It’s been just over six month since Stanford overcame South Carolina in a thrilling Final Four matchup en route to its third NCAA championship. The Gamecocks, however, grabbed the first win of the 2022 season — on paper, that is.
South Carolina is No. 1 in the AP Top 25 preseason women’s basketball poll for a second consecutive season while Stanford ranked third. UConn, which has captured a staggering 11 NCAA championships, sandwiched between them at No. 2. The national media panel of voters gave South Carolina 14 first place nods while UConn and Stanford earned 10 and five, respectively.
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After claiming an SEC Championship last season, the Gamecocks could be poised for a national title as they return all five starters and their top two reserves in Laeticia Amihere and LeLe Grissett. Coach Dawn Staley signed a seven-year, $22.4 million contract extension last week, crystallizing those expectations in Columbia, South Carolina.
Stanford lost guard Kiana Williams — the team’s leader in points, assists and steals a season ago — to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, but it has a more than capable replacement in Haley Jones. Jones shot a team-leading 54.6% in 2020-21 and ranked second in scoring and assists. When it mattered most, in the Final Four and NCAA Championship, Jones showed no fear of the moment by leading the Cardinal with 24 and 17 points, respectively.
Arizona took the biggest stumble in the preseason poll. Despite coming a point shy of Stanford in last year’s NCAA Championship, the Wildcats are ranked 22nd heading into the 2021-22 campaign. The Wildcats lost two starters, but forwards Cate Reese and Sam Thomas return to solidify the frontcourt.
No. 10 Oregon joins Stanford from the Pac-12 in the top-10 a year after finishing second to the Cardinal in the conference. The Kelly Graves-led Ducks, which lost to Louisville in last season’s Sweet 16, have now ranked in the AP preseason top-10 for a fourth straight season.
Indiana comes into the 2021-2022 campaign with significant momentum and continuity. The Hoosiers are coming off an Elite Eight appearance and rank a program-record eighth in the AP’s preseason poll. All five starters return for Indiana, helping coach Teri Moren’s quest for a seventh straight 20-win season.
A Big Ten foe of Indiana’s has also made a historic rise up the AP’s preseason poll, as Michigan tied its highest rank ever at No. 11. Coach Kim Barnes Arico’s Wolverines lose two starters from last season’s Sweet 16 squad, but Naz Hillmon is back after finishing as the conference’s second-leading scorer.
No. 4 Maryland, No. 9 Iowa and No. 17 Ohio State join Indiana and Michigan from the Big Ten in the Top 25. The Pac-12 has No. 14 Oregon State and No. 20 UCLA to go along with Stanford, Oregon and Arizona. No. 5 NC State, No. 6 Louisville, No. 16 Florida State, No. 17 Georgia Tech and No. 24 Virginia Tech represent the ACC.
Women’s preseason AP Top 25
RANKSCHOOLPOINTSPREV1South Carolina (14)70562UConn (10)69613Stanford (5)68224Maryland63275NC State58936Louisville57587Baylor52158Indiana521129Iowa513NR10Oregon4792311Michigan4031612Iowa State376NR13Kentucky3681814Oregon State273NR15Tennessee2441316Florida State231NR17Ohio State1972217Georgia Tech197NR19West Virginia1921720UCLA175921South Florida1461922Arizona1351123Texas A&M123424Virginia Tech98NR25Texas79NR
Others receiving votes: Georgia 65, Michigan State 63, Florida Gulf Coast 43, Missouri State 18, South Dakota 13, BYU 11, LSU 10, Arkansas 10, Washington State 9, Notre Dame 8, Oklahoma State 8, DePaul 6, Belmont 5, Oklahoma 3, South Dakota State 1, Mississippi 1.