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Few women's conference races left to be decided this week

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With one week left in the regular season, most of the power-conference races in women's college basketball are already decided.

Baylor and Maryland have already clinched the Big 12 and Big Ten regular-season titles, respectively. Connecticut needs to win one more game in the American Athletic Conference - and the Huskies haven't lost to a league foe in the two years since joining. Oregon State is one victory or an Arizona State loss from winning its first Pac-12 championship.

South Carolina took a big step toward a second straight SEC title with Monday night's victory over Tennessee. The Gamecocks (26-1, 14-0) can clinch a share of the crown with a win over No. 11 Mississippi State on Thursday night. After that, there's even more to achieve.

''It's a good win for us,'' said Aleighsa Welch, who had a season-high 19 points and 14 rebounds in the 71-66 victory over the Lady Vols. ''But it's not kind of the stopping point of the season.''

Tennessee had long been a stopping point for South Carolina. The Gamecocks hadn't beaten the Lady Vols at home in 35 years.

About the only races left with any intrigue are the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East. Notre Dame holds a one-game lead on Florida State in the ACC, with each team having two games left. The Irish hold the tiebreaker because they beat the Seminoles already.

Notre Dame hosts Pittsburgh and closes out the season at N.C. State. Florida State hosts the Wolfpack before visiting Miami on Sunday.

DePaul and Seton Hall each have three losses in the Big East. The Blue Demons have one game left against Marquette. The Pirates visit Xavier and Butler, and hold the tiebreaker over DePaul.

While the top teams in each major conference are mostly determined, the chase for byes in the league tournaments is more wide open.

Probably no race is closer than the Big Ten, where four teams are tied in third place with five losses and Iowa is a game ahead with four defeats. Northwestern, which entered the rankings Monday for the first time in 19 years, is one of those teams tied for third. The 25th-ranked Wildcats finish the season at home against Rutgers, also tied for third, and Maryland.

Getting into the first four and earning a double bye would be huge for coach Joe McKeown's squad.

''It would be great to have that double bye,'' he said. ''This is probably the deepest league in the country and that would be great. We'll see how those things work out.''


UNBEATEN: No. 14 Princeton remained the lone undefeated team in women's basketball after beating Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend. The Tigers host Yale and Brown this weekend. Princeton's closest Ivy League contest this season was a six-point win over Yale.

MOVING ON UP: At No. 18, Chattanooga achieved its highest ranking. The Mocs were No. 19 for three weeks in 1984 and 20th in the final poll that season after losing to Vanderbilt in the WNIT.


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