We've already had a few upsets, an entertaining mid-major showdown and a look at what is expected to be an excellent freshman class. After two weeks of the 2019-20 women's college basketball season, here's what espnW's Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel are thinking early on the road to New Orleans.
Which players have impressed you the most so far?
Mechelle Voepel: Understandably, Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu will be at the center of attention all season. But Ducks forward Ruthy Hebard is also off to a terrific start for her senior year. She held her own in the exhibition with the U.S. national team, getting 18 points and 11 rebounds. In the Ducks' two games thus far, she has shot 78.3% from the field (18 of 23) and is averaging team highs in scoring (20.0) and rebounding (13.5).
Graham Hays: Drake's Kierra Collier. Even with a redshirt year, it takes time to settle into Drake's up-tempo rhythm in real games. But the Washington transfer who was an all-freshman honoree with the Huskies has already shown the potential to be an enormous difference-maker for one of the best mid-majors and a team with Top 25 talent. Her shooting, penetration and playmaking (17 assists in three games) are perfect fits for the Bulldogs.
Charlie Creme: Tennessee's Rennia Davis struggled with her shooting in the Lady Vols' first two games, but she delivered a 33-point, 10-rebound performance on the road against Notre Dame soon after finding out that teammate Zaay Green, Tennessee's leading scorer in its first two games, would be lost for the season. That performance was exactly what the Lady Vols needed, and at just the right time, from their top remaining veteran.
What one result surprised you the most so far?
Creme: Clemson losing to Navy. By no means were the Tigers expected to challenge for the ACC crown, but they had some momentum coming off the program's first NCAA tournament appearance in 17 years and had their highest preseason ACC ranking (eighth) since 2007-08. So falling at home by 13 to Navy, a team picked to finish eighth in the Patriot League, is a major disappointment. That Clemson followed that with another 13-point home loss, to Alabama, doesn't bode well for a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
Hays: Not counting Oregon beating Team USA, the most surprising result was Maryland's 70-68 win against James Madison -- in that the Terrapins needed to erase a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory. Full credit to the Big Ten champions for making that comeback, which could well prove to be among their pivot points this season. And James Madison is one of those programs that consistently puts out teams that compete. But combined with the home loss against South Carolina a few days earlier, Maryland hasn't yet looked like the juggernaut I expected.
Voepel: South Carolina not just winning at Maryland but dictating the pace of play despite starting three freshmen. The Gamecocks' victory wasn't a shock considering how much talent they have. But they did it on the road, and against a very good offense they made look bad. If someone told you a team starting three rookies shot 31.7% from the field playing at the No. 4 team in the country, you'd probably say, "How badly did they lose?" But South Carolina did that and won 63-54. The freshmen appear to be special, including Aliyah Boston, who had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in that game. The Gamecocks held the Terps to 2-of-16 shooting from behind the arc.
Give us one thing on each top-five team that we didn't know heading into the season
1. Oregon: Like most everyone else, I ranked the Ducks at No. 1 and picked them as my preseason favorite to win it all, but I didn't think they would be this good. To beat the U.S. national team, albeit in an exhibition and in Team USA's fourth game in eight days, is still next-level stuff. -- Creme
2. Baylor: In less than a week, the Lady Bears went from a team with a dominant and deep frontcourt to one looking for some answers there. Sophomore forward Aquira DeCosta decided to transfer in late October, and on Wednesday it was revealed that All-American Lauren Cox would be out an undetermined amount of time with a foot injury. The Cox injury could, obviously, be one of the major national storylines moving forward and comes just as Baylor's schedule gets more difficult. -- Creme
3. Stanford: The sophomore class might be pretty good, too. Amid all the talk of the hugely talented freshman class and the experience of elders such as Kiana Williams and DiJonai Carrington, sophomore Lexie Hull is pretty darn good. Hull's career-best 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including five 3-pointers, against San Francisco stole the Stanford spotlight in the first week. It's yet more options for a team that now seems to have limitless reserves of them. -- Hays
4. UConn: We knew this Huskies team wasn't quite as talented as those of the last decade, but it's surprising that this edition is such a pedestrian rebounding team. Geno Auriemma said his Huskies weren't good at all on the glass. Vanderbilt outrebounded UConn, and Cal drew even on the glass. That's unusual for a program traditionally among the top 10 or 20 rebounding teams in the country. -- Creme
5. Texas A&M: Unlike UConn, the Aggies are making rebounding their calling card, and that's even with Chennedy Carter's scoring ability on display every night. Through two games, against Sun Belt favorite Little Rock and Duke, Texas A&M is plus-44 on the boards. The Aggies are fifth in the country in rebounding rate per Her Hoops Stats data and are grabbing half of their missed field goal attempts. Ciera Johnson is averaging 12.5 rebounds per game. -- Creme
Which Top 25 coach will most regret her or his soft schedule?
Hays: Vic Schaefer and Mississippi State welcomed more than 7,500 fans for each of the team's first two games, so everyone in Starkville seems pretty content with the current arrangement. But with so many new faces or familiar faces in expanded roles -- and with so many of its big SEC games on the road -- opening with Southern Miss, Tennessee Martin, Murray State, Troy and Jackson State doesn't serve this team's development all that well. Put another way, I don't really think of Schaefer as someone inclined to coddle people. But here we are.
Voepel: UCLA brought back three starters, led by Michaela Onyenwere. It would have been good to see the Bruins challenged a little more in the nonconference than they probably will be. Of their 11 foes, just three are from Power 5 conferences, and only one is currently ranked. Yes, the Pac-12 will be super-tough this year, but UCLA should be able to hold its own in league play. If the Bruins struggle in the Pac-12, you might look at the nonconference slate and wonder if it sufficiently prepared them.
Creme: Let's see how well prepared Miami is when it faces Oregon State the day after Thanksgiving, because the Hurricanes' lead-up to that game is pretty underwhelming. The leap in competitive level from Jackson State, North Florida and IUPUI to the Beavers is large -- and could be too much. With the new 18-game ACC slate, nonconference scheduling isn't as flexible for the league's coaches, making it that much more important for the Hurricanes to at least give a good showing if Katie Meier's club wants to compete for a top-four NCAA tournament seed. Games against Indiana and Washington State are likely Miami's only other opportunities to showcase itself outside the ACC.
Possible upset to watch for in the next week?
Creme: Minnesota was a Top 25 team in the preseason, so perhaps beating Arizona State at home on Sunday wouldn't be a shocker, but the Golden Gophers lost their opener, albeit to a good Missouri State team. Minnesota can score and, despite putting up 80-plus points in both of its games so far, the Sun Devils have struggled in that area the past couple of seasons. Eventually, someone in the top half of the Pac-12 will lose. This just might be it on Sunday.
Hays: The safer pick is probably Arizona at No. 22 Texas because Arizona's Aari McDonald will be the best player on the court in Austin on Sunday. But I'm not so sure that Maine's Blanca Millan won't be the best player on the court on the road Tuesday against NC State. The Wolfpack are clearly the superior team, but a 10:30 a.m. weekday tipoff is the kind of variable that just invites weirdness. The reigning America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Millan put up 64 points in Maine's first two games and is a marvel. At the very least, I'm fascinated to see how she'll fare against one of the ACC's best teams.
Voepel: South Florida already has beaten Texas; could it add an upset over Longhorns nemesis Baylor to its résumé? Coming into the season, we'd have said "not likely." But if Baylor forward Lauren Cox misses that game -- she's out indefinitely with a stress reaction in her right foot -- that makes the Lady Bears more vulnerable against a team like the Bulls.