AP Top 25 women's basketball poll: Iowa not alone in suffering surprise upset over wild weekend

LINCOLN, Neb. — Though Iowa's upset to unranked Nebraska drew the most attention, the Hawkeyes were one of three teams ranked in the top five of the Associated Press Top 25 to lose last week. In all, nine teams in the Top 25 lost — and yes, since Iowa was No. 2, it's now been five consecutive weeks that the second-ranked team fell.

National Player of the Year contender Caitlin Clark stressed afterward that the world wasn’t ending and it was a learning opportunity for the Hawkeyes in pursuit of their ultimate goal. The remark applies to most of those teams near the top.

“We have a lot of really great games in front of us,” Clark told reporters after their third loss of the season. “And [we] don't let one bad loss ruin the rest of however many games we have left. Those moments are going to go by fast. Every team we play the rest of the way is really, really good. We have to come and be ready to play.”

Teams that have established themselves already as some of the best have less to worry about than those gunning to be called out in upset push notifications. As regular season play dwindles, teams like Nebraska are focused on improving their NCAA bracket seeding. Teams like Oklahoma, Oregon State (wins over No. 10 Utah, No. 4 Colorado) and Syracuse (win over No. 15 Louisville) are solidifying their unexpected place near the top of conference standings.

Every game matters even more in the last month as conference play sorts out seeding for tournaments. Upsets in those tournaments, as seen last year in the Pac-12, can turn teams from last-in to out very quickly when the NCAA Selection Committee sits down. The first top-16 reveal is on Thursday.

UConn still trailing the nation’s best

The opportunity was there for the taking with 6-foot-7 South Carolina forward Kamilla Cardoso away with the Brazilian national team. But UConn couldn't deliver, extending their struggles against the nation's best this season even while dominating Big East competition.

The Huskies have been unable to keep up offensively with ranked teams and can’t stop them defensively, hence a 5-4 record against the Top 25. The 83-65 loss to South Carolina was the second-lowest scoring total for the Huskies this season. Credit a stifling Gamecocks defense that ranks top two for the third consecutive season. But even middling defenses have the power to stop UConn.

Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards each scored 20, but the problem remains that those around them need to step up in big games. Freshman Ashlynn Shade scored 14, but was 6-of-19 on an overall 36.6% shooting day for UConn. KK Arnold and Nika Muhl combined for eight points. Ice Brady and Qadence Samuels combined for three off the limited bench.

The game at South Carolina was UConn’s last major test before the deeper rounds of the NCAA tournament. Any team that can keep the Huskies below 70 holds the golden ticket. Six of the eight teams to do it have won, and all are ranked. Only Minnesota (62-44) and Seton Hall (67-34) couldn’t muster enough themselves.

Oklahoma adjusts to lead Big 12

Taylor Robertson, Madi Williams and Ana Llanusa averaged a combined 38.8 points per game last season for Oklahoma, the second-highest scoring team in the nation (84.2 ppg). Losing their three starters was a rough adjustment the Sooners have appeared to figure out.

After dropping five of six games between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the Sooners rebounded to start Big 12 play. They’ve taken down Texas (9-3 Big 12) and Iowa State (7-5), and split games against Kansas State (10-2) to top the conference at 11-1.

Their biggest test will come this week with a home game against Baylor and a trip to West Virginia. It is their only game against those programs this season. Wins would help lock up the regular season title and a top seed in the Big 12 tournament.

Their offense isn’t as dangerous as seasons past, averaging 76.7 ppg (32nd). But their defense is much more stout, moving from 75.4 ppg allowed (third percentile) to 67.7 (34th). Their steals are up from 7.8 last season (58th percentile) to 9.4 this season and their 1.23 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the Big 12.

Senior forward Skylar Vann stepped up off the bench to average a team-best 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Payton Verhulst, a junior transfer from Louisville, is averaging a career-best 11.8 ppg as a starter. Outside of them it’s a team-wide scoring effort.

Yahoo Sports' AP ballot

1. South Carolina (23-0)2. Ohio State (21-3)3. Colorado (20-4)4. NC State (21-3)5. Iowa (22-3)6. Stanford (22-3)7. Kansas State (21-3)8. Texas (22-3)9. UCLA (19-4)10. Indiana (20-3)11. Virginia Tech (20-4)12. USC (17-4)13. Notre Dame (18-5)14. Oregon State (20-3)15. UConn (20-5)16. LSU (21-4)17. Gonzaga (24-2)18. Syracuse (20-4)19. Louisville (20-5)20. Utah (18-7)21. Creighton (20-3)22. West Virginia (20-3)23. Oklahoma (17-6)24. Princeton (18-3)25. Fairfield (21-1)

Week 15 AP rankings

1. South Carolina2. Ohio State3. Stanford4. Iowa5. Texas6. NC State7. Kansas State8. Colorado9. UCLA10. USC11. Oregon State12. Virginia Tech13. LSU14. Indiana15. UConn16. Notre Dame17. Gonzaga18. Louisville19. Syracuse20. Creighton21. Baylor22. Utah23. Oklahoma24. West Virginia25. Princeton

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