Shared from the 11/6/2022 Houston Chronicle eEdition


Eric Gay/Associated Press

Cypress Creek product Rori Harmon will lead No. 3 Texas after establishing herself as one of the nation’s best two-way players last season as a freshman.



Coach: Ronald Hughey, ninth season at Houston.

Last year’s record: 18-16, 7-9 AAC.

Outlook: Is this the season the Cougars finally make the NCAA Tournament? The Cougars have made consecutive WNIT appearances, including a run to the Sweet 16 last season, and Hughey returns his five top scorers. Led by Laila Blair, the Cougars were picked to finish second in the preseason poll behind South Florida. “Enough of this knocking on the door,” Hughey said. “We need to pull the door open.” Blair and Britney Onyeje are 3-point threats who hit a combined 102 last season. Tiara Young and Bria Patterson nearly averaged double figures, and Tatyana Hill (7.3) is the top returning rebounder.

Player to watch: Blair, a 5-8 junior guard. A unanimous first-team All-AAC selection in the preseason, Blair is a playmaker who averaged a team-high 13.3 points and added 81 assists last season.

Key games: Nov. 19 vs. Florida State, Nov. 26 vs. Florida (at St. Petersburg, Fla.), Dec. 4 at Kansas State, Dec. 30 vs. SMU, Jan. 18 vs. USF, Feb. 12 at USF.


Coach: Lindsay Edmonds, second season at Rice.

Last year’s record: 14-13 (8-9).

Outlook: Despite losing four of five starters from the previous year’s team, the short-handed Owls closed the 2021-22 season with nine wins over their final 15 games, advancing to the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament. Injuries limited the Owls to an eight-player rotation much of last season, with three freshmen in the starting lineup. Returnees include second-team All-CUSA forward Ashlee Austin; Malia Fisher, who earned All-Freshman honors; and Destiny Jackson, an honorable mention all-conference performer in her first full season as the starting point guard.

Player to watch: Fatou Samb, a 6-4 junior center. The Cal transfer brings size and experience.

Key games: Nov. 27 at Texas A&M, Dec. 10 vs. Houston, Dec. 20 vs. Middle Tennessee, Feb. 2 vs. Louisiana Tech, Feb. 25 vs. Charlotte.


Coach: Vic Schaefer, third season as Texas.

Last year’s record: 29-7 (13-5).

Outlook: Texas will miss leading scorer Aliyah Matharu and its two heart-and-soul wings, Audrey Warren and Joanne Allen-Taylor. But Schaefer, who has guided Texas to two straight Elite Eight appearances, restocked through the transfer portal, nabbing BYU star Shaylee Gonzales and a few other established college veterans. Sophomores Rori Harmon and Aaliyah Moore will need to play like stars all season, but there’s enough depth surrounding them for No. 3 Texas to challenge for both a Big 12 title and a national championship.

Player to watch: Harmon, a 5-6 sophomore guard. Harmon established herself as one of the nation’s best two-way players as a freshman, averaging 11.4 points, 5.0 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.

Key games: Nov. 14 at UConn, Nov. 27 vs. Princeton, Jan. 15 vs. Iowa State, Jan. 22 at Baylor, Feb. 25 at Oklahoma.


Coach: Joni Taylor, 1st season at A&M.

Last year’s record: 14-15 (4-12).

Outlook: The Aggies are in their biggest rebuilding mode in nearly 20 years under Taylor, hired from Georgia to try to get A&M back to the NCAA Tournament after a string of 15 consecutive appearances was snapped last season under the now-retired Gary Blair. The Aggies’ top three scorers last season were seniors, and guard Jordan Nixon, who earned notice in the 2021 NCAA Tournament because of her clutch play, chose not to return. Taylor said “we’re playing two totally different styles” compared with Blair’s approach — so the Aggies are in for a large learning curve this season.

Player to watch: Janiah Barker, a 6-4 freshman forward. The Georgian is the highest-ranked recruit in A&M history at No. 3 according to ESPN.

Key games: Nov. 17 at Duke, Dec. 29 at South Carolina, Jan. 12 vs. Tennessee, Jan. 15 vs. Mississippi State, Feb. 5 vs. LSU.


Coach: Donna Finnie, 10th season at HCU.

Last year’s record: 16-11 (12-2).

Outlook: The Huskies look to build off their first Southland regular-season championship. Two of its pillars are preseason all-conference selections Kennedy Wilson, who averaged 8.2 points, and Julija Vujakovic. Vujakovic put up 9.1 points per game and anchored the Huskies’ nationally ranked defense with a team-high 45 steals from the forward position. Experience will be provided by forward N’Denasija Collins and centers Abbey Sutherland and Marilyn Nzoiwu. Among the incoming freshmen is guard Erin Maguire, the third Maguire sister to join the program. Enya Maguire is a junior who has started 14 games.

Player to watch: Jo Oly, a 6-0 freshman forward. Oly is a versatile player with the ability to score and who will fit into the defensive system.

Key games: Nov. 16 at LSU, Dec. 4 at Baylor, Dec. 21 at Texas, Jan. 21 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Feb. 18 vs. Lamar.


Coach: Vernette Skeete, first season at TSU.

Last year’s record: 11-15 (11-7).

Outlook: First-year coach Skeete has a reliable player in Andriana Avent, a first-team All-SWAC selection in the backcourt. Avent was a scoring machine in her first year as a Tiger, averaging 18.1 points over 23 games. She had a streak of 20 straight double-figure games. Adding support for Avent is Alisa Knight, who started 19 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds with 37 steals. Zyan Reynolds, Skye Green and Ariana Taylor also should contribute. Skeete is replacing Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who completed three seasons in her second stint coaching the Tigers. Skeete was most recently co-associate head coach to Gary Blair at Texas A&M.

Player to watch: Avent, a 5-11 junior guard. If Avent continues to progress in her second year in the program, she should contend for conference player of the year.

Key dates: Dec. 14 at Arizona, Jan. 2 vs. Southern, Jan. 16 vs. Jackson State, Jan. 28 vs. Prairie View A&M, Feb. 25 at Jackson State.


Coach: Sandy Pugh, fifth season at Prairie View.

Last year’s record: 13-16 (10-8).

Outlook: It all starts with first-team All-SWAC selection Diana Rosenthal, who led the team with 15.9 points per game and was third in the league in steals (2.3) last season. The squad returns its top four scorers, including Kennedy Paul (9.8) and Kennedi Heard (6.8). Tamiracle Taylor, who can play either guard spot, Mikayla Hutchinson and Jessica Soders are well-rounded players who can play multiple positions.

Player to watch: Gerlyn Smith, a 6-1 junior forward. Smith is expected to get extended minutes after averaging 8.7 points as a first-year Panther.

Key dates: Dec. 20 at Michigan State, Jan. 4 vs. Southern, Jan. 14 vs. Jackson State, Feb. 18 vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff, March 4 vs. TSU.

Staff reports

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