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NCAA basketball: Five top-25 clashes for New Year’s weekend

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Kiki Rice and No. 2 UCLA will face No. 6 USC in a Pac-12 rivalry contest on Dec. 30. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

College basketball is giving viewers must-see matchups to finish 2023 on a high note.

Conference play is in full swing and every game counts. This weekend’s action is full of battles between ranked teams and matchups we could see again come March and April.

Here are the top five NCAA women’s basketball games of the weekend, in order of schedule.

No. 10 Baylor @ No. 5 Texas

These undefeated Texas teams have been putting on a show early in the 2023-24 season. The Longhorns have put up five 100-point games in their 13 games played, while the Bears have posted two.

Both Baylor (11-0) and Texas (13-0) have beaten fearsome opponents, but Baylor’s ranked victories stand out. The Bears have taken down then-No. 4 Utah and then-No. 24 Miami. The Longhorns beat UConn on Dec. 3 at the Jimmy V Classic but have not faced a ranked opponent since then.

Both teams enter this matchup with confidence after significant wins in their most recent games. Texas almost doubled their previous opponent in scoring, beating Jackson State, 97-52, and Baylor topped South Florida, 73-50. With such high rates of offensive production between these Big 12 rivals, it could be anyone’s game.

2 p.m. ET Saturday — FOX

No. 12 Utah @ No. 8 Colorado

These Pac-12 teams have been mainstays in the AP Top 25 all season, and this matchup should reflect that. Four Buffaloes average double-digits in scoring, and they are overall a higher-scoring team than the Utes. But Utah’s Alissa Pili is a force to be reckoned with.

Utah (10-2) presented undefeated No. 1 South Carolina with its toughest challenge of the season so far. A high-scoring outing from Pili and a quality defensive showing like the Utes’ matchup with the Gamecocks could lift them over Colorado (10-1). But they have to get through the Buffaloes’ freshman trio of Frida Formann, Aaronette Vonleh and Jaylyn Sherrod first.

3 p.m. ET Saturday — Pac-12 Network

No. 6 USC @ No. 2 UCLA

Both USC (10-0) and UCLA (11-0) have steamrolled their way through the early season. Both squads are undefeated, and both are putting up high numbers on the scoreboard.

The Bruins have played a notably tougher schedule than the Trojans — UCLA has topped three ranked opponents since the season began, while USC has faced just one ranked team. But that hasn’t stopped the Trojans from winning in style.

USC freshman JuJu Watkins ranks second in the NCAA in average points per game. She puts up an astronomical 26.8 points per game, and she leads her team in assists and steals as well. But the Bruins starting five all average double-digit scoring, with Lauren Betts and Charisma Osborne averaging 16.9 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. This southern California rivalry will bring the offensive power that viewers crave from young rising talent and veteran players.

8 p.m. ET Saturday — Pac-12 Network

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UConn is finding its footing after a shaky start to the season. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

No. 15 UConn @ No. 18 Marquette

After their shakiest start to a season in decades, the Huskies are climbing their way back up the poll right in time for conference play. The Golden Eagles are experiencing the opposite start to their slate. After appearing on the AP Top 25 for just one week last season, Marquette has been near-constant presence this year after the best start to a season in program history.

Entering Sunday’s contest, UConn (9-3) has dropped three early games, and Marquette (12-0) is undefeated. The Golden Eagles rarely find themselves in this position against their conference rivals, but their Liza Karlen is putting up numbers rivaling those of Player of the Year candidate Paige Bueckers. UConn is Marquette’s toughest challenge yet, but the Golden Eagles should not be overlooked.

1 p.m. ET Sunday — SNY

No. 13 Notre Dame @ Syracuse

While the Irish are the only ranked team in this contest, the ACC matchup is still worth a watch. Notre Dame and Syracuse are 9-1 and 10-1, respectively, and the game could be close.

The Orange’s only loss so far came at the hands of then-No. 20 Maryland, and the Irish fell to then-No. 6 South Carolina. Notre Dame has played more intimidating opponents than Syracuse, including then-No. 20 Tennessee, but the Orange have beaten most of their opponents handily, some by almost 50 points.

Regardless of the outcome of the game, watching Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo and Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair go up against each other in a conference match should be quality basketball.

2 p.m. ET Sunday — ACC Network