Resumes, Resumes, Resumes. They are at the heart of any February and March NCAA tournament selection discussion. Yet so much of a team’s resume — those games that make the difference — is created during the non-conference portion of the schedule in the first two months of the season.
Seeding for women’s NCAA tournaments often hinges on what happens in November. Because of this, half of the matchups on this list of the top non-conference games of the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season will be played in the next few weeks. And — no surprise — we don’t have to wait long for the best non-conference match: Just 13 days after the season ended, the 2nd-ranked Stanford Cardinal takes on the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 20 in a match between the last two nationals Master.
The best teams tend to field the best, so it’s not surprising that so many top 10 teams play in these games. These matchups should offer some of basketball’s best, but they are also the most influential in terms of the fate of these programs on Selection Sunday, March 12th.
And while they didn’t make this list, the December 4 Jimmy V Classic — the Virginia Tech Hokies at Tennessee Lady Volunteers (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App) and UConn Huskies at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3 p.m. ET , ABC/ESPN App) – are also must-see preseason games. And we’ll be taking a closer look at tournaments around Thanksgiving a little later this month.
Our ranking of the top 10 non-conference games in this order:
South Carolina gamecocks at Stanford Cardinal
Nov. 20, 3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App
Two weeks into the season it’s hard to top No. 1 vs. No. 2. And Gamecocks vs. Cardinal has quickly become the most compelling two-coastal rivalry in the country. Stanford won the 2021 national championship thanks to a riveting one-point win over South Carolina in the national semifinals. The rematch came just before Christmas last year and behind Aliyah Boston’s 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, the Gamecocks made the biggest comeback in program history, rebounding from 18 to the 65-61 win. Featuring Haley Jones and Cameron Brink of Boston and Stanford, this game features three of the top six players in our recent ranking of the top 25 players in the country.
Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1
As many as seven UConn games could make that list – the Huskies have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation – but this one at the Gampel Pavilion ranks highest because it’s first and, given UConn’s new look, possibly the most important . So many questions hang over the Huskies with their casualties and injuries. The Longhorns offer the first litmus test of how UConn has adjusted to the loss of Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook to graduation and Paige Bueckers to a cruciate ligament rupture. The Longhorns have their own Final Four ambitions and are also integrating a handful of new players. Both Geno Auriemma and Vic Schaefer will know how their teams compare to the rest of the country after this tournament.
December 7, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App
The Cy-Hawk showdown has always been a major domestic rivalry, and never has it been this great. Each team has the second-highest preseason rank in program history (Iowa #4 in the AP Preseason Poll and Iowa State #8) and ranks among the best offenses in the country. Last December, the Cyclones picked up their first win in the series since 2015 behind Ashley Joens’ 26 points. That year, Joens joined Iowa’s Caitlin Clark as a first-team All-American from the preseason.
Tennessee Lady Vols at Stanford Cardinal
Dec. 18, 3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App
This game might be the best indicator of whether the Lady Vols are ready to truly challenge South Carolina in the SEC. By this point in the season, Stanford will already have played the Gamecocks, so Tennessee’s performance against the Cardinal 11 days before the SEC game begins could be an accurate benchmark. This will be Stanford’s penultimate non-conference game. It’s likely to leave a lasting impression on the selection committee as it’s about picking the four No. 1 seeds.
Nov. 20, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN+
No matchup on this list embodies the transfer portal’s roster reshuffle like this one. Each team welcomes eight new players to the roster, many of whom come from other programs. What better way to see the chemistry in the early stages of the season than playing against a team facing the same challenges. Both the Terps and Bears enter this game in the unusual position of not being favorites to win their conference. Perhaps the winner of this game will walk away with the confidence to do just that.
Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET, ACCN
The ACC Big Ten Challenge is packed with high quality matchups. This one might be the best. The revamped Cardinals, with potentially three new starters, face a Buckeyes team with four of their top five scorers. In pursuit of the top 3 or 4 NCAA tournament seeds, this game’s winner will gain some breathing room before heading into the tough conference races. The loser has little room for error.
UConn Huskies at Tennessee Lady Vols
Jan. 26, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App
When Tennessee last beat UConn, Candace Parker was a Lady Vol. Of course, 13 years passed without a game between the sport’s two definitive programs. Since the rivalry resumed in 2020, the Huskies have won all three games by averaging 13 points, including last season’s 19-point win that served as a breakout game for UConn’s Azzi Fudd (25 points). This could be the best Tennessee team since the Parker era, and nothing would prepare the Lady Vols for the stretch run like beating the Huskies.
Nov. 7, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The very first night of the season features a game that could have repercussions well into March. Should the Jackrabbits need consideration across the board, they could really use this win. The Bluejays, coming off an Elite Eight run, will have more opportunities to build the résumé in the Great East, but their seeding could take a big swing based on that result and later games against Nebraska and Arkansas.
South Carolina gamecocks at UConn Huskies
February 5, noon ET, FOX
The Huskies’ grueling off-conference schedule ends here with a game at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Willy-nilly, this could look like a completely different side to the one that played against Texas in mid-November depending on how the young players are developing and the health of the roster. The Gamecocks will likely be exactly what they’ve been for the past few years: one of the best, if not the best team in the country. South Carolina goes into this matchup with four straight wins, one the Huskies dominated in their early days.
December 1, 6 p.m. ET, BTN
This is the second of two ACC/Big Ten Challenge games on our list – NC State in Iowa and Maryland in Notre Dame are two other high-profile matchups that night – and this is a presentation of games that could have a big impact on the Seeding NCAA tournaments. Both programs have seen a rebirth in recent seasons with the same formula: Bring together a core group of players and create incredible chemistry. The Hoosiers start the season at No. 11, and North Carolina follows closely at No. 12. The battle to host the first and second rounds of NCAA tournament games begins here for both teams.
https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/34939635/women-ncaa-basketball-best-nonconference-games-2022-23 Women’s NCAA basketball’s 10 most impactful nonconference games for 2022-23