NCAAW what to watch: Stanford gets Oregon State next, plus No. 1 South Carolina vs. Mississippi St.

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Cassandra Negley
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Kiana Williams and the Stanford Cardinal will get another ranked opponent in Oregon State this weekend. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
Kiana Williams and the Stanford Cardinal will get another ranked opponent in Oregon State this weekend. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s a big weekend of conference leaders facing each other, starting in the Big 12 on Saturday night and continuing into Monday with the Big Ten and SEC.

The Pac-12 schedule features a chance for No. 3 Stanford to rebound after a loss to Oregon. The Cardinal will play at Oregon State on Sunday. The conference is difficult to figure out, and while there aren’t any other ranked matchups this weekend, that hasn’t mattered before when it comes to great games.

Here’s the schedule for Friday, with all games on the Pac-12 regional networks and back-to-back games on the main network beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. Washington alum and Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum will make her debut as an analyst.

Utah | Friday at Colorado, 8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

California | Friday at No. 8 Oregon State, 10 p.m. | Sunday at No. 6 Oregon, 5 p.m.

No. 18 Arizona State | Friday at Washington, 10 p.m. | Sunday at Washington State, 3 p.m.

No. 21 Arizona | Friday at Washington State, 10 p.m. | Sunday at Washington, 3 p.m.

No. 7 UCLA | Friday at USC, 10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 17 West Virginia (13-2, 3-1 Big 12) at No. 2 Baylor (14-1, 3-0 Big 12)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Baylor comes into the Saturday Big 12 matchup with the No. 1 scoring offense (87.6 points per game) and scoring defense (48.7). Lauren Cox has been a major factor for the latter in her return from a stress fracture in her foot. She was a determining factor in the game against UConn that vaulted the Bears back to the top.

The Bears’ major concerns are at the free throw line and behind the 3-point arc. They rarely attempt shots from either, but that didn’t stop them from winning the national title last season.

The Mountaineers might be the toughest test for Baylor in conference, but it may not end up being close. West Virginia lost 79-47 in Waco last season.

Junior guard Kysre Gondrezick averages a team-high 17.3 points for West Virginia on 41.1 percent shooting. Senior guard Tynice Martin averages 16.2 points and five players average between 4.4 and 8.8.

No. 3 Stanford (15-2, 4-1) at No. 8 Oregon State (15-1, 3-1)

Sunday, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

The Beavers will play their toughest stretch of games this season beginning Sunday when Stanford — fresh off a bruising by Sabrina Ionescu and No. 6 Oregon — comes to Corvallis. Next weekend it’s the Civil War against the Ducks.

Stanford was outscored 51-18 in Eugene to close the game, and were beaten on the boards 35-26. That could continue against Oregon State, a team that ranks fourth in rebounds per game, total rebounding rate and opponents total rebounding rate, per Her Hoop Stats.

Senior guard Mikayla Pivec is one of 36 D-I players to average double-digit rebounds with 10.1, and also averages 15.3 points per game. Destiny Slocum and Taylor Jones trail slightly behind her averaging 14.4 and 13.9 points per game, respectively.

Stanford is close to the Beavers in most statistics on Her Hoop Stats’ Lobo’s Look, so this might be a close one. While Ionescu was magical Thursday night when Oregon needed her to be, it was coupled with a young Cardinal team that showed its youth when things began to swing Oregon’s way. With that initial jarring moment out of the way, this will be another opportunity to feel what March Madness will be like every night and work with it instead of against it.

No. 10 Mississippi State (16-2, 4-0) at No. 1 South Carolina (17-1, 5-0)

Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN2

The two best teams in the Southeastern Conference at the midway point of the season will go head-to-head in a rivalry game on Monday night in front of a nationally televised audience. It will also be the first big match-up for the Gamecocks as this season’s latest No. 1 seed.

South Carolina has won 11 in a row and has shown that it’s worthy of the top billing. That’s even while starting three freshmen along with two steady seniors. Head coach Dawn Staley told SEC Network after the Missouri win her team does a great job at being unselfish. Via ESPN:

"What this team has been able to do is find common ground quickly," Staley said. "And that's winning. It's not, 'I have to score this many points' or 'I have to raise my draft stock' or 'I'm part of the No. 1 recruiting class, so I have to show that.' I've never been part of a team that's come together as quickly as this team."

They’re a team of rebounders, she said, hence their third-best mark of 48.4 per game.

Mississippi State is on an eight-game winning streak and coming off a 64-60 win against LSU on Thursday. The Bulldogs went quiet in the fourth quarter after getting a big lead, which they won’t want to have happen against South Carolina, but they would like to keep that 50 percent shooting clip from the game. Most of their points came in the paint.

The Bulldogs’ 6-foot-5 forward Jessika Carter will will go against 6-foot-5 freshman Aliyah Boston in what could be the first matchup of many. Carter averages 10 rebounds per game with six double-doubles this season, and Boston averages 8.9. Each average 13 points per game, but Boston has been one of the best in the NCAA in blocks.

No. 15 Indiana (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) at No. 20 Maryland (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten)

Monday, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network

The Big Ten doesn’t have the pizzazz and rankings prestige the Pac-12 does, but it’s experiencing one of its tightest competitions ever for the regular season title.

There are three teams at 5-1 (Northwestern, Rutgers, No. 22 Iowa) and 10 of the 14 teams have a winning conference record. There’s been incredible parity so far, and both Indiana and Maryland could use a win in Monday’s matchup, each sitting at 4-2.

But back to how close things are in the Big Ten. Per Her Hoop Stats, those three teams at the top won their games by a total of eight points. Northwestern defeated Indiana, 71-69, in overtime; Iowa defeated Minnesota, 76-75; and Rutgers defeated Penn State by the largest margin at 62-57.

Maryland scores at a higher rate, averaging a seventh-best 81.9 points per game, and ranks eighth in offensive rebounds per game (16.5). The Terrapins also move the ball well and average a second-best steal rate of 15.9 percent, per Her Hoop Stats.

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