The State of the State: Women's Basketball in Texas

The 2022-23 season was a strange one for women's basketball in Texas, at least at the Division I level. Just two teams made it into the tournament, though seven made a WNIT appearance. And of the two teams that made it to the main postseason tourney—Baylor and Texas—neither made it to the second weekend.

That's a rarity in this state. Prior to this year, the last time the state of Texas didn't have a Sweet 16 team was 2007. Before that, it was 1998. This was, by all accounts, a down year in the state.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that's cause for alarm going forward, as the future of Texas women's college basketball remains strong.

Let's start with the two teams that made the tournament. Texas began the season in the top five of the AP poll, but a Rori Harmon injury led to an early losing streak, and the Horns never quite recovered. But Vic Schaefer showed this year that he can do damage in the transfer portal, bringing in players like Shaylee Gonzalez, Sonya Morris and Taylor Jones. With a healthy Harmon, the Longhorns can be national contenders next season. The offense has a tendency to get a little bogged down at times, but a good addition or two in the portal can help stop that.

As for Baylor, the team tried to reload this season, but that reload didn't work because Dre'Una Edwards wasn't granted eligibility and Aijha Blackwell spent most of the season hurt. With those two back next year, the Bears should contend for a Big 12 title.

Both of the state's elite teams had to deal with more adversity than usual, and it led to a rough season at the top.

But then there's the WNIT field. Getting seven programs into that is pretty big, and it helps highlight that while the state wasn't as strong at the very top as usual, it had a whole lot of depth. And it's in that depth that we find some of the most promising signs for the future.

There's Texas Tech, which reached the WNIT Super 16, where they lost to Arkansas. While the team's best player, Bre'Amber Scott, won't be back next year, the Red Raiders have a lot of upside going forward, especially with freshman Bailey Maupin on the team.

There's SFA, which made it to the second round of the WNIT and also loses its best player, but brings back virtually everyone else, including their own up-and-coming freshman, Jordan Harrison.

There's SMU. UTEP. Rice. All teams that have the talent to win a lot of games. The Miners should be one of the favorites in a revamped Conference USA next year, with the other three Texas teams heading to the American. The Owls should be competitive in the American, where they'll fight against the Mustangs.

There's Texas State, which made it to the Sun Belt championship game. The future's in a little doubt there as the team's two best players, Da'Nasia Hood and Kennedy Taylor, are out of eligibility, but seeing this team get one game away from an NCAA Tournament appearance was a joy to watch. And that's part of what made it so fun to follow the teams in this state this season—sure, none of them ever really felt like they were in national title contention, but there were so many compelling stories beyond the surface, and so many teams that played hard every night.

There's UTSA, which didn't make it to the postseason, but is a team that took a major leap, winning 13 games against Division I opponents, their most since 2015. The team won 16 total games over the last four seasons before this one, but Karen Aston has turned that program around, with former USC player Jordyn Jenkins becoming one of the state's best offensive players.

And there's Houston, another team that missed the postseason. But the Cougars were a win away from a shocking AAC tournament title and will take an experienced team to the Big 12 next year. While the Cougars probably won't be fighting for a conference title, they could shock some people with how good they are defensively.

Even in the smaller conferences, there are things to watch. In the Southland, A&M Commerce had a great first season in Division I, finishing tied for fourth in the conference. Head coach Jason Burton left for the UNT job, but the Lions should still have a talented team and, with the right coaching hire, a bright future.

In fact, the Southland as a whole was encouraging for Texas. While Southeastern Louisiana won the conference, the next four teams in the standings were from Texas, including a Texas A&M Corpus team that went 14-4 in conference play. Teams like Lamar and UIW are trending up as well.

In the SWAC, Prairie View handed Jackson State its only conference regular season loss, with the Panthers ultimately finishing fourth. The team's 12 SWAC wins were their most since 2019.

So, yeah—if we're looking at the top only, this wasn't a great year for Texas. But there was a lot of good basketball played around the state this season, and there were a lot of teams that enter this offseason with reasons to look forward to next season.

And next season will bring with it some exciting changes. Houston's in the Big 12. UNT, Rice and UTEP are in the American. Sam Houston moves to Conference USA. Heck, who knows what else will happen between now and then. We still have the transfer portal, and we also have nine of ESPN's top 100 recruits coming to in-state programs.

There are also some great former Texas high school players out there finding success out of the state. How far can Deja Kelly take North Carolina? Will Hannah Gusters be successful at Oklahoma State? Will Ashlon Jackson break out at Duke or Sa'Myah Smith at LSU?

So while it wasn't the greatest season for the state, there was still a lot to like, and there's still a lot to like going forward.

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