WBB Watch Guide 2-23: Returning to normalcy in Texas

Photo by Russell Wilburn

The past week has been tough here in Texas, with cold weather and the failure of the state's power grid leading to blackouts and water supply issues.

All this also took a toll on last week's college basketball schedule, with most games from Monday through Thursday postponed across the state, and weekend games impacted as well. But this week, things look to be getting back to normal.

This Watch Guide is highlighted by Sunday's meeting of top five teams, as No. 5 South Carolina heads to College Station to face No. 3 Texas A&M.

All times are Central.

 

Tuesday, February 23

Mississippi Valley at Texas Southern at 5:30 p.m.
TSU Athletics

 

Wednesday, February 24

Houston Baptist at Nicholls State at 5 p.m.

Sam Houston at Abilene Christian at 5:30 p.m.
ESPN+

ACU's Southland performance has been a bit disappointing. It looked like they'd compete with SFA to win the conference back in December, but the Wildcats have gone just 5-4 so far. They'll look to get revenge on the Bearkats in this one, who beat them 88-72 earlier in the year. Sam Houston's Amber Leggett led the way in that one with 31 points.

Houston at Wichita State at 6 p.m.
ESPN+

Stephen F. Austin at Northwestern State at 6:30 p.m.

Northwestern State is 0-16 on the season. SFA is 18-2. I highlight this one only to say that I'm almost a little bit scared to see how many points the Ladyjacks ultimately win this one by.

Texas Tech at Kansas State at 6:30 p.m.
ESPN+

Oklahoma at TCU at 6:30 p.m.
ESPN+

Texas at Kansas at 7 p.m.
ESPN+

Oklahoma State at No. 7 Baylor at 7 p.m.
ESPN+

Do you like frontcourts? If so, you'll love this one, with Baylor's duo of NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo going up against one of the best bigs in the country in Natasha Mack. Oklahoma State has been a surprise this year after losing their best scorer, Vivian Gray, to Texas Tech, but they keep winning games, sitting third in the Big 12 with a 13-4 conference record. One of those losses was a 77-58 one to Baylor last month, with Smith scoring 18 points and Baylor getting Mack out of her rhythm, as she scored 21 points but only on 9-for-22 shooting.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi at New Orleans at 7 p.m.

UIW at Lamar at 7 p.m.
ESPN+

Only the top eight seeds make the Southland tournament. I'm not sure if there's a games played criteria that could impact UIW, but at 3-1, they're in a spot where a few losses can drop them way down the standings. Meanwhile, Lamar is trying to hold onto one of those final tournament bids.

 

Thursday, February 25

Mississippi Valley at Prairie View A&M at 4 p.m.
PVAMU Sports Network

Arkansas - Pine Bluff at Texas Southern at 5:30 p.m.
TSU Athletics

No. 3 Texas A&M at Alabama at 6 p.m.
SEC+

Before we can get to Sunday's big A&M matchup, the Aggies need to take care of business against Alabama. The 15-6 Crimson Tide have beat Mississippi State twice this season, and it's hard to slow down the scoring of Jasmine Walker, a strong shooter with size who has been trending up WNBA draft boards this season.

 

Friday, February 26

Tarleton at New Mexico State at 2 p.m.
WAC Digital Network

The Texans swept Chicago State earlier this month to pick up their first WAC wins, then beat UNT Dallas last weekend to give them a three-game winning streak. Marissa Escamilla has been on a hot streak for Tarleton lately, including scoring a season-high 24 points in one of those Chicago State wins. This is a tougher matchup, but this Texans team is playing their best basketball of the season right now.

Louisiana Tech at Rice at 2 p.m.
CUSA.TV

The last time the Rice Owls were on a basketball court, they lost their first conference game of the year, with Marshall pulling away in the final minutes. Louisiana Tech is 8-6 in conference play and has looked formidable, but Rice is just built to win this year: they surround an elite center with a lot of high-level shooters.

UTSA at UAB at 2 p.m.
CUSA.TV

This two-game set against UAB are the final games on UTSA's schedule right now, though postponed games against Charlotte could still be rescheduled. But as it stands now, this could be the last chance for the Roadrunners to win a conference game.

UTEP at Charlotte at 2 p.m.
Charlotte Athletics

The Miners are just third in their Conference USA division, but their 12 conference wins are the most in CUSA and they've won 10 of their past 11 games. One of the hottest mid-major teams in the country right now, UTEP's offense has been unstoppable at times, with Katia Gallegos leading the way but with some strong contributions from players like Dejanae Roebuck and Isis Lopes. Look, we know that Rice is still the class of this conference, but I'm starting to think UTEP has a legit shot to go on a run and win this conference tournament.

Utah Valley at UTRGV at 6 p.m.
WAC Digital Network

Texas State at Louisiana Monroe at 6 p.m.
ESPN+

UT Arlington at Arkansas State at 6 p.m.
ESPN+

Marshall at North Texas at 6:30 p.m.

North Texas is two games up in the loss column on UTEP for a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament, but the Mean Green face off with Rice next weekend. Getting these wins against Marshall will be crucial in giving them a cushion over the Miners, though lt's not forget that Marshall is the only team with a conference win over Rice. (And let's also not forget that with a UNT/Rice series next week, UNT can still wind up as the regular-season CUSA champions!)

 

Saturday, February 27

Kansas State at No. 7 Baylor at 11 a.m.
ESPN+

McNeese at Houston Baptist at 12 p.m.

Oklahoma at Texas at 1 p.m.
Longhorn Network

The Longhorns won the last meeting of these teams, coming away with a 69-58 victory. The Sooners had no answer for Charli Collier, who scored 32 points on 14-for-18 shooting. While she's struggled against teams with elite frontcourt talent, this is the kind of matchup where Collier can feast.

Abilene Christian at Central Arkansas at 1 p.m.

No. 13 South Florida at Houston at 2 p.m.
ESPN+

South Florida is the top-ranked mid-major program in the country right now. Houston is among the better teams in the American and defensively rank in the top 30 in steals, turnovers forced, and 3-point defense. Dymond Gladney just won AAC Player of the Week. Houston's good. Full stop. No caveats. This is a good team.

They also lost to South Florida earlier in the season 80-51. Maria Alvarez was 6-for-8 from deep against this good Houston perimeter defense. They had no answer for Bethy Mununga inside. Elisa Pinzan had 14 assists. The Cougars are good, but the Bulls are an elite team. Still, if Houston's at the top of their game on Saturday, this can be a competitive one.

Texas Southern at Alabama State at 2 p.m.
Alabama State Athletics

I'm a firm believer that Texas Southern is better than their 2-6 record suggests. They've played some teams close, like when they lost by 12 to Alabama State in their last meeting. ASU is one of the SWAC's best teams and the Tigers couldn't slow down Jayla Crawford in that one. But if TSU can get a big game from Te'Aire Hambrick — who missed the last game against Grambling — then they could pull off the upset here.

Tarleton at New Mexico State at 2 p.m.
WAC Digital Network

Stephen F. Austin at Lamar at 2 p.m.
ESPN+

UTEP at Charlotte at 2 p.m.
Charlotte Athletics

Texas A&M Corpus Christi at UIW at 3 p.m.

Utah Valley at UTRGV at 3 p.m.
WAC Digital Network

Marshall at North Texas at 3:30 p.m.

Prairie View A&M at Alabama A&M at 4 p.m.

Louisiana Tech at Rice at 4 p.m.
ESPN+

UTSA at UAB at 4 p.m.
CUSA.TV

Texas State at Louisiana Monroe at 4 p.m.
ESPN+

UT Arlington at Arkansas State at 4 p.m.
ESPN+

 

Sunday, February 28

No. 5 South Carolina at No. 3 Texas A&M at 1 p.m.
ESPN2

Alright, here it is: the matchup of the year.

The two best teams in the SEC face off in College Station on Sunday. It's the only Texas-related game of the day, so there is no excuse for not watching this one.

These teams compare favorably. Both rank in the 95th percentile or better in net rating. They have similar offensive ratings. They get to the free throw line a lot. South Carolina has been better defensively, but the Aggies' defensive rating is still in the 88th percentile nationally.

The biggest difference maker in this game will be in the paint. South Carolina arguably has the best player on the floor in Aliyah Boston, who averages 4.1 offensive rebounds per game. The Aggies have to keep her off the offensive glass and prevent second-chance points. Thankfully, A&M has done a good job limiting opponents when it comes to offensive boards, but it's going to take a major effort from Ciera Johnson and N'dea Jones up front.

Where I like this matchup for the Aggies is on the perimeter. Both teams have incredibly low 3-point attempt rates — literally both are in the fifth percentile or lower in 3-point attempt rate — but the Aggies are shooting 38.7 percent from deep, vs. a 33.1 percent mark from South Carolina. The Aggies are better positioned to hit a few key shots from deep if they need them late. Of course, they'll have to make sure that Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke don't get hot from the outside.

Honestly, this is too close for me to even make a prediction. Just make sure you're tuned into this game.

 

Monday, March 1

Texas Southern at Alabama A&M at 5:30 p.m.
Alabama A&M Athletics

Prairie View A&M at Alabama State at 5:30 p.m.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma at 6 p.m.
FSOK+

No. 7 Baylor at Texas at 6 p.m.
ESPN2

This matchup isn't quite as high-caliber as we were expecting it to be when the season started, as Vic Schaefer's first season in Austin has mostly just been fine. The Horns are 9-5 in Big 12 play, including a huge 60-35 loss to Baylor two weeks ago.

Look: hopes were high for Schaefer in Austin, but let's not forget how young this team is. They lost a lot of talent to graduation after last season. Schaefer has a strong 2021 recruiting class coming in and the Longhorns are still going to contend with Baylor for conference titles in the future, but this was a reloading year. Charli Collier emerging as one of the best players in the nation has been a nice bonus, but she had just two points in the first meeting.

The Lady Bears should be heavy favorites here. But let's see if this Texas team can get Collier going more and can make this into a game.

TCU at Kansas State at 6:30 p.m.
ESPN+

Lamar at UIW at 6:30 p.m.

Houston Baptist at Texas A&M Corpus Christi at 7 p.m.
Islanders Digital Network

 

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