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Women’s college basketball Power Rankings: South Carolina, Louisville remain 1-2 as conference play arrives

Save for another big victory from No. 1 South Carolina , it was a quiet week in women’s college basketball, which is standard for this time of year. The Gamecocks are entrenched in the top spot, nationally and in the SEC, with Aliyah Boston the favorite for national player of the year. And coach Dawn Staley’s dog, Champ, might be up for some name, image and likeness deals after his starring role in a postgame video conference following the Gamecocks’ win over Stanford.

While some things look pretty clear heading into 2022, others are definitely still sorting themselves out. Many teams have played one or two conference games, but we’re about to get into the full swing of league play. Longtime rivalries will be renewed, and we will find out whose nonconference records are legitimate and whose aren’t.

There are still some critical nonconference games remaining, but league play is the big thing on everyone’s mind now. We take a look at one key question for each of the Power 5 conferences.

ACC: Are Duke and North Carolina for real?

The Tar Heels are the league’s only unbeaten team at 11-0, and the Blue Devils are 9-1. Both are ranked. But we need more results to see how strong they’ll be as ACC contenders.

Right now, we know more about Duke because the Blue Devils have played a tougher schedule, beating then-No. 9 Iowa 79-64 on Dec. 2 and falling 55-46 to No. 1 South Carolina on Dec. 15.

North Carolina has not yet faced a ranked opponent and is 141st in strength of schedule. The Tar Heels face their first ranked foe on Jan. 6 when they travel to NC State.

From 1994 to 2014, either North Carolina, Duke or both were in the ACC tournament final all but one season. But over the past seven tournaments, the schools have had only one ACC final appearance: Duke’s championship game loss to Notre Dame in 2017.

Shayeann Day-Wilson, a freshman guard from Canada, is off to a great start in her Duke career, averaging a team-best 12.9 points per game. Sophomore guard Deja Kelly (16.8 PPG) is leading four Tar Heels who are averaging double figures in scoring. At 83.6 PPG, North Carolina is leading the ACC in scoring.

By the time Duke and North Carolina have the first of their two regular-season meetings — Jan. 27 at Duke — we’ll have a better idea of where these two stand and whether one of college sports’ most storied rivalries is truly on the upswing again in women’s basketball.

Big Ten: Can Iowa get its mojo back?

The Hawkeyes made the Big Ten tournament final and advanced to the Sweet 16 last season, and they were ranked No. 9 to start this season. But they lost three times in December: at Duke, at Iowa State and at home to IUPUI.

Part of the problem is that Iowa is struggling from behind the arc, hitting 30% from distance. Sophomore Caitlin Clark is averaging 22.0 PPG but is shooting just […]

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