The buzz around the transfer portal has died down since we did our Too Early ranking of the top 25 of the 2022-23 Women’s College Basketball season in mid-June. That’s not to say the last couple of months have been completely quiet (see: Shailey Gonzalez heads to Texas), and at that point, Paige Buekers was still a healthy national player of the year.
So there was some movement, especially in our top 10.
UConn is taking a hit going from a team most likely to challenge South Carolina to a team that may now have to dig deeper to reach a 15th consecutive Final Four. The addition of Gonzalez, combined with the drop of the Huskies, helped move Texas up two spots.
But some things have remained much the same. South Carolina is still a solid #1 team and favorite to be national champion again. ACC is still in the lead with five teams vying for places in the top 10. It promises to be the most competitive major conference race in the country.
With almost exactly a month until the start of the season, the discussion of how all the new faces in different places through the transfer portal can get serious. How will the chemistry between teams like Tennessee Tech, Indiana, and Virginia play out? Which transfer will have the biggest impact? Which veteran players will get the most out of their extra season?
Our latest top 25 is starting to answer some of these questions.
1. Gamecox from South Carolina
That’s exactly the kind of success Dawn Staley must have envisioned when she landed in the top recruiting class in the country in 2019. SEC tournament titles, two Final Fours, and the 2022 National Championship. Now they are being asked to do it all over again. Bringing in Kirra Fletcher as a Georgia Tech alumnus instead of Destanny Henderson as point guard fills a single hole in a team that was undisputedly the No. 1 team in the country a year ago. The other option for now is Raven Johnson, last year’s No. 2 rookie in the nation, who is set to return from a knee injury that cost her all but two games in the 2021-22 season. Victoria Saxton, the 6-foot-2 forward, is back for her fifth year, helping Boston only slightly more as she is in contention for her second straight National Player of the Year award.
2. Stanford Cardinal
Depending on the outcome of their meeting on November 20 at the Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal could race South Carolina all season again. But Stanford has something the Gamecocks don’t: two preseason All-Americans. With Hayley Jones, one of the most versatile players in the sport, and Cameron Brink, one of the most intimidating, the Cardinal could have two of the top five players in the country. When Tara VanDerveer can fill her rotations with the experience of high schoolers Fran Belibi, Hannah Jump and Ashten Prechtel, and the talent of 6-3 sophomores Kiki Iriafen and Brooke Demeter, Stanford remains a contender for the national title. Adding 6-7 Lauren Betts, the country’s best recruit, to play alongside 6-4 Brink makes Cardinal’s inside defense much more impressive.
3 Texas Longhorns
Just like his teams in Mississippi, Vic Schaefer’s clubs in Texas continue to get better. After riding the Elite Eight in the first two seasons in Austin, the program’s first Final Four since 2004 seems close at hand. In Rory Harmon, Schaefer has a point guard to build around and a star in the making. Then transfers from BYU alumni Gonzalez and DePaul alumni Sonia Morris appeared on the portal, and suddenly the Longhorns had the most intriguing backcourt in the country. The arrival of Oregon State’s 6-4 Taylor Jones, who will play alongside forwards Alia Moore and DeJona Gaston, gives Schaefer several line-up options and talent to challenge for the national title.
4 Tennessee Lady Volunteers
Kelly Harper almost bought her entire starting XI on the transfer portal. Point guard Jasmine Powell (MN), forwards Rikay Jackson (M.S.) and Jasmine Franklin (M.O.) and center Gillian Hollingshead (Georgia) start many teams in the country with a 6-5 score, but with Tamari Key and Jordan 6-5 . Horston is already in place in Knoxville, which means Harper has a fairly flexible squad. Jordan Walker, Sarah Puckett and 6-4 rookie #11 Justin Pissott give the Lady Vols the depth to propel South Carolina to the SEC.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes have the ability to outdo anyone in the country. Heck, there are moments in gaming where Caitlin Clark can do everything herself. The issue with recent Iowa teams comes up on defense, where the Hawkeyes finished 99th last season, according to HerHoopStats.com. Any improvement is there and it could be a Final Four team. Clarke led the nation in scoring and assists per game, while Monica Chinano, returning for her super senior season, led in field goal percentage. They were the most prolific duo in the country and that shouldn’t change. The addition of Central Michigan transfer Molly Davis gives Iowa another scorer and sniper.
6. UConn Huskies
For the first time in a while, the Husky has more questions than answers. It came at a time when Buekers went down in August with an ACL tear at the end of the season. Is Azzie Fudd ready to be the number one scorer? Who will fill the leadership void with the release of Evina Westbrook, Christine Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa? How far can Caroline DuCharme build on her impressive freshman season? Can Alia Edwards and Dorka Juhas reach even greater heights? Will Lou Lopez-Senechal’s game be transferred from MAAC to the national arena? With the correct answers to these questions, this is still a Final Four-level team. With games against Texas, NC State, Duke and possibly Iowa by Thanksgiving weekend, those answers may come sooner.
7. Louisville Cardinals
Jeff Walz leaned heavily on the transfer portal and took his Cardinals to the Final Four. So why not try again? Last season, with Emily Engstler and Chelsea Hall, the defense was a success. This time it might be an insult. Morgan Jones (Fla. State) and Chrislyn Carr (Syracuse) give the Cardinals two outstanding scorers on the wing, as well as rising junior and All-American candidate Hayley Van Lit. Olivia Cochran’s continued development at the post and Liz Dixon’s decision to play another season also make the Cardinals formidable on the inside.
8. Notre Dame fighting the Irish
With so many talents back, the Irish are yet another program looking to take the next step after being just a few steps away from the Elite Eight last March. Most of the key elements are back in Season 3 with Neal Ivey at the helm, and the Transfer Portal could take care of the rest. Stanford’s Jenna Brown fills in for energetic point guard Olivia Miles and long range shooter Daru Mabry. Lauren Ebo (Texas) brings physicality to play alongside talented two-way forwards Sonia Citron and Maddie Westbeld, two of the latest ACC Rookies of the Year. Former five-star recruit Kylie Watson (Oregon) adds depth and versatility.
9 Iowa Cyclones
Ashley Jones may go down in history as the Cyclones’ best player. Her decision to stay at Ames for the super senior season means she could also be part of the best team the program has ever had. Point guards Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarsky, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and 37.1% three-point shooting, are arguably the best backcourt in the conference. 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, giving Iowa State what it rarely has: an intimidating frontline.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers had to say goodbye to most of the group, which upgraded the program to Big Ten contender status. The heart and soul of Nicole Cardano-Hillary, Ali Patberg and Alexa Gulbe will not be easy to replicate, but two of the team’s best players are back. Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes will lead a team that will look to grow over the past two years with trips to Elite Eight and Sweet 16. Some transfers are helping, most notably Sarah Scalia, who averaged 17.9 points per game last season. Minnesota and is one of the best three-pointers in the country. Alyssa Geary, Providence transfer 6-4, has to help Holmes free himself inside. Indiana native Sydney Parrish moves east of Oregon to provide deeper shooting and perimeter range.
11. North Carolina Wolf Pack
The addition of 6-5 transfers River Baldwin of Florida State and Mimi Collins of Maryland will help offset some of the production loss, if not the presence, of program icon Elissa Cunane. But Sunia Rivers’ move to Raleigh from South Carolina was Wes Moore’s big achievement on the transfer portal. Rivers, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2021, could thrive with more opportunities with the Wolf Pack. Even if Rivers needs more time to develop, Moore still has veteran point guard Diamond Johnson, winger Jakia Brown-Turner, post-Kamil Hobby and forward Jada Boyd to lean on in what should be a highly competitive ACC.
12 North Carolina Resin Heels
The Tar Heels have yet to return to the glory days of the mid-to-late 2000s program, but they are getting closer to it under coach Courtney Banhart. North Carolina has reached its first Sweet 16 since 2015 and is returning four members. Deja Kelly, Kennedy Todd-Williams and Alyssa Ustby are products of Banhart’s first set and were all in the top three scorers last season. Kelly is in contention for the ACC Player of the Year. Theoni Kee, 6-4 sister of Tamari Kee of Tennessee, worked at McDonald’s All American two years ago in high school and could be an important figure inside if she fully recovered from a preseason knee injury.
13. Virginia Tech Hawkeyes