Women's College Hoops Are Back And Better Than Ever

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It's incredible the difference a year makes. Nearly one year ago, the 2020-'21 women's college basketball season began amidst great doubt and without all of its programs participating, a trend that would last throughout the season. But as we fast-forwarded to Tuesday (Nov. 9th), not only did women's college basketball return, but it was better than ever. There was much to unpack between top-25 teams setting the tone, new coaches winning their first games, and leagues playing their first games in nearly two years. Down below are four takeaways from the opening night of women's college basketball.

South Carolina's depth should scare a lot of people

While the reigning SEC champion is powered by star power throughout their roster (2021 All-American forward Aaliyah Boston and USA Women's Basketball gold-medal-winning head coach Dawn Staley), the depth of the top-ranked Gamecocks' depth took center stage during their 66-57 win over fifth-ranked North Carolina State.

Even while Boston struggled to find her shot on Tuesday night (eight points on 3-8 shooting), Zia Cooke, Destanni Henderson, and Laeticia Amihere combined to score 40 points and powered the Gamecocks' offense. There won't be many nights when Boston gets contained offensively, so for the Gamecocks to show off this kind of depth, especially against a top-five team, is impressive. 

The new faces in new places are off to a good start!

More than simply marking the beginning of a new season, last night marked the beginning of a new era for some programs that replaced their coach over the offseason. While the regular season can be a roller-coaster, winning your first game is certainly an encouraging sign.

Oklahoma's Jeannie Baranczyk, Vanderbilt's Shea Ralph, and LSU's Kim Mulkey (formerly of Baylor and 2020 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee) were notable first-time victors with their new programs on Tuesday. Whether winning at the buzzer (Oklahoma) or dismantling their opposition (LSU won 82-40!), each program paid off the hard work they put in leading up to that moment.

Various conferences are ready to play after lost season(s)

For various teams, the season opener carried a special weight, representing the first official game that they’ve played since March 2020. After last season was rife with uncertainty and cancellations, Tuesday night possessed a sense of joy as packed crowds welcomed back their beloved teams 

Action for conferences such as the Ivy League was full-tilt as months of anticipation spilled on the floor. As a matter of fact, the first Ivy League program to play this season was the Columbia Lions, who took care of a legendary HBCU school, the Hampton Pirates, 78-56.

"There was so much uncertainty [over the last couple of years] that I quickly learned anything can change in a second," Lions head coach Megan Griffith said. "But to give my team credit, they did a great job locking in and staying together, even if it wasn't about basketball, and that will mean something this season."

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