The women’s college basketball world will keep close tabs on this year’s Women’s Paradise Jam, as it may be the best preseason women’s basketball tournament in the country this year and possibly ever, with all eight teams boasting perfect records and a combined 37 wins before their trip to the Caribbean.
When ESPN ranked the top games being played over the holiday weekend, three of its top five are being played at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center beginning Thursday.
Two players, Lauren Cox for No. 2 Baylor (4-0) and Sabrina Ionescu for No. 1 Oregon (5-0) were unanimous AP All-American Team picks this season.
“The road to the Final Four begins in Paradise,” Tournament Executive Director Nels Hawksion said, and this year’s field includes two teams that made it that far last year, including the defending national champion.
Baylor beat Oregon last year, 72-67, in that stage last season before winning it all.
Four of the top eight teams in the recent AP top 25 list released Monday will be in this year’s field and it will be a homecoming for Aliyah Boston of No. 5 South Carolina (6-0).
Boston is originally from St. Thomas and was ranked the No. 3 overall player in the Class of 2019 according to ESPN. She has not disappointed, recording a triple double in her first college game, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks. She hasn’t been held below double-digits in points in South Carolina’s first six games and she won the SEC freshman of the week honor in the first week of the season.
Boston is just part of South Carolina’s nation-leading recruiting class, as Zia Cooke was the No. 4 ranked recruit and Laeticia Amihere and Breanna Beal were ranked 10 and 11 on the ESPN rankings as well.
The Gamecocks scoring offense is led by Cooke with 14.3 points a game. Mikiah Herbert Harrigian has put up 13 points a game and Boston has 12.8 points per contest so far this season to round out their double digit scorers.
South Carolina ranks 10th in scoring offense with 88.2 points a game and sixth in scoring defense, since they have given up only 46 points a game.
Boston is the nation’s fourth ranked shot blocker with four per game while South Carolina leads the country with 11.5 blocks per game.
South Carolina will be in the Reef Division along with Baylor, No. 18 Indiana and Washington State.
Baylor is ranked third in scoring offense and second in scoring defense and blocks per game.
Na’Lyssa Smith leads the Bears with 17.6 points and eight rebounds per game and Cox has been averaging a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. More scoring is provided by Queen Egbo, who puts up 15.4 points a game, and Erin Degrate and Te’a Cooper, both scoring just under 13 a game so far this season. Baylor is second in the nation with 8.5 blocks per game.
No. 17 Indiana (4-0) has the 11th highest scoring offense with 87.5 points per game with Grace Berger leading the way with 17.5 points per game. Mackenzie Holmes puts up 14.5 points a game, and Aleksa Gulbe and Ali Patberg score 10 points a game for the Hoosiers.
Patberg is fifth in the country with 7.3 assists per game.
The eighth leading scorer in the country, Borislava Hristova, also known as “Bobi Buckets,” scores 23 points a game for Washington State (4-0). Chanelle Molina contributes 14.8 points a game and Jovana Subasic has 10.8 points a game so far this season.
Oregon, which beat team USA, 93-86, in an exhibition game before the season – will be a top contender in the Island Division, which also features No. 8 Louisville (5-0), University of Texas–Arlington (4-0), and Oklahoma State (5-0).
Oregon is scoring 94.5 points, which makes them the fourth highest scoring offense in the country.
Ruthy Hebard is averaging 20.5 points and 13 rebounds, fourth best for rebounding in the country –and Ionescu is putting up 14.3 points to go along with 9.3 boards. Satau Sabally scored 23 points in her season debut in Oregon’s victory over No .18 Syracuse.
Ionescu is leading the country with 9.5 assists per game and her teammate Minyon Moore is third on that list with 7.5 assists per game. The team leads the nation in that category with 26.8 a game.
Louisville’s leading scorer is Dana Evans, with 18.6 points a game while Jazmine Jones is averaging 15 and Kylee Shook has been scoring 11.4 points and grabbing a team high 8.8 rebounds a game.
Oklahoma State (5-0) is allowing just 47.6, which is the ninth-fewest points allowed in the country.
The Cowgirls’ offense is led by Vivian Gray, who is averaging 18.8 points a game, while Natasha Mack is averaging a double double 14 points a game and 12 rebounds. Ja’mee Asberry is the third Oklahoma State player in double digits with 10.4 points a game. On the defensive side, Gray has been stealing the ball 2.8 times a game and Mack has swatting away 3.2 shots a game.
UT-Arlington (4-0) is led by Maire Benson, who is averaging 18 points a game, while Claire Chastin has 11 and Misty Dossey puts up 10.5. The Mavericks’ Kaite Ferrell is 18th in the country with 6.3 assists per game. UT-Arlington beat Kansas State on Sunday night, 57-53, behind Terryn Milton’s career-high 18 points to secure the first victory against a Power 5 school since 2006.
Their team defense has been impressive this season as they have yet to allow 56 points and have forced at least 14 turnovers in their four games this season.
– UT Arlington will get things underway against Louisville at 2 p.m and Oklahoma State will take on Oregon at 4:15 in the Island Division.
– Reef Division action will start at 6:45 p.m. when Baylor will play Washington State followed by a top 25 match-up between Indiana and South Carolina at 9 p.m.
– Louisville will play Oklahoma State at 2 p.m and UT Arlington faces Oregon at 4:15 p.m. in the Island Division. Baylor takes on Indiana at 6:45 p.m. and South Carolina plays Washington State at 9 p.m.
The final day of action will include two top 10 match-ups, one between Oregon and Louisville at 4:15 p.m. and the other the nightcap between two top five teams: South Carolina playing Baylor at 9 p.m.
The last day also includes Oklahoma State and UT Arlington at 2 p.m. and Washington State and Indiana at 6:45 p.m.