Women’s college basketball power rankings: No. 1 Oregon leads five Pac-12 teams in top 25

There didn’t seem to be much doubt over who the No. 1 team in the country was in the preseason, but what little doubt there may have been has been erased following a 3-0 start by Oregon and just the second win by a college team over Team USA. The Ducks have looked terrific behind the play of their leaders Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard. The Pac-12, in general, has impressed, as Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA are also off to strong starts.

The Pac-12 team that may have caught some by surprise, albeit not me, is Arizona. Aari McDonald is a star, and she has helped guide the Wildcats to a 4-0 start, including a 25-point win over Texas, in which McDonald dropped a school-record 44 points. 

Baylor has also looked impressive, but an injury to their star player Lauren Cox will test them over a stretch of some difficult non-conference games coming up. South Carolina has scored the biggest win in the early part of the season, as they took down Maryland on the road.

A number of mid-major programs have sprinted onto the national stage, some securing major wins like Missouri State, while others like Gonzaga and Rice took some of the country’s best to the brink, before suffering a close defeat. 

One thing is for certain: this season promises to be a fun one. Here is a look at this week’s power rankings.

Women’s Top 25 Power Rankings

1. Oregon

Oregon remains the clear No. 1 team in the country, as they’ve cruised to a 3-0 start, winning by an average of 45 points. This doesn’t even count their 93-86 victory over Team USA. The Ducks have been led by All-American Sabrina Ionescu, who is averaging a double-double so far with 12.7 points and 10.0 rebounds. Fellow senior Ruth Hebard has been a scoring machine for coach Kelly Graves, as she is averaging 23.7 points over her first three games. While the Ducks have yet to be challenged outside of their exhibition against Team USA, that is about to change as Oregon travels to upstate New York to take on Syracuse this weekend. After Thanksgiving, they head to St. Thomas for the Paradise Jam where they will play Louisville. Previous: 1

2. South Carolina 

South Carolina makes the biggest jump in my bi-weekly top-25, jumping from No. 7 to No. 2. The Gamecocks are off to a 4-0 start, which includes a huge road win over Maryland. Dawn Staley’s team dominated that game despite the win margin being single digits. They also recorded a 26-point win over Dayton on the road. This young South Carolina team has come together a lot faster than I anticipated. We will get a chance to really see where they stand in a couple of weeks, as they will take on both Indiana and Baylor at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. They have six players averaging double figures in scoring, and have been led by freshmen Zia Cooke and Aaliyah Boston, who have taken college basketball by storm. There will likely be growing pains at some point for this young team, but for right now, they are looking like a national championship contender. Previous: 7

3. Baylor

Baylor has been nothing short of dominant so far this season, cruising to a 3-0 start. The Bears will enter a tougher portion of their non-conference schedule over the next two weeks, as they have games with South Florida, Indiana, and South Carolina coming up to round out the month. The loss of Lauren Cox, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury, is a major blow to Kim Mulkey’s team. That said, they need to focus on getting her healthy for the stretch run of the season. Sophomore NaLyssa Smith has been terrific early on, averaging a team-high 19.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. South Carolina transfer Te’a Cooper and senior Juicy Landrum have set the shooting pace for the Bears, shooting 43% and 56% from the 3-point line, respectively. Previous: 3 

4. Stanford

Stanford survived an overtime scare from a strong, underrated Gonzaga team on Sunday.  While they needed extra time to get past the Bulldogs, the Cardinal are still off to a strong 4-0 start. Lexie Hull and Kiana Williams have been the offensive spark plugs for head coach Tara VanDerveer’s team, both averaging double figures in scoring. Hull is currently shooting the ball extremely well at 61% from the field, 44% from the 3-point line, and 90% from the free-throw line. Freshmen phenoms Haley Jones and Francesca Belibi have played very well at times, while struggling at others. While Stanford can certainly score the ball and have a very deep bench, their bread and butter will likely be their defense, which will keep them in any game they play. Previous: 2 

5. Oregon State

Oregon State is one of the most difficult teams to rank in the top 10. The Beavers are 4-0 and have two of the best wins of any team in the top-10, with the exception of South Carolina’s win over Maryland, as they beat both DePaul and Missouri State in the Preseason WNIT. They travel to Miami next Friday, in what will likely be their toughest test remaining before entering the daunting Pac-12 schedule. I began the season all in on this team and I remain all in. They’ve been tested early and have not only survived those tests, but also thrived in many ways. Mikayla Pivec is leading the way at 17.8 PPG, followed closely by Taylor Jones (16.0), Destiny Slocum (15.5) and Aleah Goodman (14.0). This is an extremely talented, well-balanced team. Previous: 4

6. UConn

It has been an interesting start to the season for UConn, to say the very least. The NCAA’s denial of Evina Westbrook’s transfer request has sparked a separate controversial issue, regarding the situation that she was in while at Tennessee. On the court, the Huskies are 3-0, but their play has left many wondering what this team is truly capable of on the national scene. Coach Geno Auriemma is likely far less concerned about games in November than games in March. The Huskies — who always challenge themselves in the non-conference — still have games against Ohio State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, DePaul, Baylor and Oregon, so we will have a much better idea of what this UConn team will be capable of a month from now. One thing we do know is that Megan Walker, Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Crystal Dangerfield have put up terrific numbers so far this season. Previous: 6

7. Texas A&M

Texas A&M escaped a potential upset bid by Rice this weekend, beating the Owls in Houston 62-61. That may have been an upset on paper, but Rice is a really good team, especially at home. The Aggies are 3-0 and many consider them one of the favorites to win the SEC this year. Junior All-American Chennedy Carter has gotten off to a terrific start, averaging 23.3 points, while fellow juniors Ciera Johnson and Kayla Wells have also proven to be sparks on the offensive end for coach Gary Blair’s team. The Aggies have done a good job of protecting the ball on offense so far this season and their defense has surely been a bright spot as well. Previous:  8

8. Louisville

Louisville is off to a 3-0 start including a good home win over Central Michigan last week. With the departure of Asia Durr, we were left wondering who would fill the scoring void that she left, and junior Dana Evans has jumped right in, as she’s currently averaging18.3 points and shooting 47% from behind the arc. Senior Jazmine Jones has also stepped up for coach Jeff Walz, averaging 15.7 points to go along with 7.0 rebounds.. The Cardinals will be tested at the end of November at the Paradise Jam, where they will take on the No. 1 team in the country, Oregon. They also get Ohio State and Kentucky before getting into ACC play. Previous: 9 

9. Maryland

Maryland is 3-1, but it hasn’t been easy. Following the defeat to South Carolina at home, the Terrapins narrowly escaped an upset bid by James Madison on the road. They were severely outplayed in that contest, however they did come away with the win. They will have one more big non-conference test when they play North Carolina State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Senior Kaila Charles is going to need to be much better moving forward if coach Brenda Frese and the Terrapins want to get back to a Final Four, but it’s still obviously very early, and Charles is an elite guard. Strong play from Ashley Owusu and Shakira Austin has paced Maryland so far this season. Previous: 5 

10. UCLA

Coach Cori Close has her UCLA Bruins team off to a smooth 3-0 start. The Bruins have yet to really be challenged, but are playing extremely well behind the strong play of junior Michaela Onyenwere. Onyenwere is averaging 17.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The one area where UCLA has truly struggled in the early part of this season is in their 3-point shooting. They are shooting it at just under 23% for the season thus far. In a conference that consists of teams with terrific 3-point shooting, that will certainly need to improve. Previous: 10

11. Mississippi State
12. NC State
13. Florida State
14. Kentucky
15. Miami
16. Indiana
17. Arizona
18. Arkansas
19. Tennessee
20. Michigan State
21. Missouri State
22. Michigan
23. Gonzaga
24. DePaul
25. South Dakota 

  • Just out: Syracuse, Drake, South Florida, West Virginia, Minnesota, UNC, Notre Dame, Princeton and Rice
  • Who fell out? Texas, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Rice, and Drake
  • Who jumped in? Arkansas, Michigan State, Missouri State, Gonzaga and South Dakota

 

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