It’s still time.
The 2021-22 women’s college basketball season is just around the corner, which means it’s never too early to give my Power 10 preseason rankings. I will continue to update my rankings every week as of today. during the season.
Since many programs – like Arizona, UCLA, and Texas A&M – have lost key seniors after the 2021 NCAA tournament to graduation or the WNBA, my Power 10 has a new look since the end of last year. However, the teams have revamped their rosters with top-tier transfers and highly prized freshmen.
When putting together this roster, I took into account many factors such as returning and incoming players, roster depth, tournament success and more. Let’s dive in!
1. South Carolina
Alas. Here we are again with South Carolina taking my preseason throne after another successful offseason. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley landed the No. 1 recruiting class jackpot (again), adding three of the top five rookies according to the HoopGurlz 2021 recruiting rankings – espnW 100. Raven Johnson and Saniya Rivers will start or rotate to join Zia Cooke, Destanni Henderson and Brea Beal in the backcourt. It brings a lot of depth to Staley to execute the rhythm offense she loves.
But the Gamecocks’ short forward got scarier with the Syracuse 6’7 transfer from Kamilla Cardoso. The 2021 CCA Freshman of the Year and Co-Defenseman of the Year will be a great addition alongside Aliyah Boston, who has led the nation in rebounds and has been one of the best shot blockers in the country, and Victaria Saxton. That’s right. The entire Final Four team is back. After missing national champion Stanford by one point in the Final Four, I like their chances of adding a second national title in program history.
The Huskies haven’t hoisted the national trophy since 2016, but bringing back their starting five puts this program in an excellent position to take the title back to Storrs. The beauty of last year’s roster was that its veteran leaders – Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook – were just juniors, so they’ll all come back in their final round. Additionally, National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers will be looking to top her impressive freshman season, winning the Big East Player and Freshman of the Year awards. Aaliyah Edwards was another star for UConn last season. His X factor coupled with Bueckers firepower helped the Huskies qualify for the Final Four.
In consecutive years, UConn coach Geno Auriemma has signed two of the top five rookies, including rookie No.1 overall – Azzi Fudd, who already has a chemistry with Bueckers, and No.5. Caroline Ducharme. Fudd is Bueckers’ longtime best friend and they played for the USA team together. They will make a scary backcourt together.
The Cardinal will enter this season with a target on his back as the reigning national champion. Stanford returns 12 of 13 players in last year’s roster, all but senior leader Kiana Williams. But 2021 NCAA Tournament MVP Haley Jones and Lexi Hull will be looking to take on that role. Anna Wilson also deciding to return for another year gives Stanford more leadership and a lockdown defender. The duo Cameron Brink and Fran Belibi will be fun to watch again as they now have a year under their belt together.
Did I mention we saw Belibi dunk last season? This versatile group is known for their endless depth and skill in all positions. Road Warriors will return to the Maples Pavilion after enduring the adversity of not playing their field for most of the season due to COVID-19 protocols. Having a certain normality and consistency could be a game-changer for the Cardinal to bring him back.
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The country’s previous No.1 attack will return its core Sweet 16 – Ashley Owusu, Diamond Miller, Katie Benzan, Angel Reese, Chloe Bibby and Mimi Collins. Talk about double-digit depth! In fact, Benzan led the nation in field goal percentage at 3 points. Maryland’s top scorers Owusu and Miller will be back as juniors after a great summer winning a gold medal together for America’s AmeriCup team. Additionally, Angel Reese will be looking to make an impact after missing most of the regular season with a broken foot in December and returning in late March.
Texas dominated the Terps and gave Maryland an early exit from the NCAA tournament, but this dominant team is well equipped to be unstoppable again.
5. NC state
The back-to-back ACC champions earned a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament by knocking out two No.1 teams in the regular season. Sadly, Indiana stood up to a national title race, giving the Wolfpack an early exit in the Sweet 16. The good news is that this team hasn’t lost its key ingredients. NC State star Elissa Cunane returns as a senior. Cunane’s athleticism and effort go beyond painting. She can also stretch the ground and knock down a 3, giving NC State a strong threat to score inside and out. The Wolfpack also sack Jada Boyd and Jakia Brown-Turner as juniors, along with graduate students Kai Crutchfield and General Raina Perez. Like Maryland, the Wolfpack had an unexpected end to their season, but I think there won’t be a downfall to try to win the title.
The Cardinals lost their goal scorer Dana Evans threat to the WNBA. His ability to score at will and have clutch performance will be missed, but coach Jeff Walz has added more depth to revamp his backcourt. Syracuse transfer Emily Engstler and Vanderbilt transfer Chelsea Hall are two elite scorers who should add more offensive production in the absence of Evans.
Louisville will also be without Elizabeth Balogun, who transferred to Duke, but all is not lost. Senior Redshirt Kianna Smith will return as Louisville’s second-leading scorer behind Evans. Additionally, Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran will look to build on their momentum with a year of experience in their second campaigns. Van Lith has shown effortlessly that she can pick up an attack, while also going the extra mile to grab crucial rebounds as a keeper. The future still looks bright with the remaining stars of Louisville.
Oregon’s top priority last season was to gain chemistry and learn a new system, as this program lost its big three to the WNBA and earned nine new Ducks. Te-Hina Paopao – who was due to fill big shoes as ground general after Sabrina Ionescu – did a phenomenal job creating for her team. Paopao will return to good health after being sidelined in the last month of the season with a right foot injury. The Ducks still managed to have a good race until the Sweet 16 without their leader by blowing Georgia.
Oregon also has the dangerous duo Sedona Prince and Nyara Sabally. While this team will lose Erin Boley and Lydia Giomi at graduation and Taylor Chavez to Arizona, the Ducks will add All-Pac-12 Endyia Rogers and Top-30 rookie Taylor Bigby in the backcourt. Keep the Ducks high on your radar heading into this season.
The Hoosiers made a splash in the NCAA tournament, recording their most successful season in program history. Indiana’s historic run to the Elite Eight included the elimination of the No.1 seed NC State. His elite pressure defense, along with veteran guard Ali Patberg’s offensive spark were a huge factor in stopping the Wolfpack. With Patberg’s decision to return, we can expect Indiana’s balanced attack to not skip a beat.
Indiana coach Teri Moren also brings back the same core – Mackenzie Holmes, Grace Berger and Aleksa Gulbe – to revive him. With this group, Indiana will pose problems for its opponents as the Big Ten’s second-best defensive team. Beware of Indiana’s powerful ammunition to continue making history.
The spotlight was on Bueckers, but there was also a quiet storm in Iowa with freshman sensation Caitlin Clark leading the nation in points per game and assists. Clark’s unlimited range gives her defenders a difficult task to protect her in all areas of the ground. His duet with Monika Czinano will also return to the pitch, creating an unmatched chemistry between the two, especially with Clark’s elite passing ability to find Czinano inside (while sometimes not even looking).
When the supporting Iowa cast around this duo click offensively, Iowa is unstoppable. They showed exactly that by knocking out Kentucky at the start of the double-digit tournament. They were the country’s # 2 offensive for a reason!
Baylor took a major hit losing his key pieces which impacted both ends of the floor. DiDi Richards and DiJonai Carrington went to the WNBA and Moon Ursin transferred to LSU. Speaking of LSU, legendary Kim Mulkey is starting a new chapter as a head coach. Former Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen will now take over to start a new era in Waco, TX.
NaLyssa Smith will be a big contributor to their success. Queen Egbo will accompany him in the painting. Plus, there’s always depth at the point guard with Jaden Owens or Sarah Andrews, and Oklahoma State transfer Ja’Mee Asberry will add more offensive firepower as a three-point sniper. Baylor will be in a rebuilding phase, but I expect this group to regroup quickly under Collen in hopes of staying on top of the Big 12.