Oct. 17:
(Strikethroughs given only to upset losses)
LSU— 14-point loss to No. 20 Colorado UConn— 11-point loss to unranked NC State
- South Carolina
Ohio State— nine-point loss to No. 21 USC
- Virginia Tech — four-point loss to No. 3 Iowa
Indiana— 32-point loss to No. 15 Stanford
- Notre Dame — 29-point loss to No. 6 South Carolina, which wasn’t an upset but was so bad that it felt like blood
Tennessee— one-point loss to No. 18 Florida State Mississippi— 10-point loss to unranked Oklahoma
- Maryland — 38-point loss to No. 6 South Carolina, see: Notre Dame
- North Carolina — nearly lost to never-been-ranked Davidson
- Louisville — nearly lost to unranked DePaul
- Florida State
- Colorado — trailed unranked Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter
Illinois— four-point loss to unranked Marquette
- Wazzu — taken to overtime by unranked Gonzaga
- Mississippi State
To write that out, Week One saw upset losses suffered by the Nos. 1, 2, 7, 9, 11, 12 and 23. Nos. 10 and 14 suffered what felt like terrifying losses, and Nos. 16, 17, 20 and 24 were all in serious trouble of losing to unranked teams. Per ATT, that caused on average the most week-to-week movement in AP Poll history, the first time in 25 years that the preseason top two both fell in the first in-season poll, and the both the biggest ranked-to-ranked increase and unranked-to-ranked increase in poll history.
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Thankfully that was just a strong adjustment to a new and surprising landsca- NOPE, TEAMS AREN’T SAFE YET. Because it’s one thing to have a blood week, but folks we might be looking at an unprecedented back-to-back blood weeks.
The Nov. 13 poll:
- South Carolina
Iowa— seven-point loss to unranked Kansas State
- UCLA — trailed unranked Princeton with 2.5 minutes left in the fourth quarter
Utah— seven-point loss to No. 21 Baylor
- Virginia Tech
- Florida State — tied with unranked Florida with two minutes left
- Ohio State
- NC State
- Tennessee — taken to overtime by unranked Memphis
- Notre Dame
- North Carolina
Creighton— 12-point loss to unranked Green Bay
- Mississippi — tied with never-been-ranked Howard in the mid-fourth quarter
In addition, the only school not ranked by the AP but ranked by the USA Today Coaches is No. 22 Duke. The Blue Devils almost lost to unranked Columbia and did lose to Davidson, neither of which have ever been ranked.
It may look like this week has been light on the blood, though two big top-five upsets and shocking losses by both Nos. 22 is significant enough by itself. But consider some of today’s schedule (all times Eastern):
#23 Mississippi v. Arizona (Noon, FloHoops)
Harvard @ #21 Baylor (2 p.m., ESPN+)
#25 Oklahoma @ Virginia (2 p.m., ACC Network)
Rhode Island @ #14 NC State (2 p.m., ACC Network Extra)
Troy @ #16 Tennessee (2 p.m., SEC Network+)
Duke @ #6 Stanford (3 p.m., ABC)
#8 UConn @ Minnesota (5 p.m., FS1)
Folks, a few more upsets today and this season’s bloodletting will be reaching levels not seen since the pharaonic reign of Ramses II. (Editor’s note: We get it, you went to Duke.)
Stay safe out there, y’all.
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