Approach-Too-Early Prime 25: UConn down, Texas up and South Carolina nonetheless on high

The switch portal frenzy has subsided since our mid-June Approach-Too-Early top-25 rankings for the 2022-23 girls’s school basketball season. That does not imply it was solely quiet the previous couple months (see: Shaylee Gonzales heading to Texas), and at that time, Paige Bueckers was nonetheless a wholesome nationwide participant of the yr candidate.

So there was some motion, particularly in our high 10.

UConn takes successful, going from the group almost definitely to problem South Carolina to a group which may now must dig deep to achieve a fifteenth consecutive Ultimate 4. The addition of Gonzales mixed with the Huskies’ drop helped Texas transfer up two spots.

However some issues stayed very a lot the identical. South Carolina remains to be the safe No. 1 group and the favourite to repeat as nationwide champion. The ACC remains to be loaded on the high with 5 groups preventing for spots within the high 10. This units as much as be probably the most aggressive main convention race within the nation.

With the beginning of the season nearly precisely a month away, the dialogue of how all the brand new faces in other places by way of the switch portal can get critical. How will chemistry construct for groups resembling Tennessee, Indiana and Virginia Tech? Which switch may have the largest affect? Which veteran gamers will get probably the most out of their extra season?

Our newest high 25 begins to reply a few of these questions.

Earlier: 1

That is the type of success Daybreak Staley should have envisioned when she landed the nation’s high recruiting class in 2019. The core of Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Laeticia Amihere has led the Gamecocks to 2 SEC regular-season championships, a pair of SEC event titles, two Ultimate Fours and the 2022 nationwide championship. Now they’re once more favored to do all these issues another time. Bringing in Kierra Fletcher as a grad switch from Georgia Tech to exchange Destanni Henderson at level guard fills the one gap for a group that went wire-to-wire because the nation’s No. 1 group a yr in the past. Another choice on the level is Raven Johnson, final yr’s No. 2 recruit within the nation who ought to return from a knee damage that price her all however two video games in 2021-22. Victaria Saxton, a 6-foot-2 ahead, is again for a fifth yr, giving Boston just a bit extra assist as she goes for a second straight nationwide participant of the yr award.

Earlier: 3

Relying on the result of their Nov. 20 assembly at Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal may very well be chasing South Carolina all season once more. However Stanford has one thing the Gamecocks do not: two preseason All-Individuals. In Haley Jones, one of many sport’s most versatile performers, and Cameron Brink, one in all its most intimidating, the Cardinal might have two of the perfect 5 gamers within the nation. When Tara VanDerveer can fill out her a number of rotations with the expertise of seniors Fran Belibi, Hannah Soar and Ashten Prechtel, and the expertise of 6-3 sophomores Kiki Iriafen and Brooke Demetre, Stanford stays a nationwide title contender. Including 6-7 Lauren Betts, the nation’s high recruit, to play alongside the 6-4 Brink makes the inside protection of the Cardinal that rather more imposing.

Earlier: 5

Very like his groups at Mississippi State, Vic Schaefer’s Texas golf equipment simply maintain getting higher. After journeys to the Elite Eight in his first two seasons in Austin, the primary Ultimate 4 for this system since 2004 appears shut. In Rori Harmon, Schaefer has some extent guard to construct round and a star within the making. Then the portal introduced grad transfers Gonzales from BYU and Sonya Morris from DePaul — and out of the blue the Longhorns have probably the most intriguing backcourt within the nation. The arrival of 6-4 Taylor Jones from Oregon State to play alongside forwards Aaliyah Moore and DeYona Gaston offers Schaefer a number of lineup choices and the expertise to problem for a nationwide title.

Earlier: 4

Kellie Harper practically acquired a complete beginning lineup within the switch portal. Level guard Jasmine Powell (Minnesota), forwards Rickea Jackson (Mississippi State) and Jasmine Franklin (Missouri State) and 6-5 middle Jillian Hollingshead (Georgia) would begin for a lot of groups within the nation, however with 6-5 Tamari Key and Jordan Horston already in place in Knoxville, it means Harper has appreciable lineup flexibility. Jordan Walker, Sara Puckett and No. 11-rated 6-4 recruit Justine Pissott give the Girl Vols the type of depth to push South Carolina within the SEC.

Earlier: 6

The Hawkeyes have the power to outscore anybody within the nation. Heck, there are stretches in video games when Caitlin Clark can do all of it by herself. The query with current Iowa groups comes on the defensive finish, the place the Hawkeyes ranked 99th final season, in response to Any enchancment there and this may very well be a Ultimate 4 group. Clark led the nation in scoring and assists per sport and Monika Czinano, again for her super-senior season, led in subject aim share. They had been the nation’s most prolific inside-outside duo, and that should not change. The addition of Central Michigan switch Molly Davis offers Iowa one more scorer and shooter.

Earlier: 2

For the primary time in current reminiscence, the Huskies appear to have extra questions than solutions. That turned the case the moment Bueckers went down in August with a season-ending torn ACL. Is Azzi Fudd able to grow to be an No. 1 scoring possibility? Who fills the management void with the commencement of Evina Westbrook, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa? How a lot can Caroline Ducharme construct on a powerful freshman season? Can Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhasz elevate to even higher heights? Will Lou Lopez-Senechal‘s sport translate from the MAAC to the nationwide stage? With the proper solutions to those questions, that is nonetheless a Ultimate 4-caliber group. With video games towards Texas, NC State, Duke and probably Iowa by Thanksgiving weekend, these solutions might come early.

Earlier: 7

Jeff Walz leaned closely on the switch portal and bought his Cardinals all the way in which to the Ultimate 4. So why not strive it once more? With Emily Engstler and Chelsie Corridor final season, protection drove the success. It could be offense this time round. Morgan Jones (Florida State) and Chrislyn Carr (Syracuse) give the Cardinals two big-time wing scorers to go along with rising junior and All-America candidate Hailey Van Lith. The continued growth of Olivia Cochran within the publish and Liz Dixon‘s choice to play another season additionally makes the Cardinals formidable inside.

Earlier: 9

With a lot expertise returning, the Irish are one other program seeking to take the subsequent step after being only a play away from the Elite Eight final March. A lot of the key items are again in Niele Ivey’s third season on the helm, and the switch portal might need taken care of the remainder. Jenna Brown (Stanford) strikes in as a backup to dynamic level guard Olivia Miles and long-range shooter Dara Mabrey. Lauren Ebo (Texas) brings physicality to play alongside proficient two-way forwards Sonia Citron and Maddy Westbeld, the final two ACC rookies of the yr. Former five-star recruit Kylee Watson (Oregon) provides depth and flexibility.

Earlier: 10

Ashley Joens would possibly go down as the perfect participant in Cyclones historical past. Her choice to remain in Ames for her super-senior season means she may additionally be a part of the perfect group this system has ever had. Level guard Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski, the Huge 12 defensive participant of the yr and a 37.1% 3-point shooter, could be the convention’s finest backcourt. And Invoice Fennelly added some proficient measurement in 6-6 two-time NAIA Participant of the 12 months Stephanie Soares, who ought to pair nicely with 6-3 senior Morgan Kane in giving Iowa State one thing it hardly ever has: an intimidating frontline.

Earlier: 12

The Hoosiers needed to say goodbye to a giant portion of the group that elevated this system to Huge Ten contender standing. The center and soul of Nicole Cardano-Hillary, Ali Patberg and Aleksa Gulbe will not be straightforward to duplicate, however the group’s two finest gamers are again. Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes will anchor a group that can look to construct on journeys to the Elite Eight and Candy 16 the final two years. The assistance comes from some transfers, most notably Sara Scalia, who averaged 17.9 PPG for Minnesota final season and is among the nation’s finest 3-point shooters. Alyssa Geary, a 6-4 Windfall switch, ought to assist unencumber Holmes inside. Indiana native Sydney Parrish strikes east from Oregon to supply some extra deep capturing and size on the perimeter.

Earlier: 8

The additions of transfers 6-5 River Baldwin of Florida State and Maryland’s Mimi Collins will assist offset among the manufacturing loss, if not the presence, of program icon Elissa Cunane. However Saniya Rivers‘ transfer to Raleigh from South Carolina was Wes Moore’s large rating within the switch portal. One of many nation’s high recruits in 2021, Rivers might flourish with extra alternative with the Wolfpack. Even when Rivers takes extra time to develop, Moore nonetheless has veterans level guard Diamond Johnson, wing Jakia Brown-Turner, publish Camile Passion and ahead Jada Boyd to lean upon in what needs to be a extremely aggressive ACC.

Earlier: 13

The Tar Heels have but to recapture this system’s glory days of the mid- to late-2000s, however they’re getting nearer below coach Courtney Banghart. North Carolina reached its first Candy 16 since 2015 and returns 4 starters. Deja Kelly, Kennedy Todd-Williams and Alyssa Ustby are the merchandise of Banghart’s first recruiting class and had been final season’s high three scorers. Kelly might problem for ACC Participant of the 12 months. Teoni Key, the 6-4 sister of Tennessee’s Tamari Key, was a McDonald’s All American two years in the past as a highschool senior and may very well be a giant presence inside if she’s absolutely recovered from the knee damage she suffered final preseason.

Earlier: 11

The complexion of the Hokies’ season modified significantly when Ashley Owusu elected to go away Maryland for Virginia Tech. Pairing Owusu and her energy sport within the backcourt with 6-4 middle Elizabeth Kitley offers Kenny Brooks a post-perimeter tandem that can trigger important matchup dilemmas for the opposition. In Could, Taylor Soule, the face of Boston Faculty over the previous few seasons, joined the Hokies for her fifth yr. Throw within the return of junior level guard Georgia Amoore, who was second within the ACC with 4.4 APG, and Virginia Tech is ready as much as enhance upon a season that was this system’s finest in over 20 years.

Earlier: 14

Because the switch portal continued to supply, the Tigers rose within the offseason rankings. A group that was as soon as unranked is now once more a menace within the SEC. Final season, Kim Mulkey used the portal to herald important expertise and shocked many with a second-place convention end. With a lot of that core gone, Mulkey added ahead LaDazhia Williams (Missouri), level guard Kateri Poole (Ohio State) and guard Jasmine Carson (West Virginia) to go along with lone returning starter Alexis Morris. Nevertheless it was when Angel Reese determined to maneuver from Maryland to Baton Rouge that the Tigers’ fortunes actually modified. The 6-3 Reese averaged 17.8 PPG a season in the past and has first-team All-America potential.

Earlier: 18

Maybe like no different coach within the nation, Brenda Frese has realized to reside on the excessive finish of the switch portal. For the second time in three years Frese misplaced huge expertise — Reese, Owusu, Collins — to different faculties solely to exchange them with one other enormous switch haul. In 2021, Frese constructed a Huge Ten championship group meshing transfers with established Terps. To do this once more, Lavender Briggs (Florida), Abby Meyers (Princeton), Elisa Pinzan (South Florida) and Brinae Alexander (Vanderbilt) should carefully replicate current success. Briggs was a 19.5 PPG scorer with the Gators in 2021. Myers was the 2022 Ivy League Participant of the 12 months. Alexander led the Commodores at 15.2 PPG final season. But the important thing to all of it could be Diamond Miller, who at occasions was Maryland’s finest participant in 2020-21 earlier than being slowed by accidents a season in the past. Chemistry might need to return shortly with a schedule that features South Carolina, UConn, Notre Dame and Baylor earlier than the calendar turns to 2023.

Earlier: 16

Jennie Baranczyk’s first yr in Norman was as enjoyable to look at and profitable as anybody might have imagined. The 25 wins had been probably the most because the 2010 Ultimate 4 group, and the Sooners had been third within the nation in scoring at 82.6 factors per sport. This group may very well be even higher. Taylor Robertson, who’s 51 3-pointers away from Kelsey Mitchell’s NCAA profession report, and Madi Williams determined to return for his or her further yr. If Ana Llanusa, who was averaging 17.3 factors earlier than a knee damage ended her season after 10 video games, is absolutely wholesome, Oklahoma has three high-end scorers. The addition of Iowa State switch Aubrey Joens offers the already potent perimeter capturing one other enhance.

Earlier: 15

If Madison Greene, who averaged 13.4 PPG and a team-leading 4.3 APG in 2020-21, is absolutely recovered from a knee damage that price her all of final season, the Buckeyes might need the deepest backcourt within the nation. Ohio State leaned closely on Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon a yr in the past, and so they delivered a mixed 38.3 PPG because the Buckeyes quietly shared the Huge Ten regular-season title with Iowa. They every return, as does Rikki Harris and her 7.1 PPG. If 6-4 senior Rebeka Mikulasikova continues her enchancment and 6-0 Eboni Walker returns to her Arizona State type after a tricky yr at Syracuse, Ohio State may have the steadiness to once more compete for the Huge Ten’s high spot.

Earlier: 19

The success of the Wildcats will largely be constructed on Cate Reese, Shaina Pellington and Lauren Ware, however coach Adia Barnes additionally added some important expertise round her veteran core. Lauren Fields (Oklahoma State) and Jade Loville (Arizona State) led their respective faculties in scoring a season in the past, and Esmery Martinez was a rebounding pressure in her three years at West Virginia. Maya Nnaji from Minnesota and Lengthy Island’s Paris Clark are each top-25 recruits who might add two extra scorers to an offense that needs to be a lot better this season.

Earlier: 17

Changing three gamers — NaLyssa Smith, Jordan Lewis and Queen Egbo — chosen within the first two rounds of the WNBA draft is sort of inconceivable, however the switch portal certain helped. Nikki Collen, coming into her second season after changing Kim Mulkey, introduced in Aijha Blackwell, the nation’s second-leading rebounder, from Missouri, Dre’Una Edwards, the 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the 12 months at Utah and a 16.8 PPG scorer for Kentucky final season, and Jana Van Gytenbeek, who made 37.8% of her 3-pointers final yr at Stanford. Fifth-year seniors Ja’Mee Asberry and Caitlin Bickle and junior guard Sarah Andrews type the returning core, giving Collen loads of expertise and expertise as Baylor tries to carry off Texas and Iowa State for a thirteenth consecutive Huge 12 regular-season title.

Earlier: 20

In 6-7 Sedona Prince, the Geese may have an anchor within the publish, however this Oregon group is constructed across the backcourt. Te-Hina Paopao may very well be a star if she will stay wholesome. Endyia Rogers has been All-Pac-12 twice in profession (as soon as at USC, as soon as at Oregon). They’re joined by grad switch Taya Hanson, a starter in her last two season at Arizona State, and level guard Likelihood Grey, the No. 7 prep participant within the nation, who headlines the nation’s second-best recruiting class.

Earlier: 22

The Cornhuskers suffered a giant blow late final month when senior Sam Haiby suffered a leg damage that can pressure her to overlook the season, however coach Amy Williams has amassed sufficient expertise to nonetheless be aggressive within the Huge Ten and earn a second straight NCAA event berth. Nebraska’s high three scorers — guard Jazz Shelley (13.1 PPG), middle Alexis Markowski (12.8 PPG) and ahead Isabelle Bourne (11.1 PPG) — all return. They’re joined by South Dakota switch Maddie Krull, who might immediately be one of many Huge Ten’s high perimeter defenders, and 6-5 Maggie Mendelson, a top-35 basketball recruit and the nation’s No. 2 incoming freshmen in volleyball.

Earlier: 23

Regardless of dropping level guard Paige Meyer to a leg damage close to the tip of the common season and falling simply in need of an NCAA event bid, the Jackrabbits rallied to win the WNIT. Now Meyer, who led the group in assists and shot 53.4% from 3-point vary as a freshman, is again, as is WNIT MVP and 2021 Summit League Participant Myah Selland, who has additionally battled some accidents the final two seasons. Two extra double-figure scorers in Paiton Burckhard and Tori Nelson additionally return. Utah grad switch Dru Gylten could be the piece that ties all of it collectively to get South Dakota State again to the NCAA event. Gylten was a four-year starter with the Utes and led the Pac-12 in assists final season.

Earlier: 21

With nonconference video games towards Nebraska, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Arkansas and Stanford, the Bluejays are out to show that final spring’s journey to the Elite Eight was no fluke. Meaning the expectations have risen in Omaha. Junior Emma Ronsiek, Creighton’s main rebounder, led a balanced offensive assault that has 5 of its high six scorers again. Lauren Jensen is the perfect shooter on a group that was tenth within the nation in 3-point accuracy.

Earlier: 24

It is attainable the Tigers, who beat Kentucky in final yr’s NCAA event and practically took out Indiana, shall be even higher this season regardless of dropping Ivy League Participant of the 12 months Abby Meyers to Maryland. The opposite 4 starters are again, together with double-figure scorers Julia Cunningham and Kaitlyn Chen. Plus, coach Carla Berube added what is taken into account the perfect recruiting class in Ivy League historical past with the additions of 6-4 Tabitha Amanze and 5-10 Madison St. Rose, each from New Jersey. Video games at Texas and UConn would be the final measuring stick for a program that final misplaced an Ivy sport in 2019.

Earlier: NR

Coming off this system’s finest season in 13 years, whereas beginning two freshmen and two sophomores, the Utes are in place to take one other large step ahead. Alissa Pili, who averaged 16.3 PPG in 2019-20 earlier than battling accidents the final two seasons, transferred from USC. If she’s wholesome, the 6-2 junior’s inside scoring skills could be the proper complement to a proficient younger backcourt in Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson, two of the Pac-12’s finest freshmen a yr in the past. Kneepkens was voted the convention’s high rookie and Johnson led Utah in scoring.

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