Stock Up, Stock Down: Early Conference Play Takeaways

Welcome back to Stock Up, Stock Down, your (mostly) weekly look around women's college basketball in the state of Texas.

This week, we've got some early observations from conference play, since all the conferences have now reached that part of their schedule. Let's get started.

Stock Up: Houston

Houston has a lot of continuity this year, and that continuity was supposed to be the thing that put the Cougars in contention to win the American. But non-conference play went really, really poorly for the Coogs. They won just three games, and one of those was a four-point overtime win over a rebuilding UTSA team. Houston lost to some pretty good teams, but they also should have been beating teams like Louisiana and UT Arlington.

But conference play might have righted some things.

The Cougars began the AAC portion of their schedule with a 2-0 record, which includes a 60-44 win over SMU. The offense still isn't hitting the heights that I expected from this team, but the defense appears to be ready to make up for that. Offensively, Houston still ranks just 259th in offensive rating, but they're up to 76th in defensive rating.

Still, we need to see players like Britney Onyeje and Bria Patterson start to hit a higher percentage of their shots if this team wants to fully get back on track. Still, some good signs here.

Stock Up: Texas A&M Commerce

I promised myself I wouldn't write about the Southland this week since I did it twice last week, but then the Lions went and started conference play 3-0, and I realized that I was going to have to keep focusing on the conference — which is fine, since I love some Southland hoops.

There was a moment, early in the season, when I thought that A&M Commerce could make noise in its first Division I season, or at least could make noise really quickly, if not this year:

As non-conference play went on, I kind of stopped thinking that, just because the Lions had an uneven non-conference showing, with just one win over a Division I school, a 16-point victory over Idaho.

But, Southland play arrived, and this team has looked really good. They opened with a 64-61 win over UIW before blowing out Nicholls 81-48. Its third conference game was an eight-point win on the road against McNeese.

In Southland play, Commerce currently ranks first in points per game and margin per game, as well as first in offensive rating and third in defensive rating, per Her Hoop Stats.

The obvious answer for why this team has been so good? Dyani Robinson, who is averaging 20.3 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game in conference play. Yes, it's a small sample, but I'm ready to say the Lions have a chance to win this conference because they'll almost always have the best player on the floor. Seriously: Robinson might not be shooting as efficiently in Division I as she did the last two years when Commerce was in Division II, but she's the kind of transcendent scorer who can take over a conference like the Southland. Let's talk about her more in-depth at some point over the next few weeks.

Stock Up: Baylor

There were a lot of people who thought this was the year Baylor didn't win the Big 12. And...well, they're now the only team with an undefeated conference record. Guess you can never count Baylor out, huh?

That 3-0 record in conference play includes double-digit wins over two ranked teams: 81-70 over Oklahoma and 75-62 over Kansas. Oh, and both of those were road games for the Bears.

What's even more interesting here is that M.A. Voepel of ESPN reported that Dre'Una Edwards doesn't look like she'll play this season, as her waiver to play right away wasn't approved by Kentucky. Edwards was supposed to really shore things up at center with NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo gone; instead, it looks like she won't play this season.

Freshman Darianna Littlepage-Buggs continues to play well. She scored 17 points in the win over Kansas, her second-best scoring effort of the season.

Stock Down: Rice

Uhh...what happened here? In non-conference play, the Rice Owls looked like the best mid-major program in Texas. But now that Conference USA play is here...well, things have taken a turn.

The Owls are 1-3 to open conference play, which is the same conference record as North Texas and UTSA. The only Texas team in the conference that's doing well in Conference USA action is UTEP, which is 3-1.

Rice was undefeated before its first conference game. The Owls had multiple wins over power conference teams...but those power conference teams were TCU and Texas A&M, the worst teams in the Big 12 and SEC, respectively. Maybe winning close-ish games against those teams didn't mean as much as we thought?

The Owls have played the three teams they've lost to in CUSA — Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, and Louisiana Tech — close, losing each game by either five or six points. But the defense has fallen off, allowing over 70 points in each of those losses. Before that, the team has allowed over 70 points three times all season, and had managed to win all those games. The team is 10th out of 11 Conference USA teams in defensive rating if we look exclusively at conference games.

Still time to turn this around, and the offense ranks among the conference's best. It's just that Rice's defense has really struggled to get stops this month.

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