As the calendar flips to the new year, the first half of the 2021–22 college basketball regular season is over. Here’s the four biggest surprises of the women’s basketball season so far.
No. 11 UConn struggles
To many's surprise, the preseason No. 2 Huskies have struggled so far this season. UConn had blowout losses to No. 1 South Carolina and No. 16 Georgia Tech, along with a close loss to No. 3 Louisville in its last outing. The obvious contributing factor is the loss of Paige Bueckers to a knee injury in early December. Two of the Huskies’ losses came shortly after the reigning AP Player of the Year’s injury. And UConn has now fallen out of the AP top 10 for the first time in 16 years. There’s still time for the powerhouse to bounce back, especially after Buecker’s expected return early in 2022, but it is certainly not off to the start many expected.
No. 19 UNC is undefeated
Going into this season, UNC was unranked and didn’t receive any votes for the AP Top 25, showing few expected much from Tar Heels this season. They have had one of the easier schedules in the first half of the season, with their best wins coming against 8–3 Boston College and 5–3 TCU. Regardless, 13–0 is no easy feat. To top it off, UNC also boasts a top-10 offense and defense—the only team in the country to do so. The Tar Heels are winning their games by an average point differential of 36.2, with only one game being decided by less than 10 points. There is no reason to assume they cannot keep up their dominant start to the season and should be considered a contender down the stretch.
DePaul’s offensive firepower
DePaul currently has the top offense in the country, averaging 91.7 points per game with 8.8 three-pointers made per game. One of the biggest reasons for the Blue Demons' success is their ability to take care of the ball, averaging only 14.2 turnovers per game, while their opponents average more than 21 per game. They also rank third in rebounds per game. Despite having a tough schedule this season, DePaul has made the most of it, with wins against No. 21 Kentucky, Loyola Chicago and Northwestern. With only three losses coming against tough competition in No. 25 Texas A&M, No. 4 Arizona and Notre Dame, the Blue Demons should continue to be a tough team to beat in the second half of the season.
Undefeated No. 4 Arizona looking strong
Originally ranked No. 22 in the preseason, the Wildcats have climbed their way up to No. 4 in the AP poll after a 10–0 to start the season, which included impressive wins at No. 3 Louisville and DePaul. With the No. 3 defense in the country, Arizona enters conference play as one of just two ranked teams in the Pac-12 alongside No. 2 Stanford, which the Wildcats will face on Jan. 30.
Spencer Chism is a contributor for GoodSport, a media company dedicated to raising the visibility of women and girls in sports.