Such as College women’s basketball season inches closerLots of talk about who gets to take the crown in the spring. But other than being more than just a potential hero, Sports Illustrated Thinking of who has the chance to be promoted this year. The landscape for these five teams has changed from what it was last year, and each has the potential to start a surprise tournament in March.
Does a Hall of Fame coach guarantee winning a program? LSU asks. Kim Mulkey is entering her second season in Baton Rouge, having left Baylor with three NCAA titles and multiple wins in the Big 12. Her first season ended with a 26–6 record, a number not seen by LSU since 2007–08. The excitement was interrupted by a SEC quarter-final loss and the NCAA Championship exit in the second round after a loss to Ohio State. And this year will definitely look different with four top-ranked freshmen graduating.
She first learned back Alexis Morris under Mulkey during her freshman year at Waco and met the coach at LSU. The fifth-year player averaged 15 points per game before grappling with a knee injury near the end of the regular season. Having fully recovered, Morris will be reloading along with the highly anticipated move Angel Race. The former Maryland star has been the top transfer pick of the season, and her decision could affect basketball at LSU for years to come. Last season, she averaged 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds, and had a player efficiency rating of 39.7. With three years of eligibility remaining, Reese has plenty of time to form and solidify the front court. Reese will be joined by former five-star inductee LaDazhia Williams, the nation’s top hockey player, Last-Tear Poa, as well as top 100 recruits Flau’jae Johnson (No. 26) and Sa’Myah Smith (No. 58). With the development of chemistry between veterans and newcomers, LSU could easily beat last year’s record.
University of California
The last time UCLA had a star recruit class, in 2014, the team made it to three NCAA regional semifinals and made an Elite Eight appearance. It’s ’22, and the Bruins are looking to recover from last year’s championship absence with the best freshman class in the country. UCLA stumbles upon three of the top 100 recruits with No. 2 Kiki Rice, No. 22 Lundin Jones and No. 49 Kristen Iwala. Rice’s resume includes the 22nd Female Gatorade High School Player of the Year and a major season with an average of 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.7 steals. The Sentinel is a top-ranked UCSD prospect who has been sticking with him for more than 15 years. Her elite level of court awareness would pair well with other newcomers Lena Sontag, who ranked fourth on the Worldwide Hops Premier League, and Gabriella Jackies, who averaged 34.2 points, 15.7 rebounds and 4.7 steals in her first season.
Injuries prevented the team from reaching the Big Dance last year and they may be a deciding factor this season. Striker Angela Dugalic will miss the season with a ruptured ACL, but sophomore Emily Bessoir and top star Brian Masiwick have fully recovered from last season’s injuries. Charisma Osbourne will also return to court. She finished third in the Pac-12 for scoring last season with 16.4 points and a free throw percentage of 0.875. If the rookies meet expectations while merging with the returning players, the Bruins could be a contender in the Pac-12 against Stanford and Oregon.
Oklahoma exceeded expectations last year and has the potential to dominate the Big 12 before moving to the SEC. Led by second-year coach Jenny Baranczyk, the Sooners will be knocked out of their first tournament since 2018. The team were knocked out of the tournament after falling to No. 5 seed Notre Dame in the second round. With five top scorers returning, the team will lose just one player from last year’s roster. Unlike the other teams on this list, Oklahoma returns with a solid connection on the field. Maddie Williams and Taylor Robertson decided to stay another year, and Anna Lanosa has fully recovered from knee surgery she had in all but 10 of last year’s games. The 12-year-old’s record holder, Robertson is just 51 shots from three points away from setting a NCAA record.
Williams, a fifth-year student, will be a leader on and off the court. The indoor defender capped last season with 249 rebounds and was the only 12-player under six feet tall to rebound more than 200 times. Freshman additions of 6’3″ Beatrice Culliton and 6’4″ Kiersten Johnson will add much-needed height to the roster. The Big 12 has multiple competitive programs, and it’s essential to know how to finish games strong. All eyes are on Texas and Iowa in the league, but Oklahoma, who averaged 83.3 points per game last year, might give them a chance to win their money.
Virginia Tech went from a championship team to two ACC title contenders in less than two months. On March 18, the Hokies fell to the Florida Gulf Coast in the first round, their second championship appearance since 2006 and the best team season in ACC history. In April, the Hokies landed Maryland star Ashley Oso, a skilled handler with excellent driving power in the paint. The Owusu is one of the best shooting guards in the country and the recipient of the ’21 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award. Its ability to navigate the frontal zone may propel the VT from good to great. Thirteen days later, Boston College forward Taylor Sully, who has scored more than 1,500 career points, announced her move to Blacksburg.
Along with new additions to the team, returning players are ready to add to their resume. Elizabeth Keatley, 6’6″, was named ACC Player of the Year, and Aisha Sheppard broke the school’s scoring record and ACC’s three-point record. The program had the highest pre-season rating in program history at number 13 in the AP may be This team is what Virginia Tech needs to end 23 years of 16 drought.
The Big Ten will be nothing short of a team battle this season. Iowa leads the conference. The success of The Hawkeyes is no secret, but this year’s team is able to crack the national title. Iowa lags closely behind South Carolina, Stanford and Texas as it ranked fourth in the AP’s pre-season poll. Elite point guard Caitlin Clark leads the NCAA on both points (27.0 per game) and assist (8.0 per game), and her presence requires national attention as she heads the team with all five key players.
Hawkeyes is an offensive force with the second highest offensive score in the country last season but ranked 306th in scoring defense in the league. Defensive errors in the back area hinder the team. On average, the team allowed 70.2 points per game. Defensive harmony and winning the rebound battle on the board are the team’s greatest priorities. Clarke leads on rebounds, but both Monica Chinano and McKenna Warnock excel in possession, averaging over six rebounds per game. Top goalkeeper Gabe Marshall has been contributing defensively by leading the team in thefts in the past two seasons. With coach Lisa Bluder focused on strong defensive play, the hockey team is hoping to finally cut the net in March.
More college basketball coverage: