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Women’s college basketball power rankings: South Carolina jumps to No. 1; Baylor moves up after beating UConn

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It has certainly been quite a wild week in women’s college basketball. The top two teams in our previous power rankings, Oregon State and Oregon, both fell on the road to Arizona State. UConn, the top team in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 5 in our last power rankings, suffered its first defeat of the season to reigning national champion Baylor.

Beyond the losses by the country’s top teams, both North Carolina State and Florida State, two previously unbeaten teams in our last ranking, suffered their first losses of the season. The Wolfpack fell to in-state rival North Carolina, while Florida State fell on the road at Syracuse on a buzzer-beater, before dropping a home contest to upstart Georgia Tech.

Indiana, a team that has consistently been on the periphery of our top-10, was seemingly on their way there before losing at Iowa in double overtime on Sunday. Texas A&M, another team just waiting to break into the top-10, suffered a tough loss to LSU after losing one of the country’s best players, Chennedy Carter, to an injury.

While the teams at the top that lost may have taken over the headlines, there were many others that survived, and others that thrived. Missouri State and Gonzaga narrowly escaped upset bids, while South Carolina, Stanford, Louisville and UCLA continued to roll.

This week brings a new team to the No. 1 spot, while the biggest winner this week might just be the Sun Devils, as they catapult into the power rankings following two of the best wins any team can get in one weekend.

There is plenty of basketball left and with how tight a number of these conference races are going to be, it’s likely that this past weekend of chaos, is just the beginning in women’s college basketball.

Women’s Top 25 Power Rankings

1. South Carolina (16-1)

Dawn Staley has her team at the top of this week’s rankings for the first time this season. The way the season has gone so far, I’m not sure whether that’s a gift or a curse, but one thing is certain — the Gamecocks deserve this spot. Since our last published ranking, South Carolina has put up over 90 points in each of its four games, including a 99-72 drubbing of Kentucky. The Gamecocks also beat Arkansas, another SEC team that has gotten off to a strong start. Since losing to Indiana at the Paradise Jam in November, Staley’s team has been rolling. 

Freshmen Aliya Boston and Zia Cooke have continued to improve, which is a scary thing for the other teams in the SEC. Boston is leading the team in both scoring and rebounding at 13.2 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. Cooke has joined senior Tyasha Harris in creating an extremely dynamic backcourt that ranks among the very best in the country. Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan, another senior, who played on the 2016-17 national championship team, is second in scoring at 12.7 ppg. Perhaps what has been most impressive is South Carolina’s depth, with nine players averaging over 10 minutes per game. That is valuable experience for a team that boasts both veteran leadership and youthful exuberance.  Previous: 3

2. Baylor (14-1)

The Bears are riding high following their 74-58 win over UConn in Hartford, Connecticut,  last Thursday. While the Bears were No. 4 and the Huskies No. 5 in our power rankings heading into that contest, the Huskies were No. 1 in the AP poll, which made this road win an even bigger one in the college basketball landscape. The Bears have a great case for the No. 1 spot. Their only loss came to South Carolina at the Paradise Jam without star Lauren Cox. Cox is now back and has added an important dimension to this team. We have seen her size, strength, quickness and agility be major parts of her game around the rim. Against UConn, we saw her step out and be able to knock down 3-point shots as well, which makes her extremely difficult to guard. 

Te’a Cooper has stepped right into the role vacated by last season’s NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Chloe Jackson and NaLyssa Smith has been the X-factor for this team. Queen Egbo, Juicy Landrum and Didi Richards have all been very good for coach Kim Mulkey, but Smith has been on another level. She is leading the team with 16.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg. In looking at the Bears schedule, it’s easy to imagine them going undefeated the rest of the season and finishing with only one loss. Road games at Texas and West Virginia do mark significant challenges, but if Baylor gets through those, it could be vying for the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. Previous: 4

3. UCLA (16-0)

The Bruins make the biggest leap this week. The lone remaining undefeated team in the country at 16-0, UCLA pulled off the Arizona sweep last weekend, defeating both Arizona State and Arizona at home. In looking at the Pac-12, both wins are big, particularly the two-point victory over a Sun Devil team that just pulled off a sweep of their own this past weekend. That December road win over Indiana also looks very good when you’re basically splitting hairs in looking at UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State, which in all honesty, is what we are doing. That said, UCLA deserves this right now. 

Michaela Onyenwere has been incredible for coach Cori Close, currently leading the team at 18.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Senior Japreece Dean, who scored a team-high 23 points in UCLA’s win over Arizona State, has been a solid player and leader, while freshman Charisma Osborne has really come into her own. After being a bit inconsistent in the non-conference, Osborne has averaged 12.4 ppg in their five conference games, including a career-high 17 points last weekend in a win over Utah. UCLA travels to USC this weekend, before hosting Washington and Washington State next weekend. After that, the Pac-12 gauntlett begins to take effect, as they travel to Arizona for games against Arizona and Arizona State. Previous: 9

4. Oregon (13-2)

On paper, the Ducks are a tricky team to figure out, but when you watch them, it’s easy to see how good this team is. Since the preseason, I’ve said that I believe Oregon has  the best starting five in the country, and while South Carolina, Baylor, and UConn are putting up a terrific argument to that right now, I still believe it to be true. While the Ducks’ losses (Louisville and Arizona State) are far from bad losses, coming to good teams on a neutral court and on the road, we are still looking for a big win from the Ducks. Beating Arizona on the road is a really good win, but they still lack the big win that many others at the top of this poll have. 

What the Ducks do have is a dynamic big three in Sabrina Ionescu, Ruth Hebard, and Satou Sabally. Hebard (16.9), Ionescu (16.3) and Sabally (14.5) lead the team in scoring, while Jaz Shelley, Erin Boley and Taylor Chavez have sparked the Ducks from behind the 3-point line. Both Shelley and Chavez are currently shooting over 44% from behind the arc. Kelly Graves also has his team playing tremendous defense, as Ionescu and Minyon Moore lead the Ducks on that side of the floor. The opportunities for big wins are certainly plentiful for Oregon. That begins this Thursday with a home game against Stanford. Next weekend, Oregon will play Oregon State twice in a three-day span. The time is now for the Ducks to get their big win. Previous: 2

5. Stanford (15-1)

Stanford moves up one spot this week to the No. 5 spot. This team has come together nicely over the past two weeks as Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer has the Cardinal playing at a very high level heading into their most challenging weekend yet. Stanford heads to Oregon to take on the Ducks on Thursday night and the Beavers on Sunday. We will learn a lot about the Cardinal this weekend, particularly their young players. Those young players have continued to show improvement throughout the season, particularly freshmen Haley Jones and Hannah Jump. Jones is third on the team in scoring at 11.8 ppg and Jump, while averaging just 12.1 minutes per game, is making 3-point shots at a 47% rate. 

Sophomore Lexie Hull leads the team in scoring at 12.9 ppg, followed closely by possibly their most important player, Kiana Williams, at 12.7 ppg. Senior DiJonai Carrington remains sidelined with a knee injury, as Stanford has seen nine different players start a game this season. They have 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game, and while they have a chance to get a banner road win this weekend, they already have put together a resume of quality wins including two teams in this week’s top-10 in Mississippi State and Gonzaga. Previous: 6

6. Oregon State (15-1)

This is a bit of a slide for a team that would’ve stayed in the No. 1 spot this week if they won on Sunday, but they didn’t, and here they are at No. 6. Part of that is simply being one of many top teams to lose this week. I went back-and-forth on Nos. 3-6 this week and landed with the Beavers dropping to No. 6, mainly because of a concern over their offense. Their defense is currently a top-25 defense in the country, but they have gone in ruts scoring wise at times lately. We saw this against Arizona State on Sunday when they scored just four points in the first quarter and 14 in the first half. Again, we are splitting hairs, but that’s a concern. That said, I still really like this team. 

Defense tends to travel well, and it isn’t like Scott Reuck’s team is inept at scoring. Mikayla Pivec, Destiny Slocum and Taylor Jones are all averaging over 13 ppg, while Aleah Goodman is making 3-pointers at just under 40%. After a game against California on Friday at home, the Beavers will welcome Stanford, before playing two games in three days against the Ducks during a tough, but important stretch for Oregon State, in which it will get three of those games at home. Previous: 1

7. UConn (14-1)

This may seem a bit low, but the highest I’ve had the Huskies ranked this year has been 5th. Following last week’s loss to Baylor, UConn drops two spots, but while they may have lost the game, I was actually encouraged after seeing them play the Bears. They have a great starting five and four of the nation’s top players at their positions in Cristyn Williams, Crystal Dangerfield, Megan Walker and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Nelson-Ododa had a game to forget against Baylor, scoring 0 points on 0-8 shooting. She just never got into a rhythm. 

The other two things that stood out in that game were concerns that I’ve had with the Huskies all season: the fifth starter and the bench. Kyla Irwin was the fifth starter for Geno Auriemma in that game and she also didn’t score in the game, and as for the bench, Anna Makurat provided the only points with three. UConn did a good job rebounding against a great rebounding team, and despite all of these offensive woes, it trailed by just three points entering the fourth quarter. Those are good signs, but the Huskies need to get much better on the offensive end and get a marquee win, particularly if they have their sights set on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have multiple opportunities ahead including a Feb. 3 matchup with Oregon. Previous: 5

8. Louisville (16-1)

Senior Jazmine Jones and junior Dana Evans have played terrific this season. Kylee Shook has hit big shots for the Cardinals, while Elizabeth Balogun has shown tremendous promise, despite some inconsistencies scoring-wise. The Cardinals boast a big-time win over Oregon on a neutral court and have been rolling as of late, including a 46-point win over Miami on the road last Thursday. Since losing their lone game of the season at Ohio State, Louisville has won eight consecutive games, with a great chance to extend that streak this weekend, as they travel to Boston College and to North Carolina. 

Louisville is a tough team to rank. I’m a bit hung up on its game against UT-Martin, in which it took two overtimes to defeat the 8-7 Skyhawks. The Cardinals have a marquee win, have taken care of business lately, both in the non-conference and in the ACC, and their only loss is to an Ohio State team whose resume continues to strengthen. The Cardinals have gotten much better in the past two weeks and are likely to make a push for a No. 1 seed, particularly if they win the ACC. Previous: 7 

9. Mississippi State (15-2)

Mississippi State makes a big jump into this week’s top 10. While a number of teams previously above the Bulldogs found themselves on the wrong end of games last week, they continued to roll, opening SEC play by defeating Florida, Georgia and Missouri. That certainly is far from the top of the conference, but Vic Shaefer’s team is taking care of business. The Bulldogs will have a huge test Monday as they travel to South Carolina to take on the No. 1 Gamecocks. 

They have three players averaging over ten points per game, led by Jordan Danberry’s 14.1 ppg, and followed closely by Rickea Jackson at 13.5 ppg and Jessika Carter at 13.0 ppg. Like other teams in the top-10, depth could be an issue for this team as they get deeper into SEC play and against some of the better, deeper teams in the conference. Andra Espinoza-Hunter has the ability to be that player of the bench that can come into a game and be a spark for the Bulldogs, but she has been inconsistent of late. Whether it is Espinoza-Hunter or someone else, they will need depth to compete at the top of the SEC. Previous: 16

10. Gonzaga (16-1)

Gonzaga may come as a surprise to some, as it makes its first appearance in the top-10 this season. While many others in the top-15 were losing games last week, the Zags found themselves either rolling or surviving. They defeated both BYU and San Diego on the road, before handling St. Mary’s and barely surviving Pacific at home. The issue for the Bulldogs moving forward is their schedule. The West Coast Conference just isn’t nearly that strong, and while Gonzaga may find themselves in a tough game or two, it could also run the table and finish with just one loss.

 In the non-conference, its two marquee games came against Stanford in November and Missouri State in December. Gonzaga defeated Missouri State by 12 and were seconds away from defeating Stanford on the road, before falling in overtime. This is a really good team filled with veterans. Coach Lisa Fortier starts three juniors and two seniors and the Zags are coming off of a 26-5 season that saw them get a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Oregon State in the second round. Jenn Wirth and Katie Campbell lead the offensive charge, but it’s their 9th ranked defense that has this team dreaming of a deep run in March. Previous: 15

Rank Team Record Previous
11 NC State 15-1 10
12 Florida State 15-2 7
13 Kentucky 14-2 14
14 Indiana 14-3 12
15 Texas A&M 14-2 13
16 Missouri State 14-2 17
17 Arizona State 13-4 NR
18 DePaul 15-2 19
19 Maryland 12-4 18
20 Arizona 13-3 11
21 Iowa 13-3 NR
22 Princeton 13-1 23
23 South Dakota 15-2 22
24 West Virginia 13-2 20
25 LSU 13-3 NR
  • Just out: Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, FGCU, and Rutgers
  • Who fell out? Texas, FGCU, and Northwestern
  • Who jumped in? Arizona State, LSU, and Iowa



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