Tip-off of the women’s college basketball season is less than two weeks away and the campaign is poised to bring another year of excitement and unpredictability. South Carolina returns as defending champions and there’s a host of contenders hoping to knock them off.
With the release of the preseason USA TODAY Sports women’s basketball coaches poll, here are outlooks for each of the Top 25 teams:
1. South Carolina
Can the Gamecocks go back-to-back? Can Aliyah Boston snag the national player of the year award again? Dawn Staley’s squad has a chance to dominate the 2022-23 season behind Boston, the 6-foot-5 senior forward who averaged 16.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2 assists per game last season. She’ll get help and leadership from two more seniors – guard Zia Cooke (10.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg) and forward Victaria Saxton (5.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg). The Gamecocks also picked up former Georgia Tech guard Kierra Fletcher from the transfer portal.
It’s hard to pick the Cardinal’s best player. Is it 6-foot-1 point forward Haley Jones (13.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.7 apg), the toughest matchup in women’s college hoops? Or does the honor go to 6-foot-4 forward Cameron Brink (13.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.6 bpg), who owns the paint on both ends of the floor? No matter who you think is better, defenses have to contend with both. Add in 6-foot-7 freshman Lauren Betts, the No. 1 recruit in the country, and it’s easy to see why Stanford is again favored to reach its third consecutive Final Four.
Coach Vic Schaefer made it to the Elite Eight in his first two seasons with the Longhorns, and his star roster continues to get better. Point guard Rori Harmon, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season, looks to build on a campaign where she averaged 11.4 points, five assists and 4.4 rebounds. She’ll get huge help from the addition of three major transfers. Guard Shaylee Gonzales (18.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.5 apg) joins the Longhorns after winning West Coast Conference player of the year honors at BYU. Former DePaul guard Sonya Morris (17.6 ppg, 3.2 apg) provides an additional backcourt threat, and forward Taylor Jones, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in an injury-shortened season for Oregon State, provides depth in the post.
As the top SEC contender behind South Carolina, coach Kellie Harper and the Lady Vols gained much depth in the offseason via the transfer portal. Rickea Jackson left Mississippi States to join the squad, and the Vols also snagged Jasmine Powell from Minnesota and Jasmine Franklin from Missouri State during the offseason. Jordan Horston returns after finishing first on the team in scoring with 20.3 points per game.
The Cardinals made it to the Elite Eight last season and again will take advantage of the transfer portal to secure guard Morgan Jones from Florida State. Hailey Van Lith, the guard who led the Cardinals offense with 14.4 points per game last season, returns. Chrislyn Carr will join the Cardinals backcourt.
Paige Bueckers, who won national player of the year honors as a freshman in 2020-21, will miss the entire season as she recovers from an ACL tear in August, but the Huskies still have plenty of weapons. Sophomore guard Azzi Fudd (12.1 ppg, 43.0 3FG%) has the potential to become the team’s best shooter. She’ll get backcourt help from fellow sophomore Caroline Ducharme (9.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg), while 6-3 junior forward Aaliyah Edwards (7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg) patrols the post. Entering his 38th season, coach Geno Auriemma used the offseason to recruit last season’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year Lou Lopez-Senechal, a 6-1 guard/forward who averaged 19.6 points and 4.4 rebounds for Fairfield last season.
Caitlyn Clark is back. She averaged 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists last season. Coach Lisa Bluder hopes Clark can take the Hawkeyes far. Back for another season, 6-3 forward Monika Czinano looks to lead the team in field-goal percentage again. The transfer portal brought Central Michigan’s Molly Davis.
8. North Carolina State
Saniya Rivers arrives after being part of South Carolina’s national championship team. The guard expects to have more playing time with the Wolfpack. With the help of 6-3 transfer guard Mimi Collins, North Carolina State has the chance to rebuild after the loss of program star Elissa Cunane to the WNBA. Guard Diamond Johnson and forwards Jakia Brown-Turner and Jada Boyd are all back.
9. Iowa State
Back-to-back Cheryl Miller Award winner and powerhouse Ashley Joens returns to Bill Fennelly’s squad. The Cyclones backcourt also returns point guard Emily Ryan and the Big 12 Defensive player of the Year Lexi Donarski. In the offseason, Iowa State gained 6-6, two-time NAIA player of the year Stephanie Soares.
10. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish return Olivia Miles, who as a freshman led the team in scoring and assists. Miles made NCAA Tournament history when she became the first freshman to record a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against Massachusetts. Lauren Ebo, the 6-4 guard from Texas, will also join the squad.
Two of the Hoosiers’ best are returning in Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes. With help from Sara Scalia, who joins the team from Minnesota and averaged 17.9 points per game, and 6-foot-4 Providence transfer Alyssa Geary, coach Teri Moren hopes to make another Elite Eight or Sweet 16 appearance. Oregon’s 6-foot-2 guard Sydney Parrish also joins the lineup.
12. North Carolina
After beginning last season on a 13-game winning streak, coach Courtney Banghart and the Tar Heels look hopefully toward March, returning key pieces of the squad including Daja Kelly (who averaged 16.5 points per game), Kennedy Todd-Williams and Alyssa Ustby. Teonni Key, the 6-foot-4 McDonald’s All-America standout, is looking to make a name for herself this season upon recovering from a knee injury last preseason.
13. Virginia Tech
Coach Kenny Brooks and the Hokies have the potential to be the ACC’s finest. Ashley Owusu transferred from Maryland and Tech brings back Elizabeth Kitley, a 6-6 center who averaged 18.1 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. The squad returns guard Georgia Amoore and gains Boston College forward Taylor Soule via the transfer portal.
Sophomore forward Angel Reese, the 6-foot-3 transfer from Maryland, led the team with 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds last season. Coach Kim Mulkey hopes to use her with transfer LaDazhia Williams from Missouri, Jasmine Carson from West Virginia and Ohio State’s Alexis Morris.
15. Ohio State
Coach Kevin McGuff enters this season coming off a Sweet 16 run last year, the program’s first since 2017. The Buckeyes return guards Taylor Mikesell (18.6 ppg), Jacy Sheldon (19.7 ppg) and Madison Green, who is set to fully recover from a knee injury that sat her all last season.
Jennie Baranczyk had quite the first year as coach of the Sooners last season, totaling 25 wins – the most the team has had since the 2010 Final Four squad. The team returns Taylor Robertson, the top 3-point shooter for Oklahoma and in Big 12 history, and Madi Williams (18 ppgs, 7.6 rpg). Iowa State talent Aubrey Joens also joins the squad via the transfer portal.
With 12 consecutive regular-season titles in the Big 12, Baylor is tasked with replacing NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo and Jordan Williams, standouts who were taken in the last WNBA draft. In her second season, coach Nicki Collen welcomes Aijha Blackwell, the guard who ranked second in the country with 13 rebounds per game, from Missouri. The team also secured Dre’Una Edwards, the 6-foot guard from Kentucky. Edwards was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2019 when she was at Utah. She was the Wildcats’ second-best player last season.
Coach Brenda Frese and the Terrapins made the most out of the offseason using the transfer portal to replace major talent. Maryland got 6-foot-1 guard Lavender Briggs from Florida. She averaged 12.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season. Elisa Pinzan, the transfer point guard from South Florida, and Brinae Alexander from Vanderbilt, who led the Commodores with 15.2 points per game, also join the squad. Princeton guard and unanimous Ivy League player of the year Abby Meyers will also be a crucial addition to the lineup.
The Wildcats return three starters, including All-America forward Cate Reese (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), and picked up some impressive transfers – none more so than guard/forward Jade Loville, the leading scorer (16.6 ppg) at rival Arizona State last year. Arizona also welcomes a top-10 recruiting class, highlighted by 6-foot-4 forward Maya Nnaji. Speedy point guard Shaina Pellington (11.3 ppg) is hard to keep up with and makes the Wildcats go.
If she plays to her potential, 6-foot-7 forward Sedona Prince will give opposing coaches nightmares. Prince (9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg) can stretch defenses with her mid- and high-post play, and she’ll have plenty of star power around her. The Ducks bring in the second-ranked recruiting class, led by point guard Chance Gray and forward Grace VanSlooten – both five-star prospects. A healthy Te-Hina Paopao (13.6 ppg, 3.3 apg) could make Oregon lethal in the open floor.
The Bluejays are out to prove that last’s year run to the Elite Eight – when they knocked off No. 2 seed Iowa and No. 3 seed Iowa State – wasn’t a fluke. This is a disciplined, well-coached group, led by 6-foot-1 junior forward Emma Ronsiek (13.9 ppg) and 5-foot-10 junior guard Lauren Jensen (12.5 ppg). Molly Mogensen, a 5-foot-7 junior guard who hit 45% from 3-point range last season, is one of the best shooters in the country
Coach Amy Williams is trying to earn a second consecutive tournament berth, and the Cornhuskers’ top three scorers are back in Jaz Shelley, Alexis Markowski and Isabelle Bourne. Shelley can be spotted on preseason watch lists for guard of the year. Senior guard Sam Haiby is out for the season after a leg injury in September. The transfer portal gives the squad South Dakota’s Maddie Krull, who has the potential to be a top defender in the Big Ten. Maggie Mendelson, a 6-foot-5, top 35 recruit, will join Nebraska for her freshman year.
Naz Hillmon is gone to the pros, but super senior Leigha Brown (14.0 ppg), a 6-foot-1 guard who outplays and out hustles almost every other player in women’s college basketball, is back. She’ll get help from another super senior, 6-foot-3 forward Emily Kiser (9.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and 6-foot-2 freshman forward Alyssa Crockett, a top 50 recruit.
24. South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits, the defending WNIT champs, benefited big time from the transfer portal this spring, picking up point guard Dru Gylten from Utah. Gylten led the Pac-12 in assists (5.2) last season and directs an offense with precision, efficiency and composure. She should fit right in with 6-foot-1 forward Myah Selland (14.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), the WNIT MVP.
The Tigers’ top scorer moved up to the Power Five, but Princeton returns 5-foot-11 guard Julia Cunningham and 5-foot-9 guard Kaitlyn Chen, who combined for 23.9 points per game last year. Junior forward Ellie Mitchell, who grabbed 10.4 rebounds per game last year, is also back. What’s more, this group has tournament upset experience, after knocking off No. 6 seed Kentucky in the first round and coming agonizingly close to beating No. 3 seed Indiana in the second.