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College basketball: Which undefeated team will be the last one standing?

(Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

After No. 20 Kansas fell to unranked Nebraska last week, just six teams remain unbeaten in NCAA Division I women’s college basketball this season.

No. 1 South Carolina, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Indiana, No. 10 LSU, No. 12 Utah and No. 25 St. John’s are all perfect thus far — but as conference play heats up, those perfect records will become harder to maintain.

Which undefeated team will be the last one standing?

No. 1 South Carolina (12-0)

In 2021-22, the Gamecocks seemed to have a high probability of making it through the regular season without a loss after they topped No. 2 Stanford on Dec. 21. But they were upset just one game later, in a surprising 70-69 loss to Missouri.

South Carolina ended up losing one more game, to Kentucky in the SEC tournament, before going on to win the NCAA title.

Last season’s loss to Missouri was shocking because of the opponent, but also because South Carolina looked essentially unbeatable up to that point. This season is different. I don’t expect the Gamecocks to make it to the tournament with a perfect record because we already have seen the formula to beat them.

While South Carolina scored a 73-64 win against UCLA on Nov. 29, the Bruins’ game plan was nearly perfect. They opted to put a defender on Aliyah Boston in the paint while running a four-man zone around her. While Boston still recorded 18 points, packing the paint disrupted South Carolina’s flow. The Gamecocks weren’t able to play inside out, and they went 1-of-14 from the 3-point line.

A fourth-quarter collapse kept UCLA from an upset win, but another team could put the same plan into practice for a chance to topple South Carolina. Of course, even if the plan is executed well, South Carolina still has enough talent to pull out a win – they have perhaps the deepest team in the country. But UCLA proved it is possible to upset the Gamecocks.

Still, of all the teams on this list, the Gamecocks have the best shot at a perfect record.

No. 3 Ohio State (13-0)

The Buckeyes had a scare against USF, as they trailed by as many as 18 in Tuesday’s contest. Even after making a comeback and forcing overtime, they trailed by 6 with 1:10 remaining.

But Ohio State scored eight straight to grab an improbable victory. Then the team followed that up with a convincing 84-67 win over No. 16 Oregon to preserve its unbeaten record.

The win over Oregon also stands out as impressive, as the Buckeyes did it with a depleted squad.

Point guard Jacy Sheldon has been out with a leg injury since Nov. 30 and remains week-to-week. Sheldon is not just the team’s second-leading scorer but also its best defender, with six steals per game. Without Sheldon, the point guard duties fell to Madison Greene, but she was hurt in the win over USF. So the Buckeyes head into Big Ten play without two of their key players.

The Big Ten is full of talented opponents, and getting through it without a loss would be a tall order. The challenges start on Dec. 31 with No. 19 Michigan. Then, two weeks later Ohio State plays a Nebraska team that just topped previously undefeated Kansas.

No. 4 Indiana (12-0)

The Hoosiers started the season with a win over Tennessee. Then they topped No. 6 North Carolina in dominant fashion, and they did so without injured star Grace Berger.

But Big Ten play will make their perfect record hard to keep. The Hoosiers have to play Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State and Iowa twice each. There’s pretty much no way they make it through the conference slate without a loss.

That being said, Indiana has been able to maintain its perfect record thus far because of a balanced attack and a plethora of talent. Since Berger’s injury, everyone else has stepped up. Mackenzie Holmes leads the way with 19.8 points per game, followed by Sydney Parrish with 12.5, Sara Scalia and Yarden Garzon with 11.9 each. Chloe Moore-McNeil has slid nicely into the point guard spot, averaging 9.9 points and 5.2 assists per game.

No. 10 LSU (12-0)

Angel Reese is crazy talented, and LSU scores a lot of points. But the Tigers’ perfect record is largely because of the their opponents.

So far, the best team LSU has played is a 7-4 Oregon State squad. Other than the Beavers, their opponents have included: Bellarmine, Mississippi Valley State, Western Carolina, Houston Christian, Northwestern State, George Mason, UAB, Southeastern Louisiana, Tulane, Lamar and Montana State.

Because of that weak schedule, it’s hard to gauge just how good LSU is, and even harder to predict how long the Tigers can stay undefeated.

The Tigers could lose as soon as Dec. 29, when they take on a ranked team in No. 17 Arkansas — or, they could prove their doubters wrong and pass their first true test of the season. From there, the SEC will certainly provide better competition, including fellow undefeated team No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 12.

No. 12 Utah (12-0)

The Utes have played just one ranked opponent up to this point, but they made the most of it, topping Oklahoma 124-78.

The going will get tougher for Utah in Pac-12 play, especially in back-to-back games in January against No. 18 Arizona and No. 2 Stanford. Followed by No. 11 UCLA and No. 16 Oregon.

The Utes likely will not get through that gauntlet without a loss, but they have a chance to stay unbeaten until then. Before then, they face Southern Utah, Washington State, Washington, Colorado and Arizona State, and if one of those teams knocks them off, it certainly would be considered an upset.

The Utes have stayed unbeaten so far because of their high-powered offense. They average 93 points per game, with five-double digit scorers. Alissa Pili leads with 20.7 points per contest.

No. 25 St. John’s (12-0)

After playing a relatively light schedule, St. John’s worked its way into the AP Top 25 with a win over No. 21 Creighton on Dec. 4.

The Red Storm went up 9 points at the end of the first quarter and weathered runs from Creighton to secure a narrow 66-62 victory. The game was an impressive showing of maturity from an experienced St. John’s team. All five starters are fifth-year seniors or graduate students, and so are the first two players off the bench.

Because of this, I don’t expect St. John’s to drop a game to a team they should beat. Discipline is important in an undefeated season, and the Red Storm certainly have that. Their toughest test is yet to come, though, when they take on UConn on Jan. 11. There is a chance that Azzi Fudd is back for that game, so a loss is likely.

If St. John’s manages to get through the Huskies unscathed, they have to play Villanova, Marquette and DePaul twice, then they have rematches against Creighton and UConn. I imagine the Red Storm will have at least one loss on their record by the middle of January.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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