Stock Up, Stock Down: There's a really good WBB team in Denton

Photo by TWU Athletics/Cody Grubbs

Welcome back to Stock Up, Stock Down. I'm writing this week from an Airbnb in Denton, preparing to head back to Iowa after spending a couple weeks in the Lone Star State. Why do I mention that? Because being that I'm currently in Denton, I thought it was appropriate to start this week's column out in Denton as well. But not at UNT...

Stock Up: Texas Woman's University

Now, I don't usually talk Division II hoops here, but TWU needs a mention because of its 15-game winning streak, which has pushed the Pioneers to 17-1 on the season.

This is a program that...well, that wasn't very good not long ago. The team won 20 games last year, but before that hadn't finished over .500 since the 2016-17 campaign.

The WBCA coaches poll had TWU ranked ninth last week, making it the highest-ranked Texas team in that poll. West Texas A&M was at 17. The Lone Star Conference is arguably the toughest Division II conference at the top, with teams like Angelo State, Lubbock Christian and UT Tyler all having just one loss in conference play, but TWU is the only LSC team with an undefeated conference record.

Per Her Hoop Stats, the Pioneers haven't necessarily set the world on fire, but they're playing well enough on both ends to keep the winning going. The team is 33rd in Division II in offensive rating and 77th in defensive rating. They rank 208th in pace, and that deliberateness has helped them control games. The team is 31st in DII in points per play.

Stock Up: Rice

Rice looked like it could win Conference USA before Conference USA play began, but once it did, the Owls quickly plummeted in the conference standings.

But, uhh...they're back, maybe. Rice is currently on a three-game win streak and while the wins themselves might not be the most impressive (they include a two-point win over UTEP and a seven-point win over UNT), the fact that the Owls are getting Ws at the end of the night is what matters at this point.

In fact, we might think a lot different about this Rice team if it wasn't for one unfortunate fact: the schedule meant that the Owls had to face the juggernaut of Middle Tennessee State twice already. The Blue Raiders are the best team in Conference USA: full stop, no conditionals. But Rice's two non-MTSU losses came by a combined total of 11 points. I'm not saying that the Owls can run the table from here on out and establish themselves as the second-best CUSA team, but I'm also not not saying that. The team is second in the conference in offensive rating, but do need to figure something out defensively, as they rank last in defensive rating.

Stock Up: Texas A&M - Corpus Christi

The Islanders are back atop the Southland thanks to a three-game win streak, plus Texas A&M - Commerce's first loss of conference play.

TAMUCC was the preseason favorite in the Southland, receiving 11 first place votes. While the rest of the conference has been a little tougher to get a read on—though not too tough, as the top six teams in the preseason poll currently all sit in the top six—the Islanders have just done what was expected of them, which is win basketball games.

If we isolate just the Southland games, we can see how the Islanders are winning: defense. They have the second-best defensive rating in the conference, allowing 79.2 points per 100 possessions, and the second-best net rating. They've got the Southland's best rebounding rate and are third in steal rate.

And through seven conference games, Alecia Westbrook is doing Alecia Westbrook things: 16.0 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting plus 11.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per contest.

Stock Down: Houston

We were so close. Conference play began and the Cougars suddenly looked like they might actually be a pretty good team, but now they're on a three-game losing streak and are just 6-13 on the season.

And like I've been saying all year: I don't get it. The talent's here: this is a team made up of players who've spent a lot of time together. But the shooting just hasn't shown up. Laila Blair, Bria Patterson and Britney Onyeje all taking multiple threes per game, and all shoot under 30 percent from three.

In fact, the three-point shooting is so bad that the team ranks 343rd in the country in three-point field goal percentage. 

Still, the defense has kept them in games. They've lost three in a row, but all three are to teams at or near the top of the AAC standings, and the losses were all by one possession.

But you have to finish games. If the shots were falling, the Cougars might be able to do that. But instead, they're back to 3-3 in conference play after a 3-0 start. I still think the talent's here, but the results haven't caught up to that talent.

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