It was a good year for some women's college basketball programs in Texas. Five made the NCAA tournament. Four more made the WNIT.
But it wasn't a great year for every program in the state. Let's look at some programs that underachieved based on our expectations.
Expectation: NCAA Tournament
The Aggies lost a lot of talent heading into this season, with N'dea Jones, Ciera Johnson and Aaliyah Wilson all graduating.
But there was still so much talent on this team. Kayla Wells. Jordan Nixon. Destiny Pitts. They all returned, and the team brought in Qadashah Hoppie.
The problem? That talent wasn't evenly distributed. All those players are guards. A&M struggled to find anything inside this year. The team finished in the 22nd percentile in field goal percentage on shots taken in the paint but not at the rim. The team also relied on mid-range shots at a rate that was 7.7 percent higher than average per CBB Analytics, but shot 2.6 percent below average on those shots.
Now, the Aggies head into next season with a ton of questions, including a new one: who's the head coach? Gary Blair's retirement coupled with the poor results this year have A&M in a precarious spot going forward in a strong SEC that'll only get stronger in a few years when Texas and Oklahoma join it.
Expectations: Compete for the AAC, maybe sneak into the NCAA tournament
Reality: 16-15, WNIT berth
It's good to see the Cougars in a postseason tournament, but this team wasn't supposed to go 7-9 in conference play.
But it did.
The offense dropped off this year. The team played slower. And, well...luck seemed to catch up to Houston.
Last season, the team surged to 17-8 thanks to some big improvements on both sides of the ball, much of that because of Laila Blair. But this year's team looked a lot like last year if you dig into the numbers, including a nearly identical field goal percentage, similar rebounding numbers, etc. It was just that a few bounces of the ball went the wrong way. The Cougars went 6-7 in games decided by single digits. Last season, the team was 5-3 in such games.
Expectation: Contend for the Conference USA title
The Miners were expected to contend for their division in Conference USA, if not to win the whole thing. But instead, the team finished 6-12 in conference play.
I think a lot of people — me included — thought that even after a lot of players transferred out of El Paso that the team would be fine because it had Katia Gallegos. But she saw a 10% drop in her field goal percentage this year, which is part of why the team as a whole shot under 40 percent from the floor.
Gallegos not being able to carry this team isn't her fault. Losing seven players to the transfer portal radically reshaped this team and while there was some nice offense from Destiny Thurman, it just wasn't enough.
The good news for UTEP: they still have Gallegos, who should have a bounce-back season next year. They've just got to figure out how to improve around the margins and get back into the conference title race.
Expectation: Division II title
Reality: Lost in Division II third round
It's hard to call 28-7 a disappointment, but considering Lubbock Christian had won the last two Division II titles, a third-round exit and finishing just fourth in the Lone Star Conference definitely represented a letdown.
Per Her Hoop Stats, the team saw losses on both sides of the ball, with the offense scoring fewer points and the defense giving up more. Overall, team outscored teams by 12.6 points per game, which was good but a big drop from 24.2 last season.
I'm not entirely sure why this happened, as I didn't watch much Division II basketball outside of watching the tournament itself, but Ashton Duncan saw a continued loss of efficiency and the team was a little inbalanced offensively, shooting really well from the left side of the court and significantly less-well from the right side. Did that make it easier for defenses? Or did the rest of the Lone Star Conference just get better? And will this matter as much next year when A&M Commerce is in the Southland?