NCAA women’s basketball poll, week 1

South Carolina with the Battle 4 Atlantis trophy.

It has been a busy start to college basketball season, with more games in the first 14 days than there were in perhaps the first two months of last year’s pandemic-hampered schedule. So with that comes our first top 25 poll of the year.

Returning all five starters and welcoming the number one freshman class in the country, Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks come in as the top team this week. The squad has already taken down two top-15 teams this year, including yesterday’s runaway win over UConn, and will continue to be tested before SEC play begins at the end of December.

They’re followed by a very talented, high-scoring Maryland Terrapin squad who recently knocked off the Baylor Bears. NC State suffered an opening night loss to South Carolina, but their balance, depth, and ability to defend make them a dangerous team and place them third in this week’s poll.

Replacing Hall of Famer Kim Mulkey is not an easy task, but first-year Baylor coach Nicki Collen came in and built trust early with her talented squad. The Bears return All-American NaLyssa Smith and add a versatile guard in Jordan Lewis. The team’s history of grad transfer point guards is evident, and we could expect to see Baylor in Minneapolis if they can stay healthy.

Rounding out the top five this week are the Huskies – another deep team that returns all of their starters – and welcomes freshman sensation Azzi Fudd. Their loss to the Gamecocks puts them fourth in the poll, but as UConn builds upon their chemistry and finds the right rotations, they are capable of moving up.

Indiana is a team to watch, and could easily crack the top five this year. For now, they sit at six, but don’t sleep on the Hoosiers. Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes haven’t seen much of the court this year due to positive COVID tests within the program last week. But before that interruption, they were off to a blistering start, so expect them to make noise when they return.

After suffering a first-week loss to Texas, Stanford comes in at number eight. We’ll know more about the defending champions this week, as they take on Maryland and NC State in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving.

Vic Schafer’s teams have always been known for their defensive, but will it be the consistency of the three-point shot that carries the No. 9 Longhorns this season? Freshman Kyndall Hunter was phenomenal behind the arc in a win over New Orleans, and will receive a warm welcome back once she returns from injury. Fellow newcomer Aliyah Matharu has been lighting it up from three thus far, and could carry this young squad deep into the tournament. Rounding out the top 10 this week is Adia Barnes’s Arizona Wildcats. This team is out to prove that they were not a one-time sensation last year, but a program on the rise.

Led by one of the best players in the country in senior Naz Hillmon, Michigan looks to build upon their Sweet 16 run last year. The Wolverines will be tested, with matchups against Oregon State and Mississippi State later this week. Michigan is followed by Oregon State, Louisville, and Iowa State in our poll. The Lady Vols, at 15, have been without Rae Burrell since she was injured in their first game, but Jordan Horston and Tamri Key have stepped up to help the team claim wins over South Florida and Texas.

Welcoming back Sue Semrau to the sidelines this season, the Florida State Seminoles enter the poll this week at 16. Rhyne Howard has already posted a triple-double this season for Kentucky, but how far can she carry the Wildcats? Kentucky already lost starter Blair Green to a preseason knee injury and may be thin, but are still a very talented squad. Suffering a loss to Indiana earlier this season, the Wildcats find themselves at 17 in this week’s poll.

An injury-riddled Oregon squad was blown out by South Carolina over the weekend, and fell to South Florida the next day. But once healthy, the Ducks should be a force to be reckoned with. For now they sit at 18 in the poll, but expect Kelly Graves’s squad to be one of the top teams in the nation come March.

Florida Gulf Coast got a signature win over Kim Mulkey and the LSU Tigers last week, in a game where star guard Kiersten Bell dropped 32 points. The Eagles’ high-scoring offense and their threat from the perimeter makes them one of our teams to watch this season, and place them at 19 in this week’s poll. In his final season, Gary Blair’s Texas A&M Aggies round out the top 20.

After bringing in a slew of transfers, UCLA finds themselves at 21. They’re followed by USF, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and Missouri State.

Receiving votes this week: Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Colorado, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Gonzaga, BYU

Top 25

1. South Carolina
2. Maryland
3. NC State
4. Baylor
6. Indiana
7. Iowa
8. Stanford
9. Texas
10. Arizona
11. Michigan
12. Oregon State
13. Louisville
14. Iowa State
15. Tennessee
16. Florida State
17. Kentucky
18. Oregon
19. Florida Gulf Coast
20. Texas A&M
21. UCLA
22. USF
23. Georgia
24. Virginia Tech
25. Missouri State

RV: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Colorado, Notre Dame,, West Virginia, Gonzaga, BYU