South Carolina and Stanford appeared to be on a collision course for the women’s college basketball national championship game last season before UConn derailed the Cardinal in the semifinals. The Gamecocks and Cardinal have started this season ranked 1-2 — and hold those same spots in our inaugural Power Rankings for the 2022-23 season — and we’ll get to see the superpowers clash on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC).
Before then, two big-time early showdowns will be played Monday, as Indiana faces Tennessee (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2), and Texas travels to take on UConn.
The Lady Vols fell in their opener to Ohio State, which is the biggest mover from ESPN’s preseason Way-Too-Early Top 25 (No. 17), landing in the top 10 of the first Power Rankings.
The Buckeyes, Big Ten co-champs and a Sweet 16 team last season, showed off their defensive prowess against the Lady Vols. We’ll see how that prepares Tennessee for facing another Big Ten title contender in Indiana.
Two quick notes: ESPN’s women’s college basketball Power Rankings are different than the polls, as we try to give a weekly snapshot of the big picture. So teams’ movement — or lack thereof — might not always match what happens in the top-25 polls. And with so many players, teams, coaches and games deserving recognition, we also try to avoid a school getting multiple awards in a week when possible.
Hailey Van Lith and Mykasa Robinson put the game out of reach as Louisville grabs the tight win over Belmont.
The junior guard has a lot on her shoulders this season in regard to Louisville’s success. But she embraces it. Van Lith is off to a strong start, averaging 21.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7. assists — including 25 points on Sunday in a tight 75-70 victory at Belmont.
An Elite Eight team last year, the Bluejays are off to a hot start with road victories over South Dakota State and South Dakota. Junior guard Lauren Jensen — who made the winning 3-pointer in Creighton’s NCAA tournament second-round upset of Iowa last season — had a combined 42 points, six assists and five rebounds in those wins. On Tuesday, things should be rocking at Creighton’s D.J. Sokol Arena as fellow top-25 team Nebraska makes the short trip from Lincoln to Omaha.
Kudos to the Buckeyes and Lady Vols for opening the season against each other to break up the cupcake parade. Ohio State’s fans rushed onto the court and celebrated. ESPN’s Charlie Creme noted in the preseason that Ohio State has one of best backcourts in the country, and that led the way in the Buckeyes getting 16 steals.
After the Hokies beat Bucknell 67-41 on Friday, Brooks said in his news conference, “I don’t have much, man … we didn’t play well.” But on Saturday, he Tweeted, “Classic example of high expectations. Sometimes the optics are not reality. Thought we played bad, watched the whole game film with the team and we played really well. Executed on D, just didn’t make as many shots. They did what asked! I apologized to them. Love this team!”
Here at Power Rankings Headquarters, we commend Brooks for this. And we respectfully request all coaches avoid phrases such as, “We just weren’t very good,” “We’ve got a lot to work on” and “I have to do a better job coaching,” until at least the second week of the season.
Previous ranking refers to position in ESPN’s preseason Way-Too-Early Top 25.
1. South Carolina Gamecocks (2-0)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: at Clemson (Thursday), at Stanford (Sunday)
The Gamecocks got their new rings for last season’s NCAA championship and the SEC regular-season title. Then they took care of overmatched East Tennessee State by 70 points. South Carolina followed with an 81-56 win over a stronger opponent in Maryland. Coach Dawn Staley has complimented her team’s leadership, which should prevent any letup at Clemson before traveling to Stanford.
Kiki Iriafen hits all seven of her field goal attempts to score a game-high 15 points in Stanford’s win over Pacific.
2. Stanford Cardinal (4-0)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: vs. Cal Poly (Wednesday), vs. South Carolina (Sunday)
Once again, the Cardinal’s bench is so deep you can barely see to the end of it. Fifteen players have seen action in all four games. Along with very familiar faces such as Haley Jones and Cameron Brink, younger Cardinal players also are making an impact. Sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen leads Stanford at 12.8 points per game. Freshman guard Talana Lepolo is averaging a team-best 6.5 assists, and she made her first start on Sunday at Portland.
3. Texas Longhorns (1-0)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: at UConn (Monday), vs. Marquette (Saturday)
Vic Schaefer fell into the “coaches going a little overboard after one game” category when the Longhorns opened with a 68-45 victory over Louisiana. He was very unhappy about Texas’ 25 turnovers and said (more than once) he had to coach better. But point guard Rori Harmon being out with a toe injury was the biggest culprit. We’ll see if Harmon is available for UConn.
4. UConn Huskies (1-0)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: vs. Texas (Monday), vs. NC State (Sunday)
We’re rolling the dice here a bit by bumping the Huskies up to No. 4 after a 59-point blowout opening win against Northeastern. We won’t know until our next Power Rankings, after they’ve faced two fellow top-10 teams, whether the Huskies deserve it. The matchup with the Wolfpack comes after UConn ended NC State’s season in a double-overtime Elite Eight instant classic in March.
Iowa thrashes Evansville behind a big performance from Caitlin Clark.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Kansas State (Thursday), vs. Belmont (Sunday)
Drake took visiting Iowa to overtime on Sunday before falling 92-86. A close game against a longtime in-state rival isn’t that big of a surprise for the Hawkeyes, although it was a lot closer than they wanted. Monika Czinano had 36 points and 11 rebounds, and Caitlin Clark 28 points and nine assists. The question Iowa still must answer consistently is how much help will the dynamic duo get?
6. Louisville Cardinals (3-0)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. Gonzaga (Saturday)
Traveling to Belmont early in the season was a way for coach Jeff Walz to test his team, because the Bruins gave the Cardinals the fight he expected. Van Lith is off to a great start. Graduate transfer guards Chrislyn Carr and Morgan Jones are in the starting lineup and filling important roles, which is exactly what Louisville needs from them.
7. Iowa State Cyclones (2-0)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: at Northern Iowa (Wednesday), vs. Columbia (Sunday)
With the likes of Ashley Joens, Lexi Donarski and Emily Ryan back, we already knew a lot about the Cyclones. The first two games gave an indication of how much 6-foot-6 transfer Stephanie Soares can bring. She has averaged 11.5 points and 11.0 rebounds so far. If she’s even in range of those numbers all season, it will be big boost for Iowa State.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0)
Previous ranking: 17
This week: at Ohio (Thursday), vs. McNeese (Sunday)
Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell were huge in beating Tennessee, and perimeter play will dictate a lot of the Buckeyes’ fate. Sheldon already has 19 steals — tying a school record with 11 on Sunday in beating Boston College — and Ohio State has forced 64 turnovers in two games. But also keep an eye on senior forward Rebeka Mikulasikova, who is averaging 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds; her numbers were 9.4 and 5.0 last season.
9. Tennessee Lady Vols (1-1)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: vs. Indiana (Monday), vs. Rutgers (Saturday)
Tennessee fans understandably freaked out a bit after the opening loss to Ohio State because the Lady Vols’ hopes are so high this season. But it was an understandable defeat, considering it was the season opener on the road against a very opportunistic defensive team. Jordan Horston‘s injury was the biggest concern in the win over UMass, but she is listed as day-to-day. Indiana will be another test.
Olivia Miles makes beautiful dish for a basket
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Northwestern (Wednesday), vs. Ball State (Sunday)
Fun family fact: The Irish have had a least one Mabrey sister in the lineup every season but one since 2012-13. Michaela (2012-16) is now a Notre Dame assistant, Marina (2015-19) plays for the Dallas Wings and Dara Mabrey (2020-present) led the Irish with 16 points in Saturday’s win over California. Stat-sheet stuffer Olivia Miles is averaging 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 4.0 steals so far.
11. NC State Wolfpack (3-0)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: vs. Charlotte (Wednesday), at UConn (Sunday)
Some of the familiar names of the past few years, including Elissa Cunane, are gone. But so far, the Wolfpack look similar: strong defense; offense spread out among several players. Guard Diamond Johnson is leading the way at 13.0 PPG. While it won’t make up for losing that Elite Eight heartbreaker last season, NC State has another shot at UConn coming up.
12. Indiana Hoosiers (2-0)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: at Tennessee (Monday), vs. Bowling Green (Thursday), vs. Quinnipiac (Sunday)
After opening with easy victories against Vermont and UMass Lowell, the Hoosiers get some prime-time exposure against the Lady Vols on Monday. We are used to seeing Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes leading Indiana. But freshman Yarden Garzon and transfers Sara Scalia (from Minnesota) and Sydney Parrish (from Oregon) are already making an impact too.
13. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: vs. South Carolina State (Wednesday), at James Madison (Sunday)
As is the case with most teams in the first week, wins against overmatched opponents don’t tell us a whole lot yet about the Tar Heels. But North Carolina has a strong junior class, led so far by Kennedy Todd-Williams (17.0 PPG) and Alyssa Ustby (16.5 PPG). Things will get more interesting for the Tar Heels when they play Thanksgiving week in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon.
14. LSU Tigers (3-0)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: vs. Houston Christian (Wednesday), vs. Northwestern State (Sunday)
LSU was rated as having the best 2023 recruiting class this past week by ESPN, and the Tigers won their three games by a combined score of 343-125. Coveted transfer Angel Reese (from Maryland) is averaging 21.3 points and 14.3 rebounds. Everything is going great for the Tigers — but they don’t face a Power 5 team until Dec. 18 versus Oregon State.
15. Oklahoma Sooners (2-0)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: at BYU (Tuesday), at Utah (Wednesday), vs. UT Arlington (Sunday)
Fifth-year senior Madi Williams is again leading a Sooners offense that we know will score a lot of points. Oklahoma has 23 3-pointers in two games; the Sooners averaged 9.3 treys per contest last season. Even though it is early, this is a big week for Oklahoma, which will match up against three teams that made the NCAA tournament last season, including back-to-back games in Utah.
16. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: vs. South Carolina Upstate (Monday)
Reigning ACC player of the year Elizabeth Kitley is averaging a double-double (20.0 points, 11.0 rebounds), as expected. With guards like Georgia Amoore and transfer Ashley Owusu (from Maryland) to get Kitley the ball, the Hokies are going to be impressive offensively. Cayla King (20.5 PPG) and Boston College transfer Taylor Soule (10.0 PPG) also are off to good starts.