Conference play starts Wednesday for all 10 Big 12 women's basketball teams. Based on nonconference play, the 18-game schedule will be a grind for the next two months.
The strength of the Big 12 is obvious with defending national champion Baylor again the favorite to cut down the nets at the Final Four. But there is plenty of depth.
The Big 12 is No. 1 in conference RPI by both Collegiate Basketball News and Sagarin ratings. Also, the Big 12 is the only conference with every team rated in the top 103 of the CBN RPI.
For the sixth consecutive season, every Big 12 team finished the non-conference with winning records.
With conference play starting, here is the predicted order of finish in the preseason poll voted on by the coaches: 1, Baylor; 2, Oklahoma; 2, West Virginia; 4, Kansas; 5, Texas; 6, Iowa State; 7, Oklahoma State; 8, Texas Tech; 9, Kansas State; 10, TCU.
Baylor Lady Bears
Big 12 opener: at TCU Wednesday.
So far: The defending national champions have defeated three top 10 teams – Kentucky, Notre Dame and Tennessee. Baylor's only loss came to Stanford, 71-69. All-American point guard Odyssey Sims missed most of that game after suffering a hamstring injury.
Numbers: Brittney Griner has 629 career blocked shots. She needs 34 to become the NCAA leader.
Leaders: Scoring, Brittney Griner, 20.2; rebounding, Brittney Griner 7.5; assists, Jordan Madden 4.1.
Notable: Baylor has won a Big 12 Conference record 23 straight regular season games. … Baylor has won the most regular season Big 12 games (169) and owns the league's best regular season winning percentage .655). … The Lady Bears have won 46-straight at home, the nation's longest home winning streak. … Brittney Griner has now scored in double-figures in 91 straight games and in 121 of 123 in her career.
Iowa State Cyclones
Big 12 opener: vs. Texas Wednesday.
So far: Iowa State's only loss came at Iowa, 50-42. The Cyclones were without All-Big 12 forward Chelsea Poppens in that game. Iowa has an 86-63 victory over Texas. The Cyclones' game with East Tennessee State on Dec. 20 was postponed because of bad weather and is not likely to be rescheduled.
Numbers: Iowa State has held eight of 10 opponents to 50 or fewer points and has held six opponents under 35 percent in field goal shooting. The Cyclones are leading the Big 12 in scoring defense (46.1 points per game) and field goal percentage defense (28.7 percent).
Leaders: Scoring Haley Christofferson 15.8; rebounding Chelsea Poppens 9.4; assists Nikki Moody 7.8.
Notable: Hallie Christofferon has scored at least 20 points in three of the last five games. … Freshman Nicole "Kidd" Blaskowsky had a career-high 26 points and made eight 3-point field goals in the victory over Air Force Saturday.
Big 12 opener: vs. Kansas State Wednesday.
So far: The Jayhawks have victories over Wake Forest and Minnesota at home plus a victory at Creighton. Both losses (to Arkansas and California) have come on the road.
Numbers: Kansas is limiting opponents to 38.6 percent shooting; last season, opponents shot 40.6 percent.
Leaders: Scoring Carolyn Davis 15.9; rebounding Tania Jackson 7.0; assists Angel Goodrich 6.5.
Notable: After suffering a knee injury last February, senior Carolyn Davis has come back to lead the Jayhawks in scoring and is second in rebounding. Davis has played in all 11 games but is averaging just 24.1 minutes. … Over her last eight games, sophomore guard Natalie Knight has 28 assists and just two turnovers. … Senior Monica Engleman is two points from becoming the 25th Kansas player to score 1,000 points in her career. … Kansas has six players averaging seven or more points per game.
Kansas State Wildcats
Big 12 opener: At Kansas Wednesday.
So far: Kansas State won its first seven games before losing three in a row – at home to UT-El Paso and then to Texas A&M and Notre Dame in the World Vision Classic.
Numbers: Brittany Chambers has made 267 3-pointers in her career, the third-most in Kansas State history. … Chambers leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, 3-pointers and is second in steals.
Leaders: Scoring Brittany Chambers 19.7; Brittany Chambers rebounding 8.0; Brittany Chambers assists 3.0.
Notable: K-State has won 19 straight games when Brittany Chambers scores 20 or more points in a game during her career. … The Wildcats have been in double figures in steals in all 12 games and the 148 steals thus far are the the most through 12 games in the Deb Patterson era. … Because the team lacks size, K-State is relying on the 3-pointer. The Wildcats average 25 attempts and 7.5 makes from behind the arc.
Big 12 opener: vs. West Virginia Wednesday.
So far: All-Big 12 guard/forward Whitney Hand was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered on Dec. 6. Oklahoma's two losses have been at home to UCLA and Vanderbilt.
Numbers: Senior forward Joanna McFarland has been in double digits in rebounding in five of the last six games. … Oklahoma has made nearly as many free throws (171) as their opponents have attempted (172). … Junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg has made 213 3-pointers in her career; the school record is 268.
Leaders: Scoring Aaryn Ellenberg 17.8; rebounding Joanna McFarland 8.3; assists Morgan Hook 4.0.
Notable: Following Whitney Hand's injury, Oklahoma's roster was down to eight scholarship players. For the second semester, volleyball players Tara Dunn and Eden Williams joined the team to help with practices. The Sooners defeated Arkansas, Oregon and Hawaii to win the Rainbow Wahine Showdown in late November.
Oklahoma State Cowgirls
Big 12 opener: vs. Texas Tech Wednesday.
So far: Oklahoma State won seven of its first eight games at home. The last three victories came at UT-Arlington and then in San Diego at the Surf 'N Slam Classic, where the Cowgirls won the title.
Numbers: Oklahoma State has won 17 in a row, dating back to last season. That's the nation's longest winning streak. Leaders: Scoring Toni Young 18.5; rebounding Toni Young 10.0; assists Tiffany Bias 7.4.
Notable: In the victory at UT-Arlington on Dec. 22, freshman Brittney Martin posted the first triple-double in Oklahoma State history with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. … The Cowgirls are ranked in the top 10 in nine of the 18 NCAA statistical categories. … Of Oklahoma State's 374 field goals, the team has 235 assists. … Liz Donohoe, last year's Big 12 freshman of the year, is averaging 17.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and leads the team in 3-point shooting.
TCU Horned Frogs
Big 12 opener: vs. Baylor Wednesday.
So far: Two of the team's losses have come against Southeastern Conference teams – at Texas A&M and at home against Georgia. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 6 and won 72-59.
Numbers: TCU is 5-0 this season when out-rebounding the opposition. … The Frogs are making 7.9 3-pointers per game and are shooting 32.8 percent from behind the arc. … Latricia Lovings, the team's top rebounder, had a career-high 17 boards in the final non-conference game.
Leaders: Scoring, Zahna Medley 14.5; rebounding Latricia Lovings 10.3; assists Zahna Medley 3.4.
Notable: In their last two games, TCU has held the opponents to less than 40 points (Texas-Pan American scored 37, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi scored 38). … Zahna Medley set a freshman record and tied the school record when she made nine 3-pointers in TCU's victory over SMU on Nov. 28. … Freshman Kamy Cole, who scored a career-high 23 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, has made her last 17 free throws.
Big 12 opener: at Iowa State Wednesday.
So far: In their first season under coach Karen Gaston, the Longhorns opened with an impressive victory over St. John's. But Texas has struggled over the past few weeks, losing four of its last six.
Numbers: Sophomore forward Nneka Enemkpali became the first player in Texas history to record six consecutive double-doubles in a season with her 16-point, 12-rebound performance in Texas' 62-42 loss to UCLA (Dec. 8). With her 24 points and 20 rebounds against Jackson State, Enemkpali became the third player in UT history and the first since 1981 to record a 20-point, 20-rebound performance.
Leaders: Scoring Chassidy Fussell 17.1; rebounding Nneka Enemkpali 11.5; assists Celina Rodrigo 4.2.
Notable: Freshman Imani McGee-Stafford had 18 points and 16 rebounds against Central Michigan, her fifth double-double. … Sophomore Nneka Enemkpali has seven double-doubles. Through the first nine games, Texas used six different starting lineups.
Texas Tech Lady Raiders
Big 12 opener: at Oklahoma State Wednesday.
So far: The Lady Raiders have won at Arizona State, defeated Illinois at home and Oregon State on a neutral court. The two losses have come on the road at New Mexico and to Michigan State in overtime in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
Numbers: Texas Tech has won 48 consecutive non-conference games at home. Senior point guard Monique Smalls has started 112 consecutive games, the nation's longest streak among active players.
Leaders: Scoring Casey Morris 12.3; rebounding Kelsi Baker/Jackie Patterson 4.7; assists Monique Smalls 2.6.
Notable: Senior guard Casey Morris needs 12 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for her career. … Texas Tech has 10 players averaging nine or more minutes per game and six players averaging seven or more points per game. … Jackie Patterson, voted the preseason newcomer of the year, is averaging 7.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 20 minutes per game.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Big 12 opener: at Oklahoma Wednesday.
So far: West Virginia suffered back to back losses to LSU and Iowa in the Florida International Thanksgiving Classic. The other loss came to Duquesne in Morgantown.
Numbers: The Mountaineers are 7-0 when holding the opposition to 60 points or less. West Virginia is limiting its foes to 23.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. That's the third-lowest average in the Big 12 and 11th-lowest average nationally.
Leaders: Scoring Christal Caldwell 11.6; rebounding Ayana Dunning 7.5; assists Linda Stepney 3.5.
Notable: West Virginia has nine players averaging 13 or more minutes per game. … The Mountaineers will play their first Big 12 home game when they host Kansas Saturday. … WVU has had four different players lead the team in scoring: Christal Caldwell, Ayana Dunning, Taylor Palmer and Bria Holmes. … The Mountaineers are getting 34.6 percent of their scoring from their reserves.