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Can anyone stop South Carolina’s dominance? The biggest questions in women’s college hoops

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South Carolina could win again after Don Staley, Aliya Boston and the Gamecocks dominated the 2021–22 season.

Connecticut, which hasn’t won a title in six years, is once again missing its best player, Paige Buckers.

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And the parity in the game continues to rise – it’s never been more evident than last spring, when two No. 10 seeds edged out two No. 2 seeds to hit the Sweet 16.

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Welcome to the 2022-2023 Women’s College Basketball Season. It should be great.

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Here are the main storylines to keep an eye on this season.

Don Staley is building a new female hoop dynasty?

This is exactly what it looks like. Having just led Team USA to gold at the Tokyo Olympics, Don Staley returned to South Carolina for her 14th year, where her Gamecocks skated through the 2021-22 season. They were favored to win the title and did so in a dominant fashion, defeating UConn 64-49 in Minneapolis. Most likely they are just warming up.

South Carolina will bring back favorite of the year and perennial All-American Alia Boston, the best defenseman in the country who is also good on offense. Also behind are security guards Zia Cook and Brea Beal. Point guard Raven Johnson, who suffered an ACL tear as a freshman last year, will play all season. All of this probably adds more equipment for South Carolina. Look for Gamecocks to cut down the nets again in March (and April).

FORECASTS: Everything you need to know about the top 25 women’s teams

REPEAT READY: South Carolina has the pieces to win the national title again

How’s Connecticut doing without Paige Buckers?

If anyone should get good injury karma, it’s Paige Buekers. A year after a tibial plateau fracture and a torn meniscus in his left knee and missing 19 games this summer, Buekers tore his cruciate ligament (same leg) and will miss the entire upcoming season.

So here’s what life looks like without Buekers if you’re Geno Auriemma: Super sophomore Azzie Fudd (12.1 ppg) is back, along with forwards Dorka Juhas (7.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Alia Edwards (7.9 ppg). points, 5.1 rebounds). And we’re talking huskies, so of course two high-profile recruits are joining the party: the 6’2″ Ayanna Patterson and the 6’3″ forward Ice Brady. It’s been six years since UConn won the title, a harrowing stretch of time for the most dominant program in the history of the sport. This conversation tires the Huskies and they will prove they don’t need the Buckers to win another one.

Connecticut defenseman Azzi Fudd (35) dribbles against Florida Central in the first half of their 2022 game at the Harry A. Gempel Pavilion.
Connecticut defenseman Azzi Fudd (35) dribbles against Florida Central in the first half of their 2022 game at the Harry A. Gempel Pavilion.

Can anyone in the West stop Stanford?

Point forward Hayley Jones and block-shot sensation Cameron Brink make up arguably the best one-two in women’s basketball — and they’re the main reason Stanford will be awarded a third straight Final Four spot. The Cardinal, the 2021 national champion, is an instant rival to Jones (6’1″), Brink (6’4″), sophomore Kiki Iriafen (6’3″) and 6’7″ Lauren Betts, the best in the country. freshman. (They’ll also be a nightmare to defend inside and probably wipe out opponents on the boards.) Stanford will likely go through the Pac-12 again, but early non-conference games against South Carolina and Tennessee will be a good indication of what a tough Cardinal is.

Can Iowa take superstar Caitlin Clark to the Final Four?

Caitlin Clark, the adorable 6-foot quarterback who ditched bigger programs to stay at home, is the hottest player in women’s hoops. Her seemingly unlimited range – she easily pulls up once she crosses half the court – she has been compared to Steph Curry. In fact, she plays better in the pass, especially at half-time, and her game makes the fans gather in the stands.

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned during the tournament, it’s that she needs help on the perimeter. Iowa got it in the offseason with the move of Molly Davis, a 5-foot-7 guard who averaged 18.6 points in Central Michigan last year. Throw in Monica Chinano back for a super senior year and the Hawkeyes have everything they need to run away to Dallas.

Iowa defenseman Caitlin Clark, 22, rides to the basket ahead of Michigan defenseman Danielle Rauch, 23, during their game Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Iowa defenseman Caitlin Clark, 22, rides to the basket ahead of Michigan defenseman Danielle Rauch, 23, during their game Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Which transfer will have the biggest impact?

Like last spring, hundreds of players entered the NCAA transfer portal during the offseason looking to find a new place to play.

Many coaches continue to criticize this trend, but let’s be realistic – many of these coaches also benefit from it. Perhaps no one wins more this season than Virginia Tech, who brought in Ashley Owusa from Maryland. A 6-foot guard who can shoot at will, Owusu (14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in his career) will be the perfect complement to 6-foot center Elizabeth Keatley (18.1 points, 9 .8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks). per game last season), another All-American.

What attracts more attention – Kim Malkey’s quotes or her players?

Kim Mulkey is arguably the most disliked coach in college basketball for both men and women.

The LSU sophomore coach who won three NCAA titles at Baylor often makes headlines with her comments (or, in the case of her former player Britney Griner, her refusal to comment on Griner’s imprisonment in Russia). But Malki continues to win.

She took over a jam-packed LSU program and led the Tigers to the No. 3 seed in the tournament in one season after finishing second in the SEC. They’ll be even better this year as they’ve added Maryland transfer Angel Reese, a 6-foot-3 forward who averaged a double-double last season (17.8 points, 10.6 rebounds).

Is there a better sophomore in the country than Rory Harmon?

Probably no. DePaul’s Anisa Morrow is noteworthy after averaging a double-double (21.9 points, 13.8 rebounds) in her freshman year of college, but Rory Harmon (11.4 points, 5.0 assists, 2. 5 rebounds) each time is a source of energy for one woman. she steps on the floor.

Her engine is unmatched on both sides, it is exhausting to keep up with her, and keeping her in front of you is almost impossible.

Texas guard Rory Harmon (3) hits the basket against Baylor guard Sarah Andrews (24) during their 2022 game at the Frank C. Ervin Jr. Center.
Texas guard Rory Harmon (3) hits the basket against Baylor guard Sarah Andrews (24) during their 2022 game at the Frank C. Ervin Jr. Center.

Tennessee is back?

It’s been 14 seasons since Tennessee won the national title, a shamelessly long time considering women’s college basketball is the home that Pat Summit built. But under the guidance of fourth-year coach Kelly Jolly Harper, the Lady Vols are ready for some serious NCAA tournament play—as long as everyone stays healthy. They’re hailing four highly publicized transfers, including Ricky Jackson (20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds at Mississippi State) and 6-foot-4 forward Justine Pissott, who is among the top 15 recruits. Jordan Horston (16.2 points, 9.4 rebounds) and Tamari Key (10.5 points, 8.1) also returned.

Will the mid-majors be able to close the parity gap in the regular season?

Parity in women’s basketball has been rising every year, and it’s never been more evident than last spring when the No. 10 seed Creighton and South Dakota edged out the No. 2 seed to make the Sweet 16 big for the year and put themselves in position to earn single digit seeds. There are several mid-majors in the USA TODAY Sports pre-season poll, but women’s basketball is still waiting for its version of what Gonzaga has become in the men’s team – a mid-major in name only.

Will the new NCAA super-regional format work?

The NCAA is trying something new this season for the NCAA Women’s Tournament by hosting Sweet 16 teams at two regional grounds (instead of four) in Seattle and Greenville, South Carolina. ESPN analyst Debbie Antonelli has been pushing for years for the NCAA to make Las Vegas the permanent home of the Sweet 16, similar to how the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) is always held in Oklahoma City. Is this a step in that direction? It’s impossible to predict what the NCAA will do, but it will at least be interesting to see the results of this two-region experiment.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: South Carolina Power, New Era UConn Lead Women’s Hoop Storylines



Source: sports.yahoo.com

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