It's March! The women's college basketball regular season is over, and now it's time for teams to play their conference tournaments. Will any Texas teams be able to clinch a spot in the Big Dance? Let's take a look around all the conferences with Texas teams and see what we can expect over the next week.
American Athletic - March 6-9
Top Seed: South Florida
Texas Teams: No. 4 Houston, No. 5 SMU
While SMU has a better record on the season than Houston, the Cougars made some big strides in conference play, ultimately finishing fourth in the AAC, one spot ahead of SMU. Now, the two teams are set to face in the quarterfinals on Tuesday afternoon.
Houston comes into this game ranked 76th in Her Hoop Stats Rating, while SMU is 89th. The two teams split the season series, with Houston winning in Houston by 16 and SMU winning in Dallas by three.
The Cougars also had maybe the biggest win in the entire conference back on Feb. 12, taking down South Florida 71-69. That came after the Cougars only lost to South Florida by two in the first meeting. That could end up mattering, since a Houston win over SMU likely sets up a USF/Houston in the semifinals.
But the Bulls went 15-1 in conference play with a +18.6 net rating this season. SMU was at +7.6, and Houston was at +6.6. It'd be a stretch to pick a team that isn't South Florida to win this, even though I think Houston matches up with them best because of Houston's defense.
Predicted Winner: South Florida
Conference USA - March 8-11
Top Seed: Middle Tennessee
Texas Teams: No. 3 Rice, No. 4 UTEP, No. 6 UTSA, No. 7 North Texas
Conference USA action gets going Wednesday. UNT and UTSA both play in the first round, with the Mean Green facing UAB and the Roadrunners playing FAU. Rice plays the winner of UTSA/FAU in the quarterfinals, while UTEP's quarterfinal matchup is already set, as the Miners take on Louisiana Tech on Thursday.
The Blue Raiders are heavy, heavy favorites here. They went 18-2 in conference play and had a net rating of +25.9 this year; Rice is second in CUSA in net rating at +8.7.
Now, if there's a bright side for the state of Texas, it's that both MTSU conference losses were to Texas teams, as they lost to UTEP and UTSA. But they've won seven in a row since then, and Rice and UNT both have had blowout losses to MTSU. The Owls come into this tournament on a five-game win streak though, with four of those by double digits.
(Also, props to UTSA. Karen Aston's got this program moving in the right direction; the Roadrunners went 9-11 in conference play, an improvement on last year's 4-15 mark. And in the three seasons before that, the team had a combined four conference wins. The Roadrunners could be dangerous here.)
Predicted Winner: Middle Tennessee
Southland - March 6-9
Top Seed: Southeastern Louisiana
Texas Teams: No. 2 Texas A&M Corpus Christi, No. 3 Lamar, No. 4 UIW, No. 5 Texas A&M Commerce
Only one of the Southland's five Texas schools missed the conference tournament, with Houston Christian finishing 6-12 in conference play.
SELA and TAMUCC both went 14-4 in conference play, and were part of a three-team breakaway in the conference. No offense to Texas A&M Commerce and UIW—both went 10-8 in conference play—but this seems like it comes down to the two teams that tied for the conference title plus Lamar.
During the 18-game conference season, A&M Corpus had the best net rating in the conference at +16.3, with SELA at +12.7 and Lamar at +11.5. Not a ton of separation there. The Islanders lost both meetings with the Lions during the season, but they also ended the year on a five-game winning streak and are playing their best basketball right now. This one's kind of a toss-up for me, but you know that old saying that it's hard to beat a team three times, right?
Predicted Winner: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
SWAC - March 8-11
Top Seed: Jackson State
Texas Teams: No. 5 Prairie View A&M
Texas Southern's 2-15 record in conference play kept them from making the tournament, but Prairie View's here. And while its path to a SWAC title is narrow, the Panthers do have the distinction of handing Jackson State its only loss in conference play.
Still, Jackson State's just so good. It's the only SWAC squad with a positive net rating on the whole season, and the Tigers have a +30.3 net rating in conference games. The closes team to them is Southern at +7.7, while Prairie View is at +2.0.
This PVAMU team is talented. If you haven't watched Diana Rosenthal yet, you need to do that. But it's tough to bet against Jackson State.
Predicted Winner: Jackson State
WAC - March 6-11
Top Seed: Stephen F. Austin
Texas Teams: No. 6 UT Arlington, No. 8 Abilene Christian, No. 9 Sam Houston, No. 10 UTRGV
This wasn't a great year for the Texas-based WAC teams. Starr Jacobs won WAC POTY for UT Arlington, but the Mavs lost too much to the portal and finished sixth in the WAC, while ACU, Sam Houston and UTRGV finished eighth, ninth and 10th. Tarleton, which was last in the conference, won't be in the tournament.
Because of all this, we're really just going to talk about SFA, as its the only Texas team with a clear path to the NCAA tourney. The Ladyjacks had a +19.5 net rating in conference games, the conference's top mark. Their performance helped the team have the best showing in the WAC Resume Seeding System, giving them the top seed despite not winning the conference regular season title.
SFA's biggest competition is two-seed Southern Utah, which was second in the WAC in net rating at +10.1. The Thunderbirds are a good team, and beat SFA when the teams last met in February. That was the only regular-season meeting of the teams.
But that was also SFA's only loss in February. The team's won eight of nine, with just one of those wins coming by less than 13 points. Aiyana Johnson is averaging 15.8 points on 64.8% shooting with 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game over these last nine games.
Predicted Winner: Stephen F. Austin