With Thanksgiving tournaments in the rearview mirror, many Top 25 teams will turn their attentions this week to inter-conference challenges and the annual Jimmy V Classic.
The inaugural ACC/SEC women’s basketball challenge will be played with marquee games including No. 18 Notre Dame against No. 20 Tennessee; No. 24 North Carolina playing top-ranked South Carolina and No. 9 Virginia Tech against No. 7 LSU — a rematch of last season’s Final Four matchup.
The Hokies, who lost to LSU in the national semifinals last season, will be facing a Tigers team Thursday that is in flux. Star Angel Reese hasn’t played in LSU’s last four games, including missing the school’s two games trip to the Cayman Islands over the holiday.
“That’s a deep subject. You ask at every game, you’re gonna get the same answer,” coach Kim Mulkey said following LSU’s win on Saturday over Virginia.
LSU also has been playing without guard Kateri Poole for the last few games. Mulkey said that she’d share more about Poole’s absence this week. The Tigers suffered more bad news when forward Sa’Myah Smith got injured in Friday’s win over Niagara. She was on crutches Saturday and was going to have an MRI this week.
Virginia Tech also played in the Cayman Islands last week and got to see the Tigers firsthand. The Hokies stars Liz Kitley and Georgia Amoore have been playing great. Their lone loss this season came against Iowa.
The other marquee event this week is the Jimmy V Classic tripleheader on Sunday. It’s the first time that there will be three women’s games played in honor of the late North Carolina State coach. Two of them — South Carolina against Duke and UConn visiting Texas — will be on ABC. The third game, Tennessee vs. Ohio State, will be on ESPN.
“It’s another indication that women’s basketball is growing,” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. “Our ratings a year ago were incredible and are strong this season. There’s no reason why more women’s games shouldn’t be taking up a bigger part of the broader landscape of college basketball on television.”
TEAM TO WATCH
For the first time since 2011-12, Vanderbilt is 7-0 to open a season. The Commodores beat Iowa State and Northern Iowa last week in a Las Vegas tournament. Next up is a tough matchup with No. 5 N.C. State on Wednesday. A win could propel Vanderbilt to its first ranking since 2014. That was the last season the team made the NCAA Tournament.
N.C. State has been quickly ascending up the polls this season. The Wolfpack started unranked, but now have moved up to No. 5, marking the first time a team has done that before the end of November according to the website “Across The Timeline”. Wes Moore’s group has knocked off then-No. 2 UConn and last week then-No. 3 Colorado.
“We’ve been underestimated, because nobody knew what to think of us coming into this year,” Wolfpack’s River Baldwin said after the win over the Buffaloes. “We’re just here to prove everybody wrong.”