Clearly, Notre Dame is fully loaded and ready to defend their title. Obviously, UConn is always one of the perennial title contenders in women’s basketball. However, there are several teams this year that will contend for a national championship. This season is as wide open as any in women’s basketball history. Let’s take a look at the title contenders in women’s basketball, not named UConn or Notre Dame.
Top Tier of title contenders in women’s basketball
Here are the top tier title contenders in women’s basketball, not named UConn or Notre Dame.
Despite losing three of their top five scorers, Baylor returns two of the best players in the country this year. Among those is All American and 2018 Big 12 Player of the Year Kalani Brown. Brown averaged 20.1 points along with 10.2 rebounds last season. Next is Lauren Cox, who averaged 15.3 points as well as 9.7 rebounds. In addition, Cox averaged close to three assists and three steals per game. She was also named 2018 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Guards Juicy Landrum and DiDi Richards will have every opportunity to grow in their expanded roles. Additionally, LSU transfer guard Chloe Jackson comes in after earning All-SEC second team honors last season. Baylor’s depth is strong with a great freshman class, which is filled with five highly touted players. Led by head coach Kim Mulkey, Baylor is certainly a dangerous team to watch, per usual. Baylor has surprisingly missed the Final Four each year since winning the national title in 2012.
Louisville is coming off of a tremendous season in which they reached the Final Four, losing to Mississippi State. They went an incredible 36-3 including 15-1 in ACC play. Despite losing star Myisha Hines-Allen, this year’s team might even be better. Led by head coach Jeff Walz, Louisville is absolutely loaded with amazing depth and undeniable athleticism. Plus they bring in a stellar freshman class to boot.
It all starts with junior ACC Player of the Year Asia Durr. Last season, Durr averaged 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds. 1.8 assists along with 1.3 steals per game. Durr is a fantastic shooter as well. Forward Sam Fuehring, who averaged 9.9 points per game last season, should step up as the second star. Jazmine Jones, Arica Carter and Dana Evans all are outstanding all-around players. Then, Kylee Shook adds a dangerous three-point shot off the bench. Clearly, Louisville is a legitimate contender.
Maryland bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round last year to NC State after winning 26 games. They have missed out on the Final Four each of the last three seasons. Despite only carrying 10 players on the roster, this group appears to be poised to make a run.
Maryland returns four of their top five scorers from a year ago, including leader Kaila Charles. The junior averaged 17.9 points along with 8.1 rebounds per game en route to All-Big Ten First Team honors. Next, junior Blair Watson returns after putting up nearly 14 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Forward’s Stephanie Jones and Brianna Fraser further solidify the starting lineup. Last year, both players averaged over 10 points per game as well as around six rebounds.
The Terrapins lost key depth, which means players such as Sarah Myers and Channise Lewis will need to improve. In addition, they have three talented freshmen who will be asked to contribute immediately. Currently, the only center on the roster is true freshman Olivia Owens, which is something to monitor.
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Head coach Kelly Graves has done a splendid job building this program as he enters his fifth season. Oregon is coming off of a 33-5 campaign in which they won the Pac-12 title. They reached their second straight Elite Eight last season where they lost to eventual national champion Notre Dame.
Oregon is led by highly decorated, do it all point guard Sabrina Ionescu. She averaged 19.7 points per game along with 6.7 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 1.7 steals. The Pac-12 Player of the Year set an NCAA career record with her eighth career triple-double in just her 48th game last season. Amazingly, Ionescu went on to record two more for good measure. Additionally, All-Pac-12 forward Ruthy Hebard returns. She put up 17.6 points along with a team-high nine rebounds per game last season. She also blocked 60 shots.
In what is a significant boost, highly touted sophomore Erin Boley transfers in from Notre Dame. Additionally, sophomore Satou Sabally is a versatile 6-4 forward who adds scoring to an already potent offense. Her sister, Nyara, comes in as a true freshman as well. Also, forward Oti Gildon will need to be a factor. In addition, developing a reliable bench will be key in order to make a title run. Oregon lost four transfers this offseason, which obviously hindered overall depth.
Sure, South Carolina lost all-time great A’ja Wilson. However, this team returns plenty of talent from last year’s 29 win squad. Plus Dawn Staley added key players via transfer. Additionally, Bianca Cuevas-Moore returns after sitting out last year due to a knee injury. She started 19 games as a junior and figures to be a vital piece this season.
Alexis Jennings is back after averaging 11.4 points along with 6.6 rebounds per game last year. Tyasha Harris, Doniyah Cliney, and Bianca Jackson are set to increase their productivity. The very capable Mikiah Herbert Harrigan will blossom in the paint with Wilson graduated. Additionally, they add guard Nelly Perry into the fold after putting up double figures at Clemson two seasons ago. As if that was not already enough, dynamic guard Te’a Cooper transfers in from Tennessee. On top of all of that, they added three dynamic freshmen. That means South Carolina is talented, deep, athletic and is a force to be reckoned with.
Here is the next group of legitimate title contenders in women’s basketball.
Victoria Vivians, Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and Morgan William all depart. That could certainly be problematic for a team coming off of two straight national championship game appearances. However, with the returning pieces combined with three key transfers, Mississippi State is still a threat.
Teaira McCowan has undeniably proven to be a dominant force in the paint. She amazingly averaged 18.2 points, 13.9 rebounds along with 2.1 blocks per game. Forward Anriel Howard transfers in after a stellar career at Texas A&M. In fact, she holds school records for career rebounds as well as career double-doubles. Additionally, center Promise Taylor, a sophomore, transfers in from rival Ole Miss. Taylor was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team last season, which is highly impressive. McCowan, Howard, and Taylor will form one of the most dangerous frontcourts in women’s basketball this year.
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The backcourt features Jazzmun Holmes, who is an experienced player. However, she will need to increase her productivity in an elevated role. Andra Espinoza-Hunter transfers in from UConn after being named New York high school Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017. Jordan Danberry is another player who stepped up during big moments last year and should see an expanded role.
Adding depth to the team are extremely talented players Myah Taylor, Nyah Tate, Bre’Amber Scott and forward Chloe Bibby. Additionally, Mississippi State adds two top-notch freshmen. In other words, this team is deep yet again. Considering the new pieces though, developing chemistry quickly will be vital to their long-term success.
The bulk of the experience returns from last season’s 24 win Stanford squad. Alanna Smith, as well as Kiana Williams, will certainly be relied upon to become team leaders. Plenty of talent sits behind those two players, including guard Dijonai Carrington and forward Maya Dodson. Additionally, players like Alexa Romano, Marta Sniezek, and Alyssa Jerome will become important contributors. Certainly, it will be interesting to see how Tara Vanderveer orchestrates the rotation.
Adding excitement to the mix is an incredible freshman class. This group is so talented that a couple of them may end up starting quite quickly. McDonald’s All American guard Jenna Brown leads the way after a stellar high school career. Next, two-time Washington Gatorade Player of the Year Lexie Hull arrives at the forward position. In addition to that, comes her sister Lacie. This looks to be another deep and extremely talented team this year.
Head coach Holly Warlick has yet to prove that she can lead the Tennessee program back to prominence. The Lady Vols have missed the Final Four every season since winning the national title in 2008! This year’s squad is superbly talented, although young in spots despite the presence of three seniors on the roster. Losing Jamie Nared as well as Mercedes Russell is a blow to the program. Additionally, Anastasia Hayes was dismissed, then transferred to MTSU.
Sophomore Rennia Davis should prove to be one of the SEC’s top players this season. Davis averaged 12 points along with 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and a steal per game last year. Meanwhile, sophomore’s Evina Westbrook and Kasiyahna Kushkituah must show continued development. Seniors Meme Jackson, Cheridene Green and Lou Brown will provide experience as well as leadership for Tennessee. Brown transfers into the program from Washington State, where she started 71 of 95 career games.
The Lady Vol recruiting class should make an immediate impact as well. Players such as Jazmine Massengill, Rae Burrell, and Mimi Collins are examples. Guard Zaay Green will be another impressive player to keep an eye on. This season certainly has potential to be an exciting one on Rocky Top.
It would be crazy to count Texas out despite the loss of dynamic players Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty. Following their 28-win campaign last year, the Longhorns are loaded with talent yet again. The dynamic Lashann Higgs averaged just under 13 points a game last year. She has the potential to elevate to All American status in 2018-19. Joyner Holmes and Jatarie White both have great size to go along with fantastic all-around games. The fun to watch Sug Sutton figures to take over point guard duties. Plus, adding depth are talented players such as Chasity Patterson, Olamide Aborowa and Destiny Littlejohn.
Adding another layer to how good Texas can be this season is Texas A&M transfer, Danni Williams. She poured in nearly 15 points a game last season for the Aggies. In addition to that, Texas brings in an absolutely loaded freshman class filled with five top 100 players. Included in the class is the number one recruit in the country, Charli Collier, who will likely start immediately. Center Sedona Prince certainly is likely to see significant playing time as well.
At season’s end, these could be surprising title contenders in women’s basketball.
Incredibly, out of the 11 players who played last year for Iowa, nine return, including All American Megan Gustafson. Amazingly, Gustafson accumulated 25.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 2.1 blocks. In doing so, she became the Big Ten Player of the Year. Beyond their nine returning players, Iowa adds four freshmen. All four achieved All-State status as seniors in high school. Unfortunately, two of their starters, Kathleen Doyle and Tania Davis will begin the year on the shelf due to injuries.
Missouri loses two of their top three players from last season. However, they return All-SEC guard Sophie Cunningham. She is a fantastic all-around player as well as an efficient shooter. This guard-heavy team will rely on two super-talented freshman forwards, Grace Berg and Brittany Garner near the basket. If players like Amber Smith, Lauren Aldridge and Jordan Chavis improve their production, look out for Missouri.
Joanna Grymek along with extremely talented freshman Patricia Morris will attempt to fill the shoes left behind by Marie Gulich. With that said, Oregon State has a deep and experienced team returning led by Mikayla Pivec and Kat Tudor. Additionally, they add dynamic transfer Destiny Slocum from Maryland, which gives the Beavers a fantastic backcourt. Katie McWilliams and Taya Corosdale figure to see expanded roles this season as well. Oregon State is clearly still a dangerous team.
Other teams worth consideration as title contenders in women’s basketball
Georgia, Syracuse, Miami (FL), NC State
There you have it, the title contenders in women’s basketball, not named UConn or Notre Dame! Let us know what you think.
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