November 5, 2023
Pac-12 to be defined by its non-conference matchups
Ten of the most intriguing games to watch in November and December
Titles aren’t won in November and December, but the foundations are certainly laid. In the final season of the Pac-12 conference, with seven teams opening the season in the national rankings and as many as 9-10 looking like potential NCAA Tournament entrants, the defining moments of the non-conference season will prove both informative and instructive.
The Pac-12 will open the season on a big stage, with two teams playing in the inaugural Naismith Hall of Fame event in Las Vegas on Nov. 6. But the late fall and winter will be rife with big matchups.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 non-conference matchups of the season for the Pac-12.
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23 USC vs. 7 Ohio State in Las Vegas
The 23rd-ranked Trojans, and their compelling freshman Juju Watkins, will get an immediate measurement on their contender’s status in the Pac-12 – not to mention a Big Ten preview – with this neutral court matchup in Las Vegas against No. 7 Ohio State. USC, who has not faced Ohio State since 2006 (their only meeting) was the No. 1 scoring defense in the Pac-12 last season, allowing 55.1 points per game.
20 Colorado vs. 1 LSU in Las Vegas (TNT)
When you come off the best season in school history, your reward is a date to face the No. 1 team in the country (and defending NCAA champion) on national television in Las Vegas. Colorado, facing LSU for the first time since 2004, will be looking to prove that it is now a mainstay in the conversation about nationally elite programs and a good opening showing against LSU should do just that. A veteran Buffs lineup, led by fifth-year senior point guard Jaylyn Sherrod, will be challenged by LSU’s all-star lineup that includes Angel Reese and now Hailey Van Lith and Aneesa Morrow.
9 Indiana at 15 Stanford (ESPN)
The Cardinal will face an early-season challenge at Maples Pavilion against coach Tara VanDerveer’s alma mater. Stanford came away with a three-point win the last time these two teams met back in 2021. This matchup will feature two preseason All-Americans in Cardinal senior Cameron Brink and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes. Both were named defensive players of the year in their conferences last year.
24 Washington State vs. 14 Maryland in Cancun
The team that won the Pac-12 Tournament title last March is looking for more momentum. They would get it with a win over the Terps on Thanksgiving in Mexico. Washington State is hoping that it will have more scoring options than Charlisse Leger-Walker and Bella Muraketete. Five players scoring in double figures in an exhibition win against Western Washington is literally a start.
2 UConn vs. 4 UCLA, Grand Caymans Tournament
The Bruins have never beaten UConn in seven tries, including four matchups since 2017. With an experienced group that includes guards Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice and some critical post depth with the addition of Lauren Betts, UCLA will look to have the kind of offense firepower that can keep pace with Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Co.
5 Utah vs. 6 South Carolina in Uncasville, Conn.
This will be a barometer matchup for the Utes, who will start the season as one of the country’s most highly regarded teams after last season’s run to the Sweet 16 and the presence of Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili on the floor. Dawn Staley, whose team has been picked to finish second in the SEC and will already have played Notre Dame, Maryland, North Carolina and Duke before getting to the Utes, is reconstructing her roster around 6-7 center Kamilla Cardoso.
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Oregon at 19 Baylor
The only ranked team on the Ducks’ non-conference slate, this game will provide an opportunity for the sophomore duo of Grace VanSlooten and Chance Gray to see how they measure up against one of the country’s most storied programs over the past 20 years. Baylor is 3-0 all-time against Oregon, their last matchup in the 2019 national semifinals when the Ducks still had Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally on the roster.
13 Texas at Arizona
For the moment, this is the lone non-conference matchup against a ranked team for the Wildcats – though a Dec. 2 matchup against UNLV has possibilities. Arizona will be leaning heavily on Esmery Martinez and Helena Pueyo to pull off an upset against the Longhorns. The last time these two teams met was in 2019, when an 83-59 win in Austin by Adia Barnes’ team included a 44-point day by Aari McDonald.
4 UCLA at 7 Ohio State, FS1
Previewing their future battles in the Big Ten, the Bruins will travel to take on the Hoosiers in a measuring-stick road game just two weeks before the start of the Pac-12 season. The OSU game will be part of a challenging stretch to close the non-conference schedule that includes road games against Arkansas and Florida State (in Uncasville) before heading to Bloomington.
Washington at 17 Louisville
The Cardinals are the lone ranked non-conference opponent on the Huskies’ schedule and Washington’s only true road game. The lone matchup between these two games came in November of 2021, with Louisville coming away with a 61-53 win. Washington will see a familiar foe in Louisville guard Jayda Curry, who spent two seasons as Cal’s leading scorer before transferring after last season.
Written by Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.