January 24, 2024 

The Weekly Fast Break: A broken record

Tara tops the list, TCU and Arizona weather storms

We say often in the world of sports that records are made to be broken. We find ourselves full of anticipation when we watch the Olympics to see if a new record top time in downhill skiing will be set or who will be the new ‘fastest human on earth’ in the 100 meters. Some records stand for years or even decades because they not only are a testament to sustained success but of time and dedication.

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On Sunday, Jan. 21, Tara VanDerveer became the all-time winningest coach in NCAA college basketball, men’s or women’s, with 2,203 career victories. The Stanford head coach surpassed legendary Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski, reaching the milestone mark with a win over conference foe Oregon State, 65-56. The victory was most fitting since this is her 38th season on The Farm and in the Pac-12 Conference, a league that will be no more after this year. VanDerveer spent time as head coach at Idaho and Ohio State before coming to Stanford where she has won three national titles (most recently in 2021), 25 Pac-12 regular season titles and has made 34 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

VanDerveer has not only been a fixture in the coaching profession, but an advocate for women’s basketball and women’s sports. She had lent her expertise to dozens of coaches over the years, giving them career advice or opening her practices to those wanting to learn. Yet she has never stopped learning herself, gaining knowledge from others in and out of the profession to expand her playbook and motivational tools. It has given her a wealth of knowledge to do what she has always viewed her role as a coach to be – putting your student-athletes in the position for optimal success.

We must also remember that VanDerveer took a year sabbatical from her Stanford program to take the helm of the US women’s Olympic basketball team and led them to a gold medal in 1996. Her dedication to that process, to live and breathe it for an entire year to form a cohesive squad laid the groundwork for what has been domination by Team USA on the international stage since then. If VanDerveer had not taken that season off, she would have broken Coach K’s record much sooner. But it has never been about the records for VanDerveer – it has been about the process and the people.

That is why our motto this season at The Weekly Fast Break is to believe that the loose ball you are chasing has your name on it, a quote coined by Coach K himself. Preparation for every practice and every game is critical as well as the effort you give on and off the court. Every play and every moment counts – it is time to make the most of it and see what record can be broken next.

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Climbing ‘Cats: It was announced on Friday, Jan. 19 that then #7 Kansas State would be without All-American Ayoka Lee in the post for at least four weeks. The 6’6 center played through pain in the Wildcats win over Texas on Jan. 13 and then after an MRI diagnosis, she had surgery on an ankle fracture. This season for K-State has been watched in the manner of ‘as Lee goes, so do the ‘Cats’, considering it is basically the same roster from a year ago that went 19-17 and 5-13 in the Big 12. With under 24 hours to prepare and regroup, the ‘Cats were able to beat their in-state rival Kansas on Jan. 20 (69-58) and then took their new #4 AP Top 25 ranking on the road to #13 Baylor Jan. 22.

K-State guard Gabby Gregory was one of three Wildcats to score 16 points on the road at #12 Baylor to secure their second win in a row without All-American Ayoka Lee in the lineup. The ‘Cats are up to #4 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll. (Photo credit: K-State Athletics)

Without Lee, scoring has come in a more total team effort, while the defense continues to deliver. They are second in the nation in field goal percentage defense (32.6%) and first in three-point field goal percentage defense (21.6%.) In Waco, K-State was down nine at half but held Baylor to just 6-for-26 from the field and 2-for-14 from three in the second half to escape with a 58-55 victory. The Wildcats have their highest ranking in 21 years and are 18-1 on the season, 7-0 in Big 12 play. While many will be counting the days until Lee can return, K-State is finding a way to win in the meantime and being rewarded for it.

An Extra Five: If you are going to pack your arena with a record-setting crowd, you might as well give them a full 40 minutes of basketball – and an extra five for good measure. That is what happened at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio where 18,660 packed it in to see #12 Ohio State host #5 Iowa. The Buckeyes have been known for their pressure defense and creating a high-volume of turnovers by their opponents — Iowa committed 15 on the day, which OSU turned into 18 points. Hawkeye superstar Caitlin Clark led all scorers with 45 points, but it was the tandem of senior guard Jacy Sheldon (24 points) and sophomore Cotie McMahon (33 points and 12 rebounds) that tipped the scales to Ohio State to grab the 100-92 win. The duo combined for 14 of the team’s 17 points in overtime. This was the Buckeyes third win this season over a ranked team and just the second loss of the year for Iowa. Both teams now sit at the top of the Big Ten standings with one loss each. The rematch will be in Iowa City on March 3, the final day of regular season conference play. *OSU’s Cotie McMahon was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Jan. 22 

Poll Watch: There is still only one perfect team left in college basketball, men’s or women’s, and the South Carolina Gamecocks (17-0) continue to be the unanimous selection for the top spot in the AP Top 25 Poll. With a handful of big wins and losses strung across the country last week, only four spots stayed the same – #1 South Carolina, #3 Colorado, #17 Gonzaga and #21 Creighton. The biggest move up comes from #12 Ohio State (eight spots) after their overtime win at home over now #5 Iowa and the biggest move down is #23 Florida State, who falls eight rungs after a pair of losses. #4 Kansas State reaches its highest ranking in 21 years and while one of its fellow Big 12 schools fell out (Iowa State), West Virginia bounces back in at #24. #22 Syracuse and #25 Oregon State enter the poll this week while Marquette and UNLV join the Cyclones as teams on the outside looking in. 

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The Drake Bulldogs are on an eight-game winning streak (10th best in the nation) and currently sit at 7-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Much of their success is due to 6’0 forward Grace Berg, the MVC Player of the Week. The Indianola, Iowa native had 16 points and three rebounds in a 69-65 win over Belmont on Jan. 19 and then followed that up with a career-high 30 points, five rebounds and two assists in the Jan. 21 victory over Murray State (107-98.) In conference play, Berg, a graduate student, is averaging 19.1 points/game while shooting 54% from the field and 45% from the three-point line. And may the force be with you if she is fouled – she is shooting 87% from the free throw line in MVC contests.

#24 West Virginia is coming off two key wins powered by Big 12 Player of the Week JJ Quinerly to get back in the AP Top 25 poll.
(Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)

#24 West Virginia has won three league games in a row and returned to the AP Top 25, powered in large part by the play of one of the fastest and most dynamic guards in the conference. JJ Quinerly was named Big 12 Player of the Week after she scored 18 points with five rebounds and four assists in the Mountaineers’ win over Houston on Jan. 17. The Norfolk, Virginia native then had eight steals against Cincinnati, matching a season-high for a Big 12 player while scoring 23 points in 72-43 win on Jan. 20. Quinerly helped WVU become the first Division I team to hold opponents scoreless in the first quarter in back-to-back games since the four-quarter format was adopted in 2015-16. 

UTSA freshman guard Aysia Proctor was named American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week after she averaged 14 points and eight rebounds in two games for the Roadrunners. In the 64-42 win over South Florida on Jan. 16, she finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. UTSA suffered a one-point loss to UAB on Jan. 21 (54-53) with Proctor finishing with nine points and eight rebounds. The 5’8 guard is the second Roadrunner to claim the accolade this season, joining fellow freshman Idra Udo.

#22 Syracuse sits tied atop the ACC standings this week at 6-1 behind the efforts of Dyaisha Fair who was named ACC Player of the Week. The 5’6 graduate student averaged 26.5 points and was 15-for-32 from 3-point range, in leading the Orange to wins over No. 15 Florida State and Pitt. The Rochester, New York, native posted a season-high 31 points and drilled a program-record nine 3-pointers in the 79-73 upset of FSU on Jan. 18. With her 31 points in that game, she became the fastest Syracuse player to reach 1,000 points in an Orange uniform, eclipsing the mark in just 50 games. Fair also recorded a team-high 22 points in their victory over Pitt, as she knocked down six threes, including four in the second quarter.

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We have two violations this week to access and each comes with its share of unanswered questions.

If the COVID pandemic taught us anything, it is that we must adapt and be nimble with any situation that presents itself. Injuries have been a huge storyline in women’s basketball this season (more to come on that in The Weekly Fast Break soon) and what happened at TCU last week was a flashback to pandemic times. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, just hours before the Horned Frogs were to take on then #7 Kansas State, it was announced that TCU would forfeit their next two games due to lack of healthy players. First-year head coach Mark Campbell’s roster has been decimated by injuries, many of them season-ending, and they made the decision to forfeit the K-State contest and the Jan. 20 game at Iowa State.

Guard Madison Conner, one of TCU’s top scorers, is one of many players dealing with injury and unavailable for the Horned Frogs.
(Photo credit: TCU Athletic Communications)

The official release by TCU stated that “the cancellations are a result of injuries within the TCU program and ensure the health and safety of the program’s student-athletes.” There has been much chatter about this situation in Fort Worth, with some asking did Campbell have a full roster to begin the season, and if so, even with a rash of injuries, how could there not be enough eligible players? There were dozens of games played during the pandemic with coaches having only six or seven players, including walk-ons available on the bench. And other teams across the country who have been dealt multiple injuries have still been able to play their games this season. While both games counted as a forfeit for TCU in accordance with Big 12 rules and the games will not be made up, the forfeits only impact their Big 12 win-loss record, not their overall record. There also is the question now of what TCU’s NET ranking (NCAA Evaluation Tool) will be at the end of the season if the forfeits do not impact their overall record.

TCU has since added three walk-ons to their roster from an open tryout on campus and a fourth in Sarah Sylvester, a sophomore middle blocker from the Horned Frogs’ volleyball team. They resumed Big 12 play on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and got their first conference win with a 66-60 victory over UCF.

The second violation that stood out on the weekly stat sheet is the disastrous situation at the University of Arizona and subsequently, its athletic department. While institutions across the nation have felt the repercussions of financial hits during and after the global pandemic, Arizona seems to have shot a complete airball when it came to financial projections. The university announced in November 2023 its dire financial status which has been stated at approximately $240 million due to miscalculations and flawed financial projections, including a $55 million loan to the athletic department.

Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke, in his seventh year at the helm of the department, will be out as AD on Feb. 2 in what has been called a “transition in the leadership of the department” by the university president. Heeke announced a plan earlier this month to help the school recover from the university-wide miscalculations of projected cash on hand. The plan includes hiring freezes and a pause on all major construction projects with the athletic department still needing to repay a $55 million loan issued during the pandemic. Heeke has also been under heavy scrutiny for rumors swirling around the cutting of sports within the Wildcat athletic department and for Jedd Fisch leaving Arizona to become the head football coach at Washington. There had been talks of a contract extension for Fisch and Heeke did not get that completed before he resigned to go to UW for a significantly higher salary.

Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and the rest of the Wildcat athletic department are facing a number of battles off the court due to financial issues across the board at the university. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra, The Next)

As Arizona gears up for their move to the Big 12 Conference in the summer of 2024, they will have an interim AD for the time being (former softball coach Mike Candrea) and a financial crisis unlike we know of anywhere else in the country. With freezes on funds, projects, and hires, you are left to wonder what the impact will be for all sports, including women’s sports. Keep your eyes on Tucson – it may be warm there all year long but there is a definite chill in the air at the moment.

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While there may be just one team left in the country that with an overall undefeated record, there are a host of teams who currently sit with perfect records in their respective conferences. We know it is going to be difficult for most to stay undefeated in league play as the weeks and games continue to grind by. But sometimes a record can simply stand because someone is taking care of their business, focusing on their preparation, and winning the games they should win. This week, there are many teams fighting to stay undefeated – we will see how their records stand up (check your local listings and broadcast schedule for times):

Jan. 24

George Mason at George Washington

Oklahoma at #10 Texas

Maryland at Michigan

R/V Iowa State at Kansas

Jan. 25

R/V Fairfield at Quinnipac

#23 Florida State at Duke

#22 Syracuse at #15 Notre Dame

#17 Gonzaga at Santa Clara

Chattanooga at UNC Greensboro

Texas A&M at Missouri

Eastern Washington at Northern Colorado

Jan. 26

North Carolina A&T at Campbell

#1 South Carolina at #9 LSU

#3 Colorado at #25 Oregon State

#16 Utah at Oregon

R/V Washington State at #11 USC

Jan. 27

Michigan at Michigan State

Ball State at Eastern Michigan

R/V Iowa State at #24 West Virginia

Cornell at Princeton

BYU at #4 Kansas State

#15 Notre Dame at #8 UConn

Jan. 28

Oral Roberts at South Dakota State

#19 Virginia Tech at #23 Syracuse

#20 UNC at R/V Virginia

Drexel at Stony Brook

R/V Washington State at #2 UCLA

Tennessee at Ole Miss

Vanderbilt at #1 South Carolina

#16 Utah at #25 Oregon State

Jan. 29

Boston at Holy Cross

#9 LSU at Mississippi State

Jan. 30

UCF at #24 West Virginia

Michigan State at Rutgers 

Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a retired Kansas State shooting guard and spent almost 20 years working in Higher Education and Division 1 athletics. I am currently a basketball analyst for television and radio, contributing correspondent at The Next, Locked on Women's Basketball podcast host, WBB Naismith Award board of selectors member and run my own consulting business. I am a proud mother of two and wife to a patient husband who is almost as big of a sports junkie as I am!

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