Saturday , July 2 2022

Women’s college basketball Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2022-23

The fluidity of the women’s college basketball landscape has finally slowed down, as May 1 was the deadline for players to enter the transfer portal should they want to be immediately eligible for the 2022-23 season.

Nonetheless, some big moves have been announced since our last iteration of the women’s college basketball Way-Too-Early Top 25 in early May. Chiefly, former Maryland Terrapins star Angel Reese committed to the LSU Tigers, raising expectations of what Kim Mulkey can do in her second season in Baton Rouge. Elsewhere, Saniya Rivers, a former Gatorade Player of the Year in high school who spent her freshman season with the South Carolina Gamecocks, announced she’ll continue her collegiate career for the NC State Wolfpack.

Esmery Martinez, formerly of the West Virginia Mountaineers, reneged her commitment to LSU and opted to play for Adia Barnes and the Arizona Wildcats, while former DePaul Blue Demons standout Sonya Morris joined an intriguing Texas Longhorns group.

As such, NC State and LSU were among the biggest risers in our June rankings. And the Georgia Lady Bulldogs, now led by coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, entered the top 25.


Previous: 1

The reigning national champions continue to be No. 1, where they spent the entirety of the 2021-22 season. A few reserves sought new homes via the transfer portal, and former point guard Destanni Henderson is a WNBA rookie making an impact with the Indiana Fever, but as long as Aliyah Boston is in Columbia, the Gamecocks are the team to beat in 2022-23. Notably, Kierra Fletcher joins from Georgia Tech, Victaria Saxton is returning for a fifth year, point guard Raven Johnson is expected to return from a season-ending knee injury suffered last November just two games into her freshman year, and Dawn Staley brings in espnW’s No. 6 recruiting class, headlined by post Ashlyn Watkins, who ranks No. 12 in the class. — Philippou

Previous: 2

The Huskies lost Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook to the WNBA from last year’s team that somewhat surprisingly advanced to the national title game, but expectations are high for a squad that is hoping to field a healthy Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd for an entire season. Dorka Juhasz is still rehabbing from the wrist fracture she suffered in the regional final against NC State but could be an X factor in determining whether this team can achieve its championship goals. Unlike recent years, UConn has a fairly small group of newcomers: freshmen Ayanna Patterson and Ice Brady — they rank fourth and fifth, respectively, among 2022 prospects, and comprise the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class — and Fairfield transfer Lou Lopez Senechal. — Philippou

Previous: 3

As happens sometimes, Stanford played one of its worst games of last season at the absolute wrong time: in the national semifinals. With that loss to UConn went the chance to try to repeat as national champions. The departures of guards Lexie Hull, Lacie Hull and Anna Wilson took the core of Stanford’s grit factor. But the talent that remains is exceptional. Haley Jones and Cameron Brink should be WNBA stars one day. The 6-foot-4 Brink and top recruit Lauren Betts, at 6-7, can pair as imposing twin towers. The Pac-12 favorite will once again be a strong Final Four contender. — Voepel

Previous: 6

Rae Burrell is be gone, but the Lady Vols arguably won the transfer portal sweepstakes with a staked haul of Rickea Jackson (Mississippi State), Jillian Hollingshead (Georgia), Jasmine Powell (Minnesota) and Jasmine Franklin (Missouri State). Pair that group — plus incoming freshman Justine Pissott, the No. 11-ranked recruit — with Jordan Horston and Tamari Key, and Tennessee has the talent to build upon last season’s promising start, in which the program achieved its best ranking in the Associated Press poll (No. 4) since the first weeks of 2015. — Philippou

Previous: 4

In Rori Harmon, Texas has a player you don’t want to take your eyes off, offensively or defensively, because she always seem on the verge of making something happen. As a freshman, she helped lead the Longhorns to the Big 12 tournament title for the first time since 2003. They made the Elite Eight for the second year in a row under coach Vic Schaefer. Are they ready for the next step: a Final Four trip for the first time since 2004? Harmon and Aliyah Matharu could lead the way. Transfers Sonya Morris (DePaul) and Taylor Jones (Oregon State) could be interesting additions. — Voepel

Previous: 5

The Hawkeyes know what you’re thinking. Sure, they can score in bunches behind guard Caitlin Clark and post player Monika Czinano, Division I leaders last season in scoring and field goal percentage, respectively. But can they defend well enough to make a run at the program’s first Final Four since 1993? That’s the challenge, with a painful upset loss to Creighton in the NCAA second round at home last season motivating them. One more defensive stop would have gotten the Hawkeyes to the Sweet 16. Iowa isn’t going to be a great defensive team, but an improvement on that end and some additional scoring threats, including transfer guard Molly Davis, should make the Hawkeyes strong contenders in the Big Ten and nationally. — Voepel

Previous: 9

Last season, Jeff Walz overcame the loss of Dana Evans fairly seamlessly, leading his defensive-minded squad to the program’s first Final Four appearance since 2018, where the Cardinals fell to eventual national champion South Carolina. How will he retool his team with the departures of starters Emily Engstler, Kianna Smith and Chelsie Hall? By bringing in a pair of ACC guards in Morgan Jones (Florida State) and Chrislyn Carr (Syracuse), who were among the top scorers for their former teams, plus the No. 13 recruiting class in the country, per espnW. All the while Hailey Van Lith, the Wichita Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, will be expected to take the next step in her game as an upperclassman. — Philippou

Previous: 12

The Wolfpack rose in our rankings following the addition of Wilmington, North Carolina, native Saniya Rivers, one of the top recruits from the class of 2021. That came on the heels of commitments of Mimi Collins from Maryland and River Baldwin from Florida State. Replacing Elissa Cunane won’t be easy, but Wes Moore has a track record of successfully incorporating transfers into what he’s doing in Raleigh. How well his newcomers acclimate, and how much returners such as Diamond Johnson, Jakia Brown-Turner and Camille Hobby step up with more responsibility on their shoulders, will determine NC State’s ceiling in an increasingly competitive ACC. — Philippou

Previous: 7

The Irish narrowly missed an Elite Eight appearance in March, falling by three to NC State in the Bridgeport Regional. The Irish return the majority of their biggest contributors from last season (aside from Maya Dodson, who ran out of NCAA eligibility), while adding some intriguing faces via the transfer portal in Lauren Ebo (Texas), Kylee Watson (Oregon) and Jenna Brown (Stanford). Paving the way for what could shape up to be Niele Ivey’s best group since taking the helm in South Bend will be star sophomores Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron, as well as graduate student Dara Mabrey. — Philippou

Previous: 8

A program-record 28 victories and a run to the Sweet 16 made 2021-22 a success for the Cyclones. They didn’t expect that a better-executing version of themselves — Creighton — would knock them out of the NCAA tournament, just like the Bluejays did to their rival Iowa. That still stings a bit. But almost all of what made Iowa State so good last season returns. Ashley Joens already has made the case as the best player in program history and will shore up those credentials in her super-senior season. Lexi Donarski was the Big 12’s defensive player of the year, which is not what you expect from typically offense-dominant Cyclone guards. Emily Ryan is a superb point guard. How good will 6-6 transfer Stephanie Soares — an NAIA star — be at the Division I level? She could be a key boost as Iowa State contends for a Big 12 title and Sweet 16 return. — Voepel

Previous: 14

The Hokies’ impressive offseason with their success in the transfer portal has solidified their spot as a potential ACC front-runner, even with the departure of Aisha Sheppard. Ashley Owusu joins from Maryland and, since our previous top-25 rankings came out, Taylor Soule committed from Boston College, where she was one of the Eagles’ top two scorers. With reigning ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore in tow, Kenny Brooks’ squad has the talent and college basketball experience to make its first Sweet 16 since 1999. — Philippou

Previous: 11

The Hoosiers have entered a different realm in the past few years, and now we expect to see them contend in the Big Ten. Leading the way among returners are guard Grace Berger and forward Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana’s top two scorers in 2021-22. Both have been key parts of building Indiana into the program it has become. Transfers should make an impact, too, especially guard Sara Scalia, who averaged 17.9 PPG and shot 41.3% from 3-point range last season at Minnesota. — Voepel

Previous: 10

It has been 15 years since North Carolina’s back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2006 and ’07, but that’s the level the Tar Heels hope to recapture. They made the Sweet 16 last season and played eventual champion South Carolina closer than any other team in the tournament, losing by eight. Four starters are back, including leading scorer Deja Kelly, a junior guard. Redshirt freshman Teonni Key, a top-10 recruit who missed last season because of a knee injury, will make her debut; she is the younger sister of Tennessee’s Tamari Key. — Voepel

Previous: 22

Coach Kim Mulkey’s first season at LSU was exactly what the school hoped for in revitalizing the program, as the Tigers finished second in the SEC. They ran out of gas by the NCAA tournament’s second round and fell to Ohio State, but the season was a big success. The Tigers were led mostly by seniors, though, so this team will look very different. Four freshmen come in and are joined by five transfers, including junior forward Angel Reese, who was ESPN’s top-ranked transfer. — Voepel

Previous: 15

It seemed the Buckeyes went under the radar a bit in the Big Ten last season, even though they ended up as co-champs of the league with Iowa. Ohio State also had a good NCAA tournament run, upsetting LSU and pushing Texas in a tight Sweet 16 matchup. Junior Jacy Sheldon and super senior Taylor Mikesell return as the team’s top two scorers, and guard play in general should be very good for the Buckeyes. How much they will be able to get from their posts is the biggest question. — Voepel

Previous: 13

The fun was back in Norman as coach Jennie Baranczyk, in her first season at Oklahoma, brought a high-scoring offensive style. All the Sooners’ key players return, led by super-seniors Madi Williams and Taylor Robertson, who could become the NCAA career leader in 3-pointers this season. Ana Llanusa missed most of last season because of a knee injury but can be a big contributor if she’s healthy. The Sooners bring in some size with their freshman class and add another 3-point shooter in junior Aubrey Joens, who transferred from Iowa State. — Voepel

Previous: 20

The 2022-23 Bears will be a new-look team with NaLyssa Smith (the No. 2 pick), Queen Egbo and Jordan Lewis all getting drafted into the WNBA. Helping compensate for Smith’s absence will be the return of three of their six top rotation players, plus some big names from the transfer portal in Missouri’s Aijha Blackwell, a two-time second team All-SEC team pick, and Dre’una Edwards (Kentucky), alongside Jana Van Gytenbeek (Stanford) and Erika Porter (Illinois). As she seeks to make her mark in Waco in her second year after taking over for Kim Mulkey, Nicki Collen will also bring into the fold her first real recruiting class — espnW deemed it the No. 9 haul in the country, a group that includes Darianna Littlepage-Buggs, the No. 17 recruit in 2022 — altogether helping the Bears maintain their status as Big 12 contenders. — Philippou

Previous: 16

Maryland experienced a massive overhaul this offseason with the transfers of Owusu, Reese and Collins and two other reserves. Brenda Frese then filled out her roster with five transfers, a group headlined by former Florida standout Lavender Briggs and Ivy League player of the year Abby Meyers, plus a four-person freshmen class featuring two late additions. Frese has a tall task in front of her in meshing so many new players together while upholding the Terps’ tradition of excellence, but as Charlie Creme pointed out in last month’s rankings, she has done it before. Plus she has Diamond Miller, Shyanne Sellers and Faith Masonius as experienced carryovers from last season’s squad she can lean on.– Philippou

Previous: 17

The Wildcats saw a slew of players enter the transfer portal, albeit just one who averaged more than 15 minutes per game: Bendu Yeaney, who committed to Oregon State. Adia Barnes got to work in the portal in the meantime, bringing in Lauren Fields from Oklahoma State, Jade Loville (who was in-state rival ASU’s leading scorer last season) and — flipping her from LSU — Esmery Martinez, who will complement the No. 8 recruiting class in the country headlined by Maya Nnaji (No. 9) and Paris Clark (No. 21). In all, it’s a strong group to surround returning starters Cate Reese, Shaina Pellington and Lauren Ware as Arizona looks to rebound from an up-and-down season last year. — Philippou

Previous: 18

Te-Hina Paopao is the sole remaining player from Oregon’s top-ranked 2020 recruiting class following the recent departures of Watson, Maddie Scherr (Kentucky) and Sydney Parrish (Indiana). But Kelly Graves won’t be without reinforcements with the additions of Taya Hanson from Arizona State and the No. 2 recruiting haul in the country, one that features Chance Gray (No. 7) and Grace VanSlooten (No. 13). Following the departure of Nyara Sabally to the WNBA, Sedona Prince will be tasked with more responsibility than ever down low in her final season with the Ducks. — Philippou

Previous: 25

Tatum Rembao won’t return from a Creighton squad that took down Iowa and Iowa State to advance to the program’s first Elite Eight, where it fell to eventual champion South Carolina. But the Bluejays’ next top six players in terms of playing time will be back, including Lauren Jensen, who was named to the Greensboro Regional All-Tournament team. As such, expectations will be high for Jim Flanery’s squad both within the Big East — where they’ll seek to take down UConn for the first time in program history — and beyond in nonconference play. — Philippou

Previous: 24

Center/forward Alexis Markowski followed her father, Andy, to Nebraska; he played basketball for the Huskers in the 1990s. She was the Big Ten freshman of the year last season and is a strong building block going forward. Super-senior Sam Haiby, junior Jaz Shelley and Maddie Krull, who transfers in from South Dakota, should anchor a very good backcourt. Nebraska also brings in two-sport standout Maggie Mendelson, a 6-5 freshman who is a top recruit in volleyball and basketball. — Voepel

Previous: 21

After losing the Summit League final to rival South Dakota and not making the NCAA tournament field, the Jackrabbits made the most of the WNIT, winning that title. That was six more games of postseason experience for South Dakota State, which is the Summit favorite this season behind WNIT MVP Myah Selland. The Jackrabbits add in super-senior guard Dru Gylten, a transfer from Utah who led the Pac-12 in assists last season. — Voepel

Previous: 23

Especially considering how well Rhyne Howard is playing now as a WNBA rookie, Princeton’s NCAA tournament first-round upset of Howard’s Kentucky Wildcats last season is even more impressive in retrospect. The Tigers also nearly knocked off Indiana, falling 56-55 in the second round. Princeton lost Ivy League player of the year Abby Meyers, who has transferred to Maryland, but brings back its next two top scorers, Julia Cunningham and Kaitlyn Chen, and adds a strong recruiting class. The Tigers are Ivy favorites again. — Voepel

Previous: NR

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson’s UCF squad took UConn to the brink in the second round of the NCAA tournament; now at Georgia, she brought in some core players from her Knights teams — Diamond Battles, Brittney Smith and Alisha Lewis — while also adding Texas transfer Audrey Warren and the coach’s daughter, Savannah Henderson, who is the No. 47 recruit in the country, per espnW. Year 1 in the SEC won’t be a walk in the park, but Abrahamson-Henderson has the experience and some promising players to make some noise in the SEC come winter. — Philippou

Also considered: Utah Utes, Villanova Wildcats


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