There is no other way to put it: This year’s Women’s Paradise Jam is a historic event, one of the single greatest collections of women’s basketball talent, under one roof, in the history of the sport.
If that sounds like hyperbole, it’s not. Of the eight teams which will descend upon the event this weekend, all eight arrive with unblemished, undefeated records. Five are ranked in the Top 25 nationally and four in the Top 10. The field includes the reigning national champion, as well as another Final Four team from a season ago.
So yes, this is a field unlike any that we can ever remember in women’s college basketball.
Here is what you need to know about the marquee teams, as the event gets set to tip-off on Thanksgiving Day.
No. 1 Oregon Ducks
Schedule: vs. Oklahoma State (Thursday, Nov. 28th, 4:15 p.m. ET); vs. UT-Arlington (Friday, Nov. 29th, 4:15 p.m. ET); vs. No. 8 Louisville (Saturday, Nov. 30th, 4:15 p.m. ET)
Coming off its first Final Four in school history the Oregon Ducks entered the season ranked No. 1 in the country, and so far have done little to show that they’re not worthy of that honor. Oregon arrives in the Virgin Islands with a 4-0 record, and beat their first three opponents by an average of 45 points. Most recently was a convincing 17-point victory at No. 18 Syracuse.
Reigning Wooden Award winner Sabrina Ionescu is once again the star of the show in Eugene, averaging an NCAA-best 9.5 assists a game, to go along with over 14 points per contest. While Ionescu’s scoring is a bit down, that’s thanks in large part to the emergence of everyone else around her. That’s especially true down low where junior forward Satou Sabally is averaging 23 points and nine rebounds per game, with senior forward Ruthy Hebard is chipping in 20 points and a team-high 13.3 rebounds. Hebard’s rebound total ranks fourth nationally.
The Ducks open the event with Oklahoma State on Thursday, however the signature matchup with come on Saturday, when Oregon faces the eighth-ranked Louisville Cardinals, the defending ACC regular season co-champs.
No. 2 Baylor Bears
Schedule: vs. Washington State (Thursday, Nov. 28th, 6:45 p.m.); vs. No. 17 Indiana (Friday, November 29th 6:45 p.m. ET); vs. No. 6 South Carolina (Saturday, Nov. 30th, 9:00 p.m. ET)
It isn’t often that the defending national champion Baylor Bears come into an event where they aren’t the most high-profile team, but at least for this one weekend in the Virgin Islands that will be the case. Still, this weekend could serve as a launching pad for the Bears to prove that they should be in consideration for the No. 1 spot when the next poll comes out.
Like the Ducks, Baylor has largely cruised through the early part of its schedule, jumping out to a 5-0 start, including one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen all year: A 90-28 victory over Lamar over the weekend.
What’s most impressive with the Bears’ dominance however is that they’ve largely done it shorthanded. In addition to the usual exodus of seniors off last year’s title team, Baylor has also been playing without preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Lauren Cox, who has missed three games this season with a foot injury. In her place, a handful of other players have stepped up including sophomores NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo who are combining to average over 32 points and 15 rebounds per game.
The Bears enter this tournament on a 34-game win streak dating back to last season, a win-streak which will be tested with two games against Top 20 opponents.
No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks
Schedule: vs. No. 17 Indiana (Thursday, Nov. 28th, 9:00 p.m. ET), vs. Washington State (Friday, Nov. 29th, 9:00 p.m. ET), vs. No. 2 Baylor (Saturday, Nov. 30th, 9:00 p.m. ET)
Like the two other Top 5 teams in this event, Dawn Staley’s fifth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks arrive in the Virgin Islands with an undefeated mark. And to their credit, more than anyone else in the field, the Gamecocks have been tested early. South Carolina has already won three true road games, including a convincing 63-54 win at then No. 4 Maryland. They also beat cross-state rival Clemson by 36 in Clemson over the weekend.
What might be most impressive for the Gamecocks however is that they’re doing it in a season where a freshman has been the best player on the floor. That freshman is 6-5 forward Aliyah Boston, who early in the season is averaging 13.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Boston is originally from the Virgin Islands, so this event will serve as a homecoming for her, and this deep Gamecocks squad. Overall, South Carolina has four players averaging in double-figures, and six players averaging at least eight points per game.
South Carolina opens the event with maybe the marquee game of Day 1 against No. 17 Indiana, and they close with arguably the marquee game of the entire event against No. 2 Baylor on Saturday.
No. 8 Louisville Cardinals
Schedule: vs. UT-Arlington (Thursday, Nov. 28th, 2:00 p.m. ET); vs. Oklahoma State (Friday, Nov. 29th, 2:00 p.m. ET); vs. No. 1 Oregon (Saturday, 4:15 p.m. ET)
It isn’t often that an event is so big that the defending ACC regular season co-champ and team coming off an Elite Eight berth enters looking for respect. But that is the exact opportunity that Jeff Walz’s Louisville Cardinals have the chance to earn this weekend in the Virgin Islands.
The Cardinals are quietly flying under the radar (no pun intended) entering this one, but with an eventual showdown with No. 1 Oregon looming, they have a chance to make noise at the Paradise Jam.
Like the other three Top 10 teams int his event, Louisville has been dominant early, jumping out to a 5-0 start with all five wins coming by double-figures. The Cardinals are led by the diminutive Dana Evans, who stands just five-feet, six-inches, but packs a scoring punch, leading this team at just under 19 points per game. Seniors Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook chip in by combining to average 26 points and 15 rebounds per night.
In addition to the four Top 10 teams who will be in the Virgin Islands, don’t sleep on the rest of the field. Although they might not be the headliners, No. 17 Indiana, Oklahoma State, Washington State and UT-Arlington all enter this event undefeated and with a massive stage to prove just how good they are.
The No. 17 Hoosiers come into this game off four straight dominant wins, most recently a 73-49 beatdown of the Florida Gators over the weekend. Teri Moren’s club is looking to continue to build off last year’s second round NCAA Tournament run.
It’s the same for the Oklahoma State Cowgirls, who enter this event at 5-0 after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Meanwhile at Washington State, Kamie Ethridge appears to be slowly turning things around in Pullman. After winning just nine games in Ethridge’s first season on the job in 2018-2019, the Cougars are off to a 4-0 start. They have the unenviable task of opening with Baylor on Thursday evening.
Finally, there is UT-Arlington. The Mavericks might not have the pedigree of some of the other programs in this event, but their 4-0 start is just as impressive. Among their four wins, three have come in true road games.