January 10, 2024 

The Weekly Fast Break: Basketball on snow days

Baylor's new digs; triple star performances

There is nothing better to hear during the school year when you are young than the words SNOW DAY. It means you can watch TV, stay in your pajamas as long as you want and pester the adults in your home with the questions of ‘what are we going to do today?’ or ‘can I go outside in the freezing cold?’ A snow day for a college student just means more sleep and no getting out of bed for class – dragging yourself out of the dorm or apartment for food is optional.

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What is not optional in January in the world of college basketball, despite Mother Nature’s tantrums, is taking a day off. We know here at The Weekly Fast Break that there are mandatory rest days set by NCAA rules, but things still need to get done. It means you better be in the training room getting treatment on your sore ankle or working ahead on your biology class assignments since you will miss class three out of five days next week for road games. Coaches may have a white-knuckle grip on their steering wheels as they drive slowly to their offices in tough conditions, but they know that a scouting report waits for no one, especially a snowplow.

So, no matter if your campus was closed today because of one of the monster storms rolling across the country, your team falls under the ‘essential personnel only’ category. Get your car cleaned off, find something other than slides to put on your feet and grab the winter coat you told your mom you did not need to bring to college. When you get to the practice gym just know that the first drill is going to be the loose ball drill – coaches want to see who is awake and dialed in to go against the scout team. We hope you believe that the loose ball you are chasing has your name on it because 100% effort today gets you back to your cozy space that much sooner.


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TIP-OFF

Boosting the Lights on out West: With the end of the college football season and a national championship win for Michigan over Washington, the lights at the Pac-12 Conference are slowly burning out. Women’s basketball is adding energy to the grid and shining a big spotlight on the league in its final season as we know it. This week, five teams are ranked in the Top 25, including No. 2 UCLA. The Bruins are one of three unbeaten teams left in the nation. Four other programs are receiving votes this week – Oregon State, Arizona, California, and Washington. The Cal Bears are turning heads as they are off to their best 15-game start since the 2016-17 season with a 12-3 record. They had their first conference weekend sweep since 2018-19 with wins over the Washington schools and head coach Charmin Smith’s team now heads on their mountain trip to No. 5 Colorado and No. 19 Utah. Stealing one of those on the road this upcoming weekend would be a huge energy boost for the surging Bears.

A Fancy New Home: In this day and age of college athletics, we normally see renovations of existing facilities that can range anywhere from new premium seating options to upgrades in restrooms and concession stands. Rarely do we see brand-new arenas rise amongst campus buildings, but they have done just that in Waco, Texas. There is a new home for Baylor Bear basketball, and it is called Foster Pavilion, replacing the Ferrell Center which was opened in September of 1988. The new $216.6 million arena was built along the Brazos River with a capacity to seat just over 7,000 fans. The entire facility is 223,500 square feet in size with an arena, practice courts for both programs, offices, and training spaces. The fourth-ranked Baylor women’s team currently sits at 14-0 on the season and is 2-0 in its new home. With wins over then No. 23 TCU on Jan. 3 and Houston on Jan. 6, Nicki Collen’s squad is off to the best start in her tenure at Baylor. The Bears are on the road twice this week but will return to Foster Pavilion on Jan. 20 when they host UCF and look to move their winning streak in the new digs to three.

Unbeaten Pack No More: If you asked most at the start of the 2023-24 season if Wes Moore’s No. 6 NC State team would see its first loss of the season in January, you were probably going to get ‘no’ across the board. Yet, after wins over UConn, Vanderbilt, and Colorado, to name a few in the non-conference slate, the Wolfpack molded together a group of veterans and young talent that has been playing at a very high level since the opening tip of game one. They started ACC play with wins at Virginia (72-61) and then at home in overtime versus No. 21 Florida State (88-80). But the road in the ACC is one of the toughest to travel and NC State suffered their first loss Jan. 7 at No. 11 Virginia Tech 63-62 on a buzzer-beating layup by Hokie All-American Elizabeth Kitley. The Wolfpack have been bitten by the injury bug with 6’6 center River Baldwin missing the Virginia Tech game and will be out for upcoming games with an ankle injury. However, the balanced scoring for Moore’s squad (six averaging double figures on the season) and leading the ACC in field goal percentage defense (33%) has them sitting at 14-1 and still in the AP Top 10.

Poll Watch: There are three undefeated teams left in the nation right now and three are in the top four of this week’s AP Top 25 Poll. No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 UCLA each sit at 14-0 while Baylor (14-0) moves up two spots to snag fourth place, behind No. 3 Iowa. No. 6 NC State drops three places after their first loss of the season to Virginia Tech who is up two to No. 11. After dropping out a week ago, North Carolina beat two ranked teams last week and is back in the Top 25 at No. 20. Marquette dropped four spots to No. 23 but hangs in the poll after going 1-1 last week, including a one-point loss to St. John’s. TCU drops out of the Top 25 after two consecutive losses and suffering a significant setback with a broken finger injury to star center Sedona Prince. Fairfield University out of the MAAC received votes in this week’s Top 25 for the first time in program history – the Stags are riding a 10-game winning streak.

Marquette head coach Megan Duffy and her team are hanging on in the AP Top 25 this week after going 1-1. The Golden Eagles sit at #23 with a record of 13-2. (Photo credit: Dan Mihalik, Intersport DBX Team)

STAR POWER

We know that star power comes in all forms and fashion during the season, but a first-ever triple-double in program history earns you a nod here at The Weekly Fast BreakNorth Carolina senior Alyssa Ustby posted 16 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in the Tar Heels 75-51 win over then No. 25 Syracuse. Not only was this a first for the UNC record book, but Ustby also became the only player in NCAA history with 15+ points, 15+ rebounds and 10 assists against a ranked opponent. Another fun fact? She became just the third Tar Heel ever to record a triple-double, joining UNC men’s greats Brendan Haywood and Jason Capel in rare company – both of those players accomplished the feat in Dec. 2000. 23 years later, there is now a women’s player on that very short list.

South Dakota State guard Paige Meyer took home her second Summit League Women’s Basketball Peak Performer of the Week honor of the season after leading her team to a pair of victories in the Big Sky-Summit League Challenge. Meyer scored a career-high 37 points on 12-for-17 shooting from the floor and an 11-for-11 effort from the foul line during a 110-102 double-overtime victory at Big Sky preseason favorite Northern Arizona. The 5’6 junior followed that up with 12 points, two assists and three steals in the Jackrabbits 61-53 win over Montana State on Jan. 6. 

This may be the first honor of her young career, but from what we have seen it will not be the last for Iowa State freshman Addy Brown. Brown was named Big 12 Freshman of the Week after she averaged a double-double with 19.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in two key wins for the Cyclones. In their 69-61 win against Kansas, the Derby, Kan., native scored 14 points with a game-high 13 rebounds, posting her seventh double-double of the season. Brown then registered 24 points and eight rebounds in the 80-75 win at BYU on Jan. 6. As of Jan. 7, the 6’2 forward is leading the league in scoring for conference games at 19.33 points/game.

Records are made to be broken and USC freshman JuJu Watkins is going to be doing a lot of that this season. The 6’2 freshman tied the Pac-12 Conference record with her eighth Freshman of the Week award after she led her team to a pair of wins. She scored a game-high 28 points to go along with five blocks against R/V Oregon State in the 58-56 win on Jan. 5 and then posted 16 points and six assists in the Trojans win over Oregon two days later. Watkins has led USC in scoring in all 12 games in which she has played for the 12-1 Trojans. This was just the third time that USC has swept the Oregon schools at home in the Pac-12 era. Watkins and crew have won 16 straight home games.

SHOT CLOCK VIOLATION

It was not a snow day but a rainstorm that washed out a Big Ten matchup last weekend. The Jan. 6 game between Purdue at Maryland was postponed approximately 30 minutes after what was to be the original tip time due to a roof leak at the Xfinity Center. Officials attempted to divert water from the area that was leaking but due to large amounts of rainfall in the College Park area that day, they were unable to stop it and the game was postponed. Luckily, both teams had an opening on Sunday, Jan. 14, and will play at the Xfinity Center then.

Apparently, we not only need shovels and ice melt in January but also buckets to catch Mother Nature’s errant ways. It is her first team turnover on the stat sheet for 2024.

It is hard to dribble around buckets catching water from a leaking roof, therefore the Purdue/Maryland game at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland was postponed on Jan. 6. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra, The Next)

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FULL COURT PRESS

When winter weather craziness sweeps through our communities, we always find out who is a ‘shovel no matter what’ person or the ‘I will wait for the sun to come out’ neighbor. They will be the ones who wonder why they still have snow on their driveway in April. Just as we cannot predict when the temperatures will rise, we cannot predict how these early January conference matchups will end up. There are too many good teams, good coaches, and great players to predetermine the patterns of winning. Just ask Mother Nature – she loves to keep us on our toes. After you are done shoveling your sidewalk as any good neighbor should do, curl up and tune in for some great matchups this week – we dare you to predict any wins and see where you measure up (check your local listings and broadcast schedule for times):

Jan. 10

Oklahoma at #12 Kansas State

#24 West Virginia at Iowa State

R/V TCU at #10 Texas

San Diego State at Wyoming

Jan. 11

#20 UNC at #21 Florida State

Murray State at Indiana State

Western Illinois at UT-Martin

Iona at R/V Fairfield

Oral Roberts at South Dakota

Mississippi State at Arkansas

Jan. 12

Drexel at Charleston

#8 Stanford at #19 Utah

R/V Cal at #5 Colorado

R/V Arizona at R/V Oregon State

Jan. 13

#10 Texas at #12 Kansas State

#4 Baylor at Iowa State

FGCU at Stetson

Loyola-Maryland at Boston U.

Santa Clara at Portland

#14 Indiana at #3 Iowa

DePaul at #23 Marquette

Jan. 14

Miami at #18 Notre Dame

#11 Virginia Tech at #21 Florida State

Missouri at R/V Vanderbilt

R/V Davidson at Fordham

#2 UCLA at #9 USC

Ole Miss at Mississippi State

Jan. 15

Princeton at Dartmouth

Kentucky at #1 South Carolina

Jan. 16

South Florida at UTSA

Kansas at #10 Texas

Wisconsin at #3 Iowa


Your business can reach over 1 million women’s sports fans every single month!

Here at The Next and The IX, our audience is a collection of the smartest, most passionate women’s sports fans in the world. If your business has a mission to serve these fans, reach out to Christie Gray at christiegray@theixsports.com to discuss ways to work together.


Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a former shooting guard at Kansas State 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, 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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