Outlooks for the Top 25 teams in the USA TODAY Sports preseason women’s basketball poll

Sizing up our top 25 college women’s basketball teams for the 2020-21 season. 

1. South Carolina: The reigning SEC regular-season champions and top-ranked team in the  coaches poll at the time of the COVID-19 shutdown. The Gamecocks return the sophomore guard trio of Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and forward Aliyah Boston (12.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg), whose 86 blocks last season were a program record.

2. Stanford: Stanford recruited standout 6-4 forward Cameron Brink, who was the ESPN HoopGurlz No. 3-ranked player in the country. Brink joins an already potent roster that includes guards Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull and, if healthy, Haley Jones. Jones, limited to 18 games last season because of a knee injury, averaged 11.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

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3. Connecticut: UConn brings back 6-5 forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa (10.9 ppg), guard Anna Makurat (7.9 ppg) and forward Aubrey Griffin (5.4 rpg). Add in the ESPN HoopGurlz No. 1 prospect, 5-11 point guard Paige Bueckers.

Connecticut forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa goes to the basket against South Florida during the 2020 American Conference tournament. (Photo: David Butler II, USA TODAY Sports)

4. Baylor: Baylor, the defending national champion given the 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled, will make do without three of its senior stars Lauren Cox, Juicy Landrum and Te’a Cooper. The Lady Bears returns forward NaLyssa Smith (14.3 ppg) and national defensive player of the year DiDi Richards.

5. Louisville: Dana Evans, Louisville’s leading scorer last season with 18 points per game, is back. Evans can form a guard duo with No. 7 recruit Hailey Van Lith. Guard Elizabeth Balogun (8.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) will add to the equation.

6. North Carolina State: The reigning ACC champion returns four of its five starters from its 28-4 season, led by center Elissa Cunane, who averaged a league-best 9.6 rebounds per game.

7. Mississippi State: Sophomore forward Rickea Jackson (15.1 ppg) and Sidney Cooks (9.5 ppg), a 6-4 transfer from Michigan State, should make first-year coach Nikki McCray-Penson’s job easier.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats, projected as a potential force in the 2020 NCAA tournament, boosted their chances by adding two transfers to join returners Aari McDonald (20.6 ppg), Cate Reese (13.6 ppg) and Sam Thomas (9.5 ppg).

9. Oregon: Top scorers – Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard – each went on to the WNBA. The Ducks are still expected to be one of the top perimeter shooting teams in the country and added Maryland transfer guard Taylor Mikesell.

10. UCLA: UCLA will be full of versatile players led by veteran forward Michaela Onyenwere (18.9 ppg) and guard Charisma Osborne (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg).

11. Maryland: Maryland lost six of its players who accounted for 70% of the team’s minutes last season. Big Ten freshman of the year Ashley Owusu (12.0 ppg) joins McDonald’s All-American guard-forward Angel Reese.

12. Kentucky: Rhyne Howard is arguably the best shooter in the SEC, averaging 23.4 points per game. Kentucky adds a top-14-rated recruiting class headlined by five-star guard Treasure Hunt.

Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard shoots the ball while being defended by Tennessee guard Rae Burrell (12) during their 2020 game at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. (Photo: Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports)

13. Arkansas: Four starters return for the Razorbacks, including fifth-year seniors Chelsea Dungee (16.9 ppg) and Amber Ramirez. They added Oregon State transfer Destiny Slocum (15.2 ppg in two years).

14. Texas A&M: The Aggies shouldn’t have any trouble after losing guard Chennedy Carter because they have three returning starters and Minnesota transfer Destiny Pitts (16.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

16. Northwestern: Lindsey Pulliam (18.8 ppg) is back, along with Veronica Burton (11.6 ppg) to pair with five-star recruit Anna Morris.

16. Indiana: The Hoosiers will have their top five scorers back from a 24-8 team as well as George Mason graduate transfer Nicole Cardaño-Hillary (18.3 ppg).

17. Oregon State: The Beavers have the forward duo of Taylor Jones (12.3 ppg) and Kennedy Brown (7.6 rpg) as a foundation. Aleah Goodman (8.8 ppg) will provide depth in the backcourt.

18. Iowa State: Iowa returns four of its five starters from last season’s run to the Big 12 tournament championship game, led by versatile guard/forward Ashley Joens (21.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg).

19. DePaul: Forward Courtney Fredrickson, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin, might be the missing piece to the team. Guards Sonya Morris (15.6 ppg) and Lexi Held (15.4 ppg) return.

20. Gonzaga: The Bulldogs welcome back sister duos Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong as well as Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth, who were instrumental in a program-best 21-game winning streak last season.

21. Syracuse: Syracuse has the depth to re-establish itself as one of the top teams in the nation. All-time assist leader Tiana Mangakahia bolsters the team after missing last season while being treated for breast cancer.

22. Ohio State: Four of Ohio State’s five scorers return from last season, led by Dorka Juhasz (13.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg). The Buckeyes suffered a small setback with the transfers of four players, but three incoming freshmen could fill the backcourt spots.

23. Notre Dame: Longtime assistant Niele Ivey takes over as head coach and has guard duo Destinee Walker (14.5 ppg) and Katlyn Gilbert (13.6 ppg) to lead the way. Three key players are returning from injury: Anaya Peoples (shoulder), Abby Prohaska (pulmonary embolism) and Mikayla Vaughn (knee).

24. Michigan: Michigan returns most of its scorers from last season, including Naz Hillmon (17.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Amy Dilk (11.6 ppg) and Akienreh Johnson (10.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg).

25. Missouri State: Alexa Willard, Missouri State’s leading scorer last season (16.1 ppg), graduated. But the talented squad includes guard Brice Calip (12.6 ppg) and Jasmine Franklin (8.7 rpg), who were the backbone in the team’s 26-4 record last season.

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