The transfer portal frenzy has subsided since our mid-June Way-Too-Early top-25 rankings for the 2022-23 women's college basketball season. That doesn't mean it was entirely quiet the past couple months (see: Shaylee Gonzales heading to Texas), and at that point, Paige Bueckers was still a healthy national player of the year candidate.
So there has been some movement, especially in our top 10.
UConn takes a hit, going from the team most likely to challenge South Carolina to a team that might now have to dig deep to reach a 15th consecutive Final Four. The addition of Gonzales combined with the Huskies' drop helped Texas move up two spots.
But some things stayed very much the same. South Carolina is still the secure No. 1 team and the favorite to repeat as national champion. The ACC is still loaded at the top with five teams fighting for spots in the top 10. This sets up to be the most competitive major conference race in the country.
With the start of the season almost exactly a month away, the discussion of how all the new faces in different places via the transfer portal can get serious. How will chemistry build for teams such as Tennessee, Indiana and Virginia Tech? Which transfer will have the biggest impact? Which veteran players will get the most out of their additional season?
Our latest top 25 begins to answer some of those questions.
This is the kind of success Dawn Staley must have envisioned when she landed the country's top recruiting class in 2019. The core of Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Laeticia Amihere has led the Gamecocks to two SEC regular-season championships, a pair of SEC tournament titles, two Final Fours and the 2022 national championship. Now they are again favored to do all those things one more time. Bringing in Kierra Fletcher as a grad transfer from Georgia Tech to replace Destanni Henderson at point guard fills the only hole for a team that went wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1 team a year ago. Another option at the point is Raven Johnson, last year's No. 2 recruit in the country who should return from a knee injury that cost her all but two games in 2021-22. Victaria Saxton, a 6-foot-2 forward, is back for a fifth year, giving Boston just a little more help as she goes for a second straight national player of the year award.
Depending on the outcome of their Nov. 20 meeting at Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal could be chasing South Carolina all season again. But Stanford has something the Gamecocks don't: two preseason All-Americans. In Haley Jones, one of the sport's most versatile performers, and Cameron Brink, one of its most intimidating, the Cardinal could have two of the best five players in the country. When Tara VanDerveer can fill out her multiple rotations with the experience of seniors Fran Belibi, Hannah Jump and Ashten Prechtel, and the talent of 6-3 sophomores Kiki Iriafen and Brooke Demetre, Stanford remains a national title contender. Adding 6-7 Lauren Betts, the nation's top recruit, to play alongside the 6-4 Brink makes the interior defense of the Cardinal that much more imposing.
Much like his teams at Mississippi State, Vic Schaefer's Texas clubs just keep getting better. After trips to the Elite Eight in his first two seasons in Austin, the first Final Four for the program since 2004 seems close. In Rori Harmon, Schaefer has a point guard to build around and a star in the making. Then the portal brought grad transfers Gonzales from BYU and Sonya Morris from DePaul -- and suddenly the Longhorns have the most intriguing backcourt in the country. The arrival of 6-4 Taylor Jones from Oregon State to play alongside forwards Aaliyah Moore and DeYona Gaston gives Schaefer several lineup options and the talent to challenge for a national title.
Kellie Harper nearly acquired an entire starting lineup in the transfer portal. Point guard Jasmine Powell (Minnesota), forwards Rickea Jackson (Mississippi State) and Jasmine Franklin (Missouri State) and 6-5 center Jillian Hollingshead (Georgia) would start for many teams in the country, but with 6-5 Tamari Key and Jordan Horston already in place in Knoxville, it means Harper has considerable lineup flexibility. Jordan Walker, Sara Puckett and No. 11-rated 6-4 recruit Justine Pissott give the Lady Vols the kind of depth to push South Carolina in the SEC.
The Hawkeyes have the ability to outscore anyone in the country. Heck, there are stretches in games when Caitlin Clark can do it all by herself. The question with recent Iowa teams comes at the defensive end, where the Hawkeyes ranked 99th last season, according to HerHoopStats.com. Any improvement there and this could be a Final Four team. Clark led the nation in scoring and assists per game and Monika Czinano, back for her super-senior season, led in field goal percentage. They were the country's most prolific inside-outside duo, and that shouldn't change. The addition of Central Michigan transfer Molly Davis gives Iowa yet another scorer and shooter.
For the first time in recent memory, the Huskies seem to have more questions than answers. That became the case the instant Bueckers went down in August with a season-ending torn ACL. Is Azzi Fudd ready to become an No. 1 scoring option? Who fills the leadership void with the graduation of Evina Westbrook, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa? How much can Caroline Ducharme build on an impressive freshman season? Can Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhasz elevate to even greater heights? Will Lou Lopez-Senechal's game translate from the MAAC to the national stage? With the right answers to these questions, this is still a Final Four-caliber team. With games against Texas, NC State, Duke and possibly Iowa by Thanksgiving weekend, those answers could come early.
Jeff Walz leaned heavily on the transfer portal and got his Cardinals all the way to the Final Four. So why not try it again? With Emily Engstler and Chelsie Hall last season, defense drove the success. It might be offense this time around. Morgan Jones (Florida State) and Chrislyn Carr (Syracuse) give the Cardinals two big-time wing scorers to go with rising junior and All-America candidate Hailey Van Lith. The continued development of Olivia Cochran in the post and Liz Dixon's decision to play one more season also makes the Cardinals formidable inside.
With so much talent returning, the Irish are another program looking to take the next step after being just a play away from the Elite Eight last March. Most of the key pieces are back in Niele Ivey's third season at the helm, and the transfer portal might have taken care of the rest. Jenna Brown (Stanford) moves in as a backup to dynamic point guard Olivia Miles and long-range shooter Dara Mabrey. Lauren Ebo (Texas) brings physicality to play alongside talented two-way forwards Sonia Citron and Maddy Westbeld, the last two ACC rookies of the year. Former five-star recruit Kylee Watson (Oregon) adds depth and versatility.
Ashley Joens might go down as the best player in Cyclones history. Her decision to stay in Ames for her super-senior season means she might also be part of the best team the program has ever had. Point guard Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski, the Big 12 defensive player of the year and a 37.1% 3-point shooter, might be the conference's best backcourt. And Bill Fennelly added some talented size in 6-6 two-time NAIA Player of the Year Stephanie Soares, who should pair well with 6-3 senior Morgan Kane in giving Iowa State something it rarely has: an intimidating frontline.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers had to say goodbye to a big portion of the group that elevated the program to Big Ten contender status. The heart and soul of Nicole Cardano-Hillary, Ali Patberg and Aleksa Gulbe won't be easy to replicate, but the team's two best players are back. Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes will anchor a team that will look to build on trips to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 the last two years. The help comes from some transfers, most notably Sara Scalia, who averaged 17.9 PPG for Minnesota last season and is one of the country's best 3-point shooters. Alyssa Geary, a 6-4 Providence transfer, should help free up Holmes inside. Indiana native Sydney Parrish moves east from Oregon to provide some more deep shooting and length on the perimeter.
The additions of transfers 6-5 River Baldwin of Florida State and Maryland's Mimi Collins will help offset some of the production loss, if not the presence, of program icon Elissa Cunane. But Saniya Rivers' move to Raleigh from South Carolina was Wes Moore's big score in the transfer portal. One of the country's top recruits in 2021, Rivers could flourish with more opportunity with the Wolfpack. Even if Rivers takes more time to develop, Moore still has veterans point guard Diamond Johnson, wing Jakia Brown-Turner, post Camile Hobby and forward Jada Boyd to lean upon in what should be a highly competitive ACC.
The Tar Heels have yet to recapture the program's glory days of the mid- to late-2000s, but they are getting closer under coach Courtney Banghart. North Carolina reached its first Sweet 16 since 2015 and returns four starters. Deja Kelly, Kennedy Todd-Williams and Alyssa Ustby are the products of Banghart's first recruiting class and were last season's top three scorers. Kelly could challenge for ACC Player of the Year. Teoni Key, the 6-4 sister of Tennessee's Tamari Key, was a McDonald's All American two years ago as a high school senior and could be a big presence inside if she's fully recovered from the knee injury she suffered last preseason.
The complexion of the Hokies' season changed greatly when Ashley Owusu elected to leave Maryland for Virginia Tech. Pairing Owusu and her power game in the backcourt with 6-4 center Elizabeth Kitley gives Kenny Brooks a post-perimeter tandem that will cause significant matchup dilemmas for the opposition. In May, Taylor Soule, the face of Boston College over the past few seasons, joined the Hokies for her fifth year. Throw in the return of junior point guard Georgia Amoore, who was second in the ACC with 4.4 APG, and Virginia Tech is set up to improve upon a season that was the program's best in over 20 years.
14. LSU Tigers
As the transfer portal continued to provide, the Tigers rose in the offseason rankings. A team that was once unranked is now again a threat in the SEC. Last season, Kim Mulkey used the portal to bring in significant talent and surprised many with a second-place conference finish. With much of that core gone, Mulkey added forward LaDazhia Williams (Missouri), point guard Kateri Poole (Ohio State) and guard Jasmine Carson (West Virginia) to go with lone returning starter Alexis Morris. But it was when Angel Reese decided to move from Maryland to Baton Rouge that the Tigers' fortunes really changed. The 6-3 Reese averaged 17.8 PPG a season ago and has first-team All-America potential.
Perhaps like no other coach in the country, Brenda Frese has learned to live at the high end of the transfer portal. For the second time in three years Frese lost massive talent -- Reese, Owusu, Collins -- to other schools only to replace them with another huge transfer haul. In 2021, Frese built a Big Ten championship team meshing transfers with established Terps. To do that again, Lavender Briggs (Florida), Abby Meyers (Princeton), Elisa Pinzan (South Florida) and Brinae Alexander (Vanderbilt) will have to closely replicate recent success. Briggs was a 19.5 PPG scorer with the Gators in 2021. Myers was the 2022 Ivy League Player of the Year. Alexander led the Commodores at 15.2 PPG last season. Yet the key to it all might be Diamond Miller, who at times was Maryland's best player in 2020-21 before being slowed by injuries a season ago. Chemistry might have to come quickly with a schedule that includes South Carolina, UConn, Notre Dame and Baylor before the calendar turns to 2023.
16. Oklahoma Sooners
Jennie Baranczyk's first year in Norman was as fun to watch and successful as anyone could have imagined. The 25 wins were the most since the 2010 Final Four team, and the Sooners were third in the country in scoring at 82.6 points per game. This team could be even better. Taylor Robertson, who is 51 3-pointers away from Kelsey Mitchell's NCAA career record, and Madi Williams decided to return for their extra year. If Ana Llanusa, who was averaging 17.3 points before a knee injury ended her season after 10 games, is fully healthy, Oklahoma has three high-end scorers. The addition of Iowa State transfer Aubrey Joens gives the already potent perimeter shooting another boost.
If Madison Greene, who averaged 13.4 PPG and a team-leading 4.3 APG in 2020-21, is fully recovered from a knee injury that cost her all of last season, the Buckeyes might have the deepest backcourt in the country. Ohio State leaned heavily on Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon a year ago, and they delivered a combined 38.3 PPG as the Buckeyes quietly shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Iowa. They each return, as does Rikki Harris and her 7.1 PPG. If 6-4 senior Rebeka Mikulasikova continues her improvement and 6-0 Eboni Walker returns to her Arizona State form after a tough year at Syracuse, Ohio State will have the balance to again compete for the Big Ten's top spot.
18. Arizona Wildcats
The success of the Wildcats will largely be built on Cate Reese, Shaina Pellington and Lauren Ware, but coach Adia Barnes also added some significant talent around her veteran core. Lauren Fields (Oklahoma State) and Jade Loville (Arizona State) led their respective schools in scoring a season ago, and Esmery Martinez was a rebounding force in her three years at West Virginia. Maya Nnaji from Minnesota and Long Island's Paris Clark are both top-25 recruits who could add two more scorers to an offense that should be much better this season.
19. Baylor Bears
Replacing three players -- NaLyssa Smith, Jordan Lewis and Queen Egbo -- chosen in the first two rounds of the WNBA draft is nearly impossible, but the transfer portal sure helped. Nikki Collen, entering her second season after replacing Kim Mulkey, brought in Aijha Blackwell, the nation's second-leading rebounder, from Missouri, Dre'Una Edwards, the 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year at Utah and a 16.8 PPG scorer for Kentucky last season, and Jana Van Gytenbeek, who made 37.8% of her 3-pointers last year at Stanford. Fifth-year seniors Ja'Mee Asberry and Caitlin Bickle and junior guard Sarah Andrews form the returning core, giving Collen plenty of talent and experience as Baylor tries to hold off Texas and Iowa State for a 13th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
20. Oregon Ducks
In 6-7 Sedona Prince, the Ducks will have an anchor in the post, but this Oregon team is built around the backcourt. Te-Hina Paopao could be a star if she can remain healthy. Endyia Rogers has been All-Pac-12 twice in career (once at USC, once at Oregon). They are joined by grad transfer Taya Hanson, a starter in her final two season at Arizona State, and point guard Chance Gray, the No. 7 prep player in the country, who headlines the nation's second-best recruiting class.
The Cornhuskers suffered a big blow late last month when senior Sam Haiby suffered a leg injury that will force her to miss the season, but coach Amy Williams has amassed enough talent to still be competitive in the Big Ten and earn a second straight NCAA tournament berth. Nebraska's top three scorers -- guard Jazz Shelley (13.1 PPG), center Alexis Markowski (12.8 PPG) and forward Isabelle Bourne (11.1 PPG) -- all return. They are joined by South Dakota transfer Maddie Krull, who could instantly be one of the Big Ten's top perimeter defenders, and 6-5 Maggie Mendelson, a top-35 basketball recruit and the country's No. 2 incoming freshmen in volleyball.
Despite losing point guard Paige Meyer to a leg injury near the end of the regular season and falling just short of an NCAA tournament bid, the Jackrabbits rallied to win the WNIT. Now Meyer, who led the team in assists and shot 53.4% from 3-point range as a freshman, is back, as is WNIT MVP and 2021 Summit League Player Myah Selland, who has also battled some injuries the last two seasons. Two more double-figure scorers in Paiton Burckhard and Tori Nelson also return. Utah grad transfer Dru Gylten might be the piece that ties it all together to get South Dakota State back to the NCAA tournament. Gylten was a four-year starter with the Utes and led the Pac-12 in assists last season.
With nonconference games against Nebraska, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Arkansas and Stanford, the Bluejays are out to prove that last spring's trip to the Elite Eight was no fluke. That means the expectations have risen in Omaha. Junior Emma Ronsiek, Creighton's leading rebounder, led a balanced offensive attack that has five of its top six scorers back. Lauren Jensen is the best shooter on a team that was 10th in the country in 3-point accuracy.
24. Princeton Tigers
It's possible the Tigers, who beat Kentucky in last year's NCAA tournament and nearly took out Indiana, will be even better this season despite losing Ivy League Player of the Year Abby Meyers to Maryland. The other four starters are back, including double-figure scorers Julia Cunningham and Kaitlyn Chen. Plus, coach Carla Berube added what is considered the best recruiting class in Ivy League history with the additions of 6-4 Tabitha Amanze and 5-10 Madison St. Rose, both from New Jersey. Games at Texas and UConn will be the ultimate measuring stick for a program that last lost an Ivy game in 2019.
25. Utah Utes
Coming off the program's best season in 13 years, while starting two freshmen and two sophomores, the Utes are in position to take another giant step forward. Alissa Pili, who averaged 16.3 PPG in 2019-20 before battling injuries the last two seasons, transferred from USC. If she's healthy, the 6-2 junior's inside scoring talents might be the perfect complement to a talented young backcourt in Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson, two of the Pac-12's best freshmen a year ago. Kneepkens was voted the conference's top rookie and Johnson led Utah in scoring.
Also considered: Georgia Lady Dogs