Stock Up, Stock Down: Breaking down some early season results

Welcome to the first Stock Up, Stock Down column of the season, a look around the women's college basketball landscape in the state of Texas to see what teams and/or players are trending up and which are trending down.

The start of this season has been a lot of fun for a lot of teams in Texas, with some big performances so far. But it's also been a tough season to get a read on some of the state's best teams: Texas has been without Rori Harmon, and Baylor has been dealing with a variety of injuries. If you want to know more about how Texas has looked, I wrote about the Longhorns loss to UConn earlier this week.

Stock Up: Rice

Rice was once an elite program, and by once I mean in 2020-21, when the team won the WNIT. But Tina Langley left the program for Washington after that, and Lindsay Edmonds took over as head coach last year. With no Nancy Mulkey to anchor the paint and some key backcourt pieces transferring to SMU, Rice slipped to 14-13 last season, and finished under .500 in conference play.

But, looks like Rice is back. That was a short fall from grace.

The Owls are 3-0 this season, beating SFA, Abilene Christian and Saint Mary's, the latter one on the road on Wednesday night. Those are all pretty good programs, and Rice won all of the games by double digits.

Rice currently sits 26th in the country in offensive rating per Her Hoop Stats, and the team has done a particularly good job of getting to the free throw line, ranking 20th in free throw rate. The team is also one of the nation's best rebounding teams, grabbing 18.3 offensive rebounds per game, 18th-best in Division I. Malia Fisher is averaging 12.3 points and 10.7 boards per game, and two players—Destiny Jackson and Shelby Hayes—currently average more offensive boards than defensive boards.

Stock Up: Stephen F. Austin

Sure, SFA has the loss the Rice that I mentioned in the Rice section, but the team's last two games have seen them just absolutely demolish teams. First came a 100-63 win over Texas Southern, which is something that you might have expected considering the current state of the Texas Southern program, but then came an 80-49 over a North Texas team that I thought was pretty good. I didn't think UNT would beat SFA, but the spread on this game was really close—SFA was only 1.5 point favorites—and I anticipated a game where the Ladyjacks won by about 10.

Instead, it was just an absolute rout. SFA won the second and third quarters 55-16 as the Mean Green just collapsed and couldn't buy a bucket. Angel Scott's 17 points led the way for SFA, while Aiyana Johnson had a double-double.

There's still a lot of basketball left to play for the Ladyjacks, and we saw against Rice that a good offensive team can put up points against this team in a way that hasn't really been possible over the last couple of seasons. But four games into the season, I'm confident in saying that this is the best team in the WAC again.

Stock Up: Texas Tech

Texas Tech sits at 2-1 right now. The Red Raiders beat A&M Corpus by 20, then lost by six to Jackson State. And while a Big 12 team losing to a SWAC team isn't usually a good sign, but Jackson State is the clear best team in the SWAC.

But the real reason Tech is on this list? The team took down previously unbeaten Colorado in overtime on Wednesday night, winning 86-85 despite Katie Ferrell being out and Bre'Amber Scott being on a bit of a pitch count. How did Tech do it? The combination of Rhyle McKinney and Bailey Maupin. McKinney had 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting, while Maupin had 20 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line. Scott also added 14 points in her 21 minutes of action.

This is the kind of game that Tech probably loses last year. Adding Maupin, who starred at west Texas small school power Gruver, had given the Red Raiders a bit of an edge, and this is all despite the lack of minutes for Jasmine Shavers yet, a top 100 recruit who redshirted at Mississippi State last year before transferring to Lubbock. Shavers has barely seen the floor in the last two games, but at some point, her talent should win out, bolstering this team even more.

Tech's probably not heading for an above .500 record in the Big 12 this year, but this team had a chance to really bottom out with Vivian Gray gone. Through three games, it doesn't look like that's going to happen, though we still have to see how Tech fares once conference play starts.

Stock Down: Houston

I was really high on Houston coming into this season, and for good reason: the Cougars brought back a ton of talent. The top five players in minutes per game off of last year's team returned this season. That kind of continuity can be the thing that really pulls a team together.

And it's not like you needed to cross your fingers and hope that returning core took much of a leap. Houston went 17-8 back in 2020-21 with many of these same players, and while the team dropped to 18-16 last year, there were still plenty of reasons to think this would be one of the American's top teams.

I'm not fully writing that off. But the Houston offense has been a mess. The team sits at 1-2 with losses to Louisiana and New Mexico, with the only win coming over first-year Division I program Texas A&M Commerce (who look pretty good for a team that's just transitioning to DI). The offense has tanked: last year, the Cougars had an offensive rating of 89.1, but this year it's dropped to 73.5. The team's really increased its pace this season, and maybe that accounts for the poor shooting so far, but when a team is shooting 29.8 percent from the floor and 15.4 percent from three through three games, that's worrisome.

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