For the first time since early December, we have a new team atop the women's college basketball power rankings this week, as Dawn Staley's South Carolina Gamecocks have found their way back to the top.
Louisville held the top spot for nearly two months, before falling to NC State on Monday. NC State moves up to No. 2 with the win and can certainly make a very strong case for the top spot. UCLA and Texas A&M moved up and into the top five this week, as UConn also fell to Arkansas, which dropped them just out of the top five
Northwestern got an impressive win at home over Ohio State in a game that the Buckeyes really needed to win, which catapulted them all the way up to No. 18 this week. Missouri State and Georgia Tech also enter the rankings. For Missouri State, it's a return to the top 25 after just over a month, while the Yellow Jackets are making their first appearance of the season following a convincing win over Syracuse on Tuesday night.
With another week filled with great games ahead, I have my eyes set on two: South Carolina at UConn and Arizona at Oregon--both on Monday night.
Below is our updated top 25 power rankings, as we get set for another great weekend of college basketball.
Women's Top 25 Power Rankings
1. South Carolina (14-1)
The Gamecocks jump back into the top spot this week for the first time since early December. Dawn Staley's team has done nothing but win since then, including recent back-to-back wins of 20-plus points over Mississippi State and Alabama. Many people will likely have NC State at the top of the polls next week following its win over Louisville and previous win over South Carolina, and that's hard to argue against. But for me, South Carolina is the best team in the country. I almost put the Gamecocks ahead of Louisville each of the past three weeks. Aliyah Boston is the most important player in the country, the Gamecocks are getting better and better on the defensive end and they have multiple players that can score. It's close, but Boston is the difference maker. She is now, she will be next week and she will be in March. Right now, it's South Carolina. Previous: 2
2. NC State (12-1)
In my preseason rankings, I had NC State at No. 9, and stated that due to the Wolfpack's talent and experience, this team would be a Final Four contender. I was wrong. I should have said, 'this team is a national championship contender.' The Wolfpack handed yet another No. 1 team a home loss in Louisville on Monday night, with a convincing 74-60 win. Over the past week, the Wolfpack did lose their first game of the season, a 12-point overtime loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. They played that game without their best player, Elissa Cunane, who had been sidelined for about a month. Cunane returned on Monday night and posted 16 points and six rebounds. While I do put some stock in their loss to Virginia Tech, I don't put a ton into it. This team has proven that they are one of the best in the country. Sophomores Jakia Brown-Turner and Jada Boyd have been playing very well, both scoring 16 points as well in Monday's win. Couple that with the experience Wes Moore's team has and this is a team with a legitimate chance to win it all. My concern is its depth. The Wolfpack only played six players for more than 10 minutes on Monday. It may not come into play, but if it does, it's a concern. Previous: 3
3. UCLA (9-2)
Unfortunately, the Bruins had their recent top-10 battle against Arizona postponed, but have won five in a row heading into this weekend's games against Washington State and Washington. Their game against Washington State is one to watch Friday. If UCLA struggles to score, particularly down the stretch, Washington State will win. For now, Cori Close's team is playing great, especially on the defensive end. It is also closing teams out and winning close games. The Bruins have won their past three games over Washington State, Stanford and Arizona State by a combined nine points. The story remains the same for this team. UCLA will defend, defend and defend, but can it continue to put up points? Michaela Onyenwere and Charisma Osborne are the keys to that. If they score at a high level, this is a Final Four team. If they don't, the Bruins' defense will keep them in games, but continuing to win those close ones will get tougher and tougher. Previous: 4
4. Texas A&M (16-1)
When you look at Texas A&M's schedule, there is one consistent theme and one consistent letter that stands out: "W." This team just continues to win. While Gary Blair's team has continued winning, I believe the Aggies are also continuing to be a bit overlooked. They've run off four straight wins since their lone loss at LSU and will host the Tigers on Thursday night, before welcoming Tennessee on Sunday. Senior N'dea Jones continues to play well for the Aggies, combining for 38 points in their last two wins over Auburn and Georgia. In a loaded SEC, the Aggies are right there at the top. Previous: 7
5. Stanford (13-2)
After back-to-back losses to Colorado and UCLA earlier this month and a very brief hiatus from our top five, Tara VanDerveer's team returns. The Cardinal have now won four consecutive games following their last loss to UCLA, including back-to-back wins over a good Washington State team. Stanford has won those four games by a combined 103 points. Haley Jones continues to be the star for a Stanford team that is deep and talented. They had nine players play more than ten minutes in their last win over Washington. While Jones may be the go-to player, Stanford can score in a variety of ways and senior Kiana Williams is the glue. Home games against Colorado and Utah await this weekend, before Stanford takes the trip to Oregon next weekend to take on Oregon and Oregon State. Previous: 8
6. Louisville (16-1)
This may seem like a steep drop going from No. 1 to No. 6 with just one loss, especially knowing how much I like Jeff Walz's team, but the margin for error is slim right now. The one thing holding some back from putting Louisville at the top was its strength of schedule and that shows up here now. The drubbing of DePaul in December was impressive, but the teams above them have a bigger collection of top wins. That said, the Cardinals will be just fine. Dana Evans was fantastic in the loss to NC State, dropping 29 points, and she has been great all year long. Louisville's youth seemed to catch up with them. Freshman Hailey Van Lith was 3 of 10 from the field, scoring only six points, and the Wolfpack did a great job on her defensively. Fellow freshman Olivia Cochran did well putting up eight points and nine rebounds, but never truly established herself against Cunane. Louisville will only get better from this as it heads into what looks to be a deceivingly tough stretch. Previous: 1
7. UConn (12-1)
The Huskies were handed their first loss of the season last week, losing 90-87 to Arkansas. Their two wins over DePaul and win over Tennessee remain strong, and the Huskies will really benefit from their game on Monday night against No. 1 South Carolina. I give UConn and Arkansas a ton of credit for getting this game on the schedule -- it will help both teams. Despite the loss, Paige Bueckers was terrific, scoring a team-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting. She followed that up with a 22-point, seven-rebound, 10-assist performance in a dominating win over DePaul. Bueckers also played her best game of the season in Wednesday's big win over St. John's. Christyn Williams also had a good week, highlighted by dropping 29 in the win over DePaul, but sat out Wednesday's game against St. John's due to an ankle injury. She should return this weekend. The Huskies backcourt is clicking and it's happening at just the right time. Olivia Nelson-Ododa needs to be more consistent for Geno Auriemma's team. She scored just two points in 20 minutes against Arkansas, but then put up a solid 10-point, seven-rebound performance against DePaul. She needs to be a double-double threat every time out, especially as they get ready to welcome Aliyah Boston and South Carolina to town Monday. Previous: 5
8. Arizona (11-2)
Having three consecutive games postponed certainly hasn't done the Wildcats (or their opponents) any favors, but the fact remains that Adia Barnes has a really good team, particularly on the defensive end, and they have a star in Aari McDonald. Arizona hasn't played since Jan. 22 and they are set to take the court again this weekend for a very challenging Pac 12 road series against Oregon State on Friday and Oregon on Monday night on ESPN2. Previous: 6
9. Oregon (11-3)
In a very similar situation to Arizona, the Ducks haven't played since Jan. 24, as they have also had their last three games postponed. They will have a difficult stretch coming up with three of their next four games coming against top-ten teams, beginning with a home game against Arizona on Monday. Previous: 9
10. Maryland (12-2)
This is where it gets a bit tricky for me. This was a virtual toss up between Maryland, Baylor and Ohio State, but I'm going with Maryland here due to a better overall body of work -- the same reason I have South Carolina at No. 1 over NC State. Despite the two-point loss to Ohio State, the Terrapins' win over Arkansas now looks even better, while their win over Indiana is a solid one as well. Brenda Frese also has her team at the top of the Big Ten standings, which needs to account for something. With four active players averaging double-digits in scoring (Ashley Owusu, Diamond Miller, Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby), the Terps can score with anyone in the country. The question is, can they defend consistently well enough to make a deep run? They are currently giving up 75.1 PPG, which is 309th in the country. That will not get it done come March, but there is still plenty of time for the Terps to improve on that side of the ball. Previous: 12
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First five out: Iowa State, Mississippi State, Texas, Georgia, and Syracuse
Who fell out? Mississippi State, Georgia, and Texas
Who entered? Northwestern, Missouri State and Syracuse