As we turn the corner in mid-February, we begin to look forward to March. Conference tournaments are just around the corner, and the long awaited return of the Women's NCAA Tournament bracket is less than one month away.
There remain many questions in regards to how that bracket will be filled. This week's power rankings marks the third different team who will be ranked No. 1 in the last four weeks (no rankings last week). UConn and South Carolina gave us what is destined to be a final four preview last Monday (please see my preseason projections), Arizona and Maryland continue to roll, and the reigning national champions look to be peeking at just the right time, as Baylor throttled Texas this past weekend.
While Texas A&M may not be the best team in the country, to me, they have undoubtedly earned that spot. UConn is certainly right there as well, scoring a huge win over the Gamecocks last weekend, while Geno Auriemma's young team has really been playing well.
Major conference contests are on the horizon this weekend, as teams are jockeying for not only conference tournament seeding, but also NCAA Tournament seeding. The NCAA released their initial top-16 teams at halftime of Monday night's Stanford-Oregon game.
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. Texas A&M (19-1)
Texas A&M has slowly, methodically, and quietly had one of the best seasons in the country. Gary Blair's team has played extremely well and Aaliyah Wilson has proven that she can really lead a team. The Aggies have terrific guard play, led by Wilson, as well as strong inside play led by N'dea Jones. Their only loss came on the road at LSU, but they have put together a seven game winning streak since that defeat. The Aggies boast six wins over teams currently ranked in the top 25 (Kentucky, DePaul, Tennessee, Arkansas twice, and Georgia), while also holding wins over Mississippi State and Texas, teams that were ranked in the top-25 at the time. When comparing Texas A&M with UConn I looked at the number of top-25 wins and the common opponent factor (Arkansas), which both favored the Aggies. They finish their SEC regular season schedule over the next two weeks, ending with a huge game against South Carolina. They may not end up being the best team in the country, but right now is deserving of the No. 1 ranking in the country. Previous: 4
2. UConn (17-1)
Back in November I said that the Paige Bueckers Era is upon us st UConn and she has made that perfectly clear over the past few weeks. Bueckers was sensational in UConn's big win over then No. 1 South Carolina last week, scoring 31 points, and hitting the clinching 3-point shot in overtime. The Huskies are relying a ton on Bueckers to do a majority of the scoring right now, which she has proven she can do, but they have plenty of other weapons as well. Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook are all still averaging double digits in scoring for Geno Auriemma's team. The Huskies are ninth in the country in scoring offense at 83.3 PPG, so there are plenty of weapons around Bueckers and she is certainly capable of finding them. Defensively, it may come as a surprise to know that the Huskies are 11th in scoring defense this season. Their lone loss to Arkansas aside, UConn has been solid defensively. Being ranked in the top 12 in both offensive and defensive scoring is usually a very good sign. The Huskies are certainly worthy of a No. 1 ranking, but they don't yet have the sheer volume of top wins when compared to Texas A&M right now. Previous: 7
3. South Carolina (17-2)
My concern level regarding South Carolina following last week's overtime defeat to UConn? Zero. I still believe the Gamecocks have the best chance to win the national championship this year. They didn't execute well at all on the offensive end against UConn. Aliyah Boston, who has been sensational this season, didn't get enough touches in the post and their guards didn't perform well in that game. I'm a big-time believer in point guard Zia Cooke. That said, she has to be better. In my preseason predictions, I predicted a second matchup of elite point guards in the national championship game, with Cooke and Bueckers going head-to-head. Bueckers took the first matchup. If they meet again, Cooke will need to be great, which I'm certain she can be. Dawn Staley's team still boasts one of the most challenging schedules in the country and has strong wins over Kentucky, Arkansas, Gonzaga and Georgia to name a few. The SEC is also loaded and the conference tournament should prepare South Carolina for a deep run in March. Previous: 1
4. Stanford (19-2)
Stanford has been a very steady team this season, and despite two losses to Colorado and UCLA (by a combined nine points) the Cardinal have righted the ship and gotten back on track. They have won eight consecutive games and have a big one on Monday night against Arizona, in what will likely be a top-10 matchup. Stanford is the favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament, which would ultimately reward them with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The good news for Tara VanDerveer's team is that Haley Jones is playing like a star, Kiana Williams is the veteran point guard that championship needs, they have shooters all over the court, and their freshman sensation Cameron Brink, is becoming a star in front of our eyes. Brink was spectacular in Monday night's win over Oregon recording 16 points and nine rebounds, while hitting two clutch go-ahead free throws in the last minute of the game. The biggest thing for Stanford remains its depth. It is one of the deepest teams in the country and will be one of the favorites this March. Previous: 5
5. NC State (13-2)
Sandwiched in between two road losses at Virginia Tech and UNC, was a road win over then-No. 1 Louisville. Also, in the beginning of the season (which may feel like years ago), the Wolfpack took down South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. Wes Moore may have one of the top-three starting fives in the country, but depth has been -- and will remain -- an issue. We saw this come into play a bit when Elissa Cunane missed time. That certainly didn't help NC State when it took on Virginia Tech in an overtime loss as Cunane is one of the best post players in the country. When fully healthy, this team has the experience and talent to make it to the Final Four and win a championship. Also, Moore is a really good coach. The Wolfpack will need to use the ACC Tournament, where they will likely see the likes of Louisville again, as a springboard to March Madness. They did this last year before the tournament was canceled, and they can do it again. Previous: 2
6. Louisville (19-1)
Louisville remains steady at the No. 6 spot this week following wins over Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. While the Cardinals remain a very talented team, and are certainly capable of winning the national championship, they lack the big win like the teams ranked ahead of them have. The Cardinals put on a clinic in their win over DePaul in December, but that remains their best win, without any real opportunities for another quality win left in the regular season. The selection committee has Louisville as a No. 1 seed. I don't see it. The resume doesn't stack up with other teams vying for one of those four spots. That said, some redemption against NC State in the ACC Tournament may be the perfect ingredient for the Cardinals to make that leap. Previous: 6
7. Baylor (16-2)
Don't look now, but here come the reigning national champions. The Bears have won seven consecutive games since their last loss to Iowa State, including a 25-point drubbing of Texas, in a game in which Baylor only gave up double digit points in one quarter. Baylor has the ninth ranked defense in the country, giving up just 52.7 points per game. They have also won by 30+ points three times during their recent winning streak. Kim Mulkey's team is peeking at the right time, as the Bears head into the final weeks of the regular season. Wednesday night's game against West Virginia was postponed, but that is the toughest game left on Baylor's schedule for the regular season. The Bears are going to be a dangerous team in March. Previous: 11
8. Arizona (14-2)
If Adia Barnes is going to get her team to the Final Four (which I predicted in my preseason preview), Aari McDonald will need to continue to play like a star and Arizona will need to continue to be exceptional defensively. McDonald is averaging just over 18 PPG, while Cate Reese has really stepped into the spotlight as well this season as a more than capable second scorer. Sam Thomas, fresh off of a 20-point performance in a win over Washington, is shooting just under 40% from the 3-point line as well. The key for this team, though? Defense. They are ranked 23rd in the country in scoring defense and that has to be their calling card. The Wildcats can really defend, and while they swept their season series with Oregon and beat UCLA, I am most intrigued by their game against Stanford on Feb. 22. This team could have many questions to answer on the offensive end, but defense always travels. Previous: 8
9. Maryland (15-2)
Maryland has the best scoring offense in the country. The Terrapins are ranked first out of 336 Division I schools at 91.7 ppg. While that is terrific, they are ranked 303rd out of 336 in scoring defense, giving up 73.2 ppg. This isn't' hard to figure out. The Terps can really score, but they struggle to defend. The one game that stands out to me on their schedule is their early-season loss to Missouri State. Missouri State is a really good defense team, ranking 51st in the country. Maryland struggled to stop them and lost by nine. They must improve defensively heading into March. The good news? They are TOUGH to stop. All five starters are averaging double digits in scoring, led by Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller, while Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby have been lighting it up from the outside. Benzan, a graduate transfer from Harvard, is shooting better than 50% from the outside. Maryland is cruising right now and should win their next two games heading into their regular season finale against Northwestern. Previous: 10
10. UCLA (12-3)
In my last power rankings that came out two weeks ago, the Bruins were No. 3. In that write-up, I mentioned that if UCLA struggled to score against Washington State, it would lose that game. That's exactly what happened. Cori Close has a really good starting five. Michaela Onyenwere and Charisma Osborne are terrific and Natalie Chou has developed into a solid No. 3 option. I've been consistent with my thoughts on the Bruins all year long. They are a really strong defensive team and Onyenwere is one of the best rebounders in the country. If they can't score at a high level, they can be beat. It's a concern. They need Onyenwere and Osborne to combine for 45-50 every game coming down the stretch and heading into the tournament. That's a lot of pressure, but those two players are terrific. They can do it and they are capable of stringing a run of high scoring games together, and in March, sometimes that is what you need. Previous: 3
South Dakota State
First five out: Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Florida Gulf Coast, Iowa and Mississippi State
Who fell out? Georgia Tech and Northwestern
Who entered? Georgia and Rutgers