A wild and fun week in women's college basketball saw Oregon, South Carolina, and Baylor--the top three teams in our previous power rankings--all lose games on a neutral floor at the Paradise Jam. Louisville put on an extremely impressive performance in taking down the Ducks, but were unable to keep it going this week against Ohio State. Indiana showed it will be a team to watch in the Big Ten this season after upsetting the upstart Gamecocks, and while South Carolina had a quick turnaround after the defeat, they made the most of it, as the Gamecocks beat Baylor just two days later.
Stanford picked up two big wins at the Greater Victorian Invitational, including a win in the championship game over Mississippi State, while Oregon State continued to roll.
Mid-major programs like Gonzaga, Missouri State, South Dakota, and Florida Gulf Coast each proved that they can and will be teams to focus in on come tournament time. Florida Gulf Coast may have had the most impressive week, as it defeated both South Florida and Notre Dame, as well as South Dakota State--another strong mid-major program. Was it enough to get the Eagles into this week's power rankings? Missouri State and Gonzaga may not have had the number of wins that FGCU had, but Missouri State's win over South Dakota and the Zags' win over Purdue are impressive ones.
There is plenty of movement from top to bottom, including big jumps into the top-10 for Florida State and North Carolina State, while there are also a few new additions to the top-25. Oregon and Baylor may have dropped, but ironically, I'm actually less worried about those teams now than I was when they were No. 1 and No. 3, respectively.
With so many good teams across the country, these rankings will certainly continue to fluctuate, especially when conference play begins, but what they will begin to show over time is consistency. Which teams are going to be consistently great? Which teams are getting the most quality wins? Which teams are winning games on the road? Those are usually the teams that end up in the final four, with a chance to compete for a national championship.
Women's Top 25 Power Rankings
1. Oregon State (7-0)
The Beavers have been dominant in the early going as they have gotten off to a 7-0 start. Following a week in which Oregon, Baylor, and South Carolina all lost, the Beavers kept on winning, highlighted by a 22-point victory on the road at Miami. They also hold wins over two other top-25 teams in Missouri State and DePaul. In fact, they beat DePaul handily in the WNIT finals. Coach Scott Reuck picked up his 500th career win last week as well. Mikayla Pivec and Destiny Slocum continue to pace a well-balanced attack for a team that may be the most well-balanced in the country. The decision between the Beavers, Stanford and Louisville for the top spot was a tough one. It came down to this: Oregon State has three top-25 wins while Stanford has two and Louisville has one. Beyond that, the manner in which the Beavers have won won has been purely dominant. Previous: 5
2. Stanford (8-0)
The Cardinal have been a bit up-and-down early, which is to be expected with such a young team. I picked Stanford to win the national championship this season, but did that knowing there would be some growing pains, especially early. And there have been, but the Cardinal have continued to win games. Stanford has two top-25 wins so far, as it beat Gonzaga in overtime, before knocking off Mississippi State at the Greater Victorian Invitational on Sunday. The Cardinal won that tournament despite playing without senior guard DiJonai Carrington. Junior Kiana Williams had an injury on Sunday, but it appears that she will be OK. The freshmen are coming along and doing so quickly. Hannah Jump, Haley Jones, and Fran Belibi all had a terrific tournament and seem to be finding their place in Tara VanDerveer's rotation and senior Nadia Fingall was named MVP. The Cardinal may not be the most talented team in the country 1-5, but I believe that they certainly are the most talented 1-10. While I have them at No. 2 this week, I'm starting to feel better and better about my preseason pick to win it all. Previous: 4
3. Oregon (6-1)
November was certainly an interesting month for the presumptive preseason No. 1 team in the country. In early November, Oregon became just the second college team to ever defeat Team USA in an exhibition game. At the end of the month, they Ducks lost to Louisville on a neutral floor in St. Thomas. For some people, panic set in, but most believe, like I do, that Oregon is going to be just fine. Louisville had a great game plan and executed it well - - it happens. Oregon still has the best starting lineup in the country, the best all-around player in the country in Sabrina Ionescu, and three pros in Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally. The Ducks did travel to Syracuse and beat the Orange. That win looked a lot better at the time, as Syracuse is now 4-3, including a loss to Green Bay. The opportunities will be plentiful for coach Kelly Graves and the Ducks in a loaded Pac-12. They also still have UConn on the schedule in February. All five Duck starters are scoring 9 points per game or better, including Hebard's team-high 19.7 ppg and 12.3. rebounds per game. Oregon will get better and better and will shoot the ball better collectively as well. Duck fans need not to worry. This team is elite and still the favorite to win the national championship. Previous: 1
4. South Carolina (8-1)
Last weekend at the Paradise Jam, South Carolina did what great teams do. It bounced back from a difficult loss to Indiana on Thursday to take down Washington State handily Friday and then beat then-No. 2 Baylor on Saturday by 15 points. Coach Dawn Staley has her team rolling. The loss to Indiana is more of a compliment to how good the Hoosiers can be than anything else. The biggest concern that came out of that one was the way in which the Gamecocks lost. South Carolina shot 37% from the field, while shooting 2-19 (10.5%) from the 3-point line and 7-15 (46.7%) from the free-throw line. Those numbers won't add up to many wins against top teams. My sense is that we will look back on this one as an outlier. South Carolina silenced any doubters quickly as they defeated reigning national champion Baylor just two days later. While seniors Tyasha Harris and Mikia Herbert Harrigan have been solid, freshman Aaliyah Boston has been one of the best players in the country so far. Boston, along with fellow newcomers Zia Cooke and Brea Beal, have taken Gamecock Nation by storm. South Carolina owns wins over two top-10 teams in Baylor and Maryland (at the time of the game Maryland was a top-10 team). No other team in the country can say that. Things don't get a whole lot easier either, as the Gamecocks play host to Purdue, Duke and one of the country's best mid-major programs, South Dakota, before getting into SEC play. Previous: 2
5. Baylor (8-1)
The Bears had their 36-game winning streak snapped by South Carolina last weekend at the Paradise Jam. Their movement from No. 3 to No. 6 here has less to do with that loss and more to do with who teams ranked above them have beaten. All five teams ranked higher than Baylor have more quality wins. The foot injury to the Bears' star forward Lauren Cox has forced coach Kim Mulkey to look to others to make up for what Cox brings to both ends of the floor. Sophomores NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo have stepped up in a big way since the injury to Cox. Smith is averaging 16.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, while Egbo is right behind her at 14.1 points and 7.4 points per game. The Bears, while they aren't taking many 3-point attempts, are actually shooting the three fairly well at just under 36%. The thing that separates this Baylor team from many other top teams is that they are capable of winning games without making threes. They've out-rebounded their opponents 342-228 so far this season, while giving up just 49.1 points per game. Mulkey's team gets after it on the defensive end, forces turnovers, is very good in transition, and can put up a big number offensively without reliance on the 3-point shot. While Cox will likely miss more time, when she does return, it will serve as a welcomed boost to a team that is very capable of repeating. Previous: 3
6. UConn (7-0)
While the teams ranked above them were busy playing and beating each other or other teams in the top-25, the Huskies were not. That said, UConn will have plenty of opportunities as they still have games left with Notre Dame, Oregon, Baylor, DePaul, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. We will learn a lot more about Geno Auriemma's team in the coming weeks. A positive for UConn is that their big four of Megan Walker, Christyn Williams, Crystal Dangerfield and Olivia Nelson-Ododa have played very well so far. Walker leads the Huskies at 20.3 ppg, while Williams is just behind her at 17.8 ppg. The Huskies, however, would really like to have had Evina Wetbrook's transfer request approved. Both Kyla Irwin and Anna Makurat have rotated into that fifth starter position and it looks like it may be Irwin's spot to lose at this point. The Huskies lack of depth has been concerning at times, but they got a huge boost last night, as Aubrey Griffin scored 25 points in the Huskies win over Seton Hall, while Molly Bent stepped in for Crystal Dangerfield, who was out with a back injury, and performed extremely well. Their bench play has been inconsistent so far, and while that likely won't hurt them much in the AAC but in the aforementioned non-conference games, it's something to keep an eye on. Previous: 6
7. Louisville (8-1)
The Cardinals have the best win of any team in the country so far, as they defeated Oregon 72-62 at the Paradise Jam. Beating Oregon is one thing, but doing it on a neutral floor is another, as coach Jeff Walz's game plan was truly a thing of beauty. Kylee Shook has been terrific. Shook dominated the Ducks, going for 18 points and 15 rebounds. Dana Evans, Elizabeth Balogun and Jazmine Jones were also all in double figures in the win. Louisville has shot slightly better than expected from 3-point range at 36%, but their defense and rebounding have truly stood out. Evans, a junior guard, along with Jones and Shook, have really taken the reigns as leaders of this team. The Cardinals showed the country that they are for real, but why are they only up one spot? Well, our rankings come out on Friday, and coming off of their huge win last weekend, the Cardinals went on the road and lost to Ohio State on Thursday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If they had won that game, they'd be a top-three team, but they didn't. While Ohio State is on the rise, that's a difficult loss for Louisville. Walz's team has one more big non-conference game remaining before conference play begins, as they take on Kentucky on December 15. Previous: 8
8. Florida State (8-0)
Sue Samaru has the Seminoles off to a 7-0 start, which includes a road win over LSU and a throttling of Texas A&M this past Sunday at the Maggie Dixon Classic in Fort Worth, Texas. That road win at LSU is looking like a really good one right now, and Sunday's 80-58 victory over Chennedy Carter and the Aggies has cemented Florida State as a top-10 team in the country right now. Florida State continued their winning ways on Thursday, defeating a game Michigan State team at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They have developed a "Big Three" of their own at Florida State as Nausia Woolfolk and Nicki Ekhomu have combined with Kia Gillespie to form a formidable trip for Samaru's team. Woolfolk paces the team in scoring at 16.1 ppg, followed closely by Ekhomu's 15.4 and Gillespie's 15.0. The Seminoles have been locked in defensively as well, holding teams to just 50.4 ppg. They have another intriguing non-conference game ahead as the Seminoles will head to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to play Michigan in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase on Dec. 22. Previous: 13
9. NC State (9-0)
Thursday brought about the first big test for the Wolfpack as Maryland came to Raleigh, North Carolina, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wes Moore's team was up for the challenge, as they defeated Brenda Frese's Terrapins 66-59. NC State is now 8-0 on the season as it prepares for two more non-conference tilts before getting into conference play. Elissa Cunane and Aislinn Konig have been terrific for the Wolfpack this season as Cunane leads the team in scoring at 14.8 ppg. Cunane has also been a rebounding machine, averaging just under ten rebounds per contest. Konig is currently at 10.4 ppg, and while Cunane and Konig have paced the Wolfpack, on Thursday it was Kai Crutchfield that stole the show as she put up 19 points including five 3-pointers. If Crutchfield can be a consistent outside threat (currently shooting it at just under 40%), this is going to be a tough team to beat in the ACC. One major area of concern right now, however, is turnovers. The Wolfpack committed 28 turnovers in Thursday's win. Previous: 14
10. UCLA (7-0)
UCLA has stayed steady at No. 10 since the preseason and remain there again this week. Cori Close's team hasn't been challenged much in the early going, winning all seven games by an average of 21 ppg, but they did struggle a bit in a five-point win over UCF at the Cavalier Classic in Virginia last weekend. The Bruins shot just 35% from the field in that one, but were able to hang on for the win. Their toughest non-conference games remaining will both take place on the road, as they head to Athens to take on Georgia on December 19, before heading to Bloomington to take on a strong Indiana team on December 22. Junior Michaela Onyenwere has been dynamite so far this season, averaging 18.7 points to go along with 6.7 rebounds per game. Senior Japreece Dean, averaging 15.0 ppg, has also been a spark for Close's team, as she's averaging a team-high 30.6 minutes played per game. Freshman Charisma Osborne has been good so far, but I'm expecting her to keep improving and play a major role for this Bruins team once they get into conference play. In the Pac-12, UCLA will need Osborne to be terrific if they want to compete for a conference championship against the likes of Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. Previous: 10
|11. Mississippi State||8-1||11|
|15. Texas A&M||6-1||7|
|20. Missouri State||8-1||21|
|22. Michigan State||6-2||20|
|23. South Dakota||8-1||25|
- Just out: Arkansas, Florida Gulf Coast, Miami, Princeton, UNC, Drake, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Purdue
- Who fell out? Arkansas, and Miami
- Who jumped in? LSU and Minnesota