Women's college basketball way-too-early top 25 for 2023-24: UConn ranks No. 1 with Paige Bueckers returning (2023)

Although a lot of things will change between now and November, there is nothing stopping us from trying to predict what next season will look like. A lot of top players such as Aliyah Boston, Haley Jones and Maddy Siegrist are off to the WNBA, but there is so much talent returning this fall for what looks to be another exciting year of basketball.

This past season, the UConn Huskies lost three consecutive games for the first time in three decades and did not make it to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. That was technically a "down" season by the impossibly high standards only UConn can have. Geno Auriemma's group has struggled with injuries for two consecutive seasons, but a healthy roster for the 2023-24 campaign would undoubtedly make the Huskies the team to beat. However, Kim Mulkey and the LSU Tigers might have something to say about that, as they won the 2023 national title and will be hungry for another one.

Here is a look our way-too-early top 25:

1. UConn Huskies

Dorka Juhász and Lou Lopez Sénéchal will be missed in 2023-24, but the Huskies will return a lot of solid weapons. Leading the returnees is Paige Bueckers, who tore her ACL last August but should be fully healthy at the start of the season. Azzi Fudd took a huge step forward in Bueckers' absence -- until she suffered a knee injury herself and only appeared in 15 games. There was a time this past season when the Huskies only had seven healthy players available, but they proved to be deep and resilient team with Aaliyah Edwards as the leading scorer. At full health, UConn is the most dangerous team in the country.

2. LSU Tigers

Kim Mulkey led the Tigers to their first ever basketball national title -- men's or women's -- in her second season at the helm of the program. LSU will have to move forward without Alexis Morris, the team's second leading scorer, as well as LaDazhia Williams and Jasmine Carson. However, Angel Reese will be back to lead the team. She was the Tigers' top scorer and rebounder in 2022-23, registering 34 double-doubles to mark a single-season NCAA record. She'll have plenty of help with returners like Flau'jae Johnson and Kateri Poole, along with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa made it to the 2023 national championship game after taking down South Carolina in the Final Four, a remarkable feat considering the Gamecocks had gone over a calendar year without a loss. We all know about Caitlin Clark's historic scoring ability, but she also led the nation in assists thanks to some reliable offensive players in Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock -- both of whom are done playing college basketball. Clark will continue turning heads, but other players will have to step up. Coach Lisa Bluder has the personnel with veterans Gabbie Marshall and Kate Martin returning, and players such as Hannah Stuelke look ready for bigger roles.

(Video) Early NCAAW Top 25 projection

4. Indiana Hoosiers

While the Hawkeyes get the headlines, the Hoosiers were the Big Ten regular season champions last year, even if their NCAA Tournament run ended in the second round. Indiana is losing Grace Berger, but Teri Moren's team could return five of the six players who averaged at least 9.5 points per game in 2022-23. Mackenzie Holmes will be their top returner. She averaged 22.3 points per game while shooting at an impressive 68% clip from the field. Yarden Garzon will be another player to watch, as she shot at 45.8% from beyond the arc.

5. UCLA Bruins

The Bruins surpassed expectations, as they were unranked in November but made it to the Sweet 16 as the youngest team competing in the 2023 NCAA Women's Tournament. UCLA should be even stronger next season by returning four out of five starters, the key one being Charisma Osborne. She led the team with 15.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Camryn Brown -- who started 32 of 36 games -- will also be back for a fifth season. With other younger players such as Kiki Rice, Emily Bessoir, Londynn Jones and Gabriela Jaquez stepping up, UCLA is set up for the future.

6. Utah Utes

Utah's 2022-23 campaign was one for the school record books. The Utes got their best AP Top 25 ranking in program history at No. 3 in late February, and they also earned their first share of the Pac-12 regular season title. Utah also had one of the top offenses in the nation and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. That success could be repeated as the Utes could return all five starters -- including Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili, who averaged 20.7 points per game on 59% shooting from the field, along with 5.6 rebounds per contest.

7. South Carolina Gamecocks

Dawn Staley's squad was riding a 42-game winning streak before falling to Iowa in the Final Four. Their roster is taking a big hit as five players -- including two-time Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston -- are leaving for the WNBA Draft. The team can still be competitive with returners Raven Johnson, Kamilla Cardoso and Bree Hall ready for bigger roles. The addition of five-start point guard Milaysia Fulwiley should also help the Gamecocks stay competitive.

8. Stanford Cardinal

The Cardinal started last fall as the No. 2 team in the nation, but their season didn't go as planned. Stanford failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007. Before that, the team was upset by UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. Stanford loses one of their top players as Haley Jones heads to the WNBA, but they still return WBCA Defensive Player of the Year Cameron Brink, who led the team with 15.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, along with 118 blocked shots. Other players will have to step up, but Tara VanDerVeer is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball and will likely have Stanford back on top in no time.

(Video) How impactful will the return of Paige Bueckers be for UConn next season? | UConn Huskies | SNY

9. Ohio State Buckeyes

This past season, the Buckeyes made it to the program's first Elite Eight since 1993 with one of the top offenses in the nation. They will miss leading scorer Taylor Mikesell, but they still have a lot of solid talent returning. One of the key pieces will be Jacy Sheldon, who didn't reach her full potential because of a knee injury that sidelined her a significant part of the season. Sheldon still had some big moments and averaged 13.2 points in the 13 games she played. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon will also be one to watch as she was the team's second leading scorer, behind Mikesell, with 15.1 points on 51% shooting from the field.

10. Tennessee Lady Volunteers

The Lady Vols are returning leading scorer Rickea Jackson, who averaged 19.2 points on 54.8% shooting last season. Senior center Tamari Key only appeared in nine games due to blood clots in her lungs, but there were high expectations for her ahead of the 2022-23 season as she was on the watch list for many top awards, including Naismith Player of the Year and the Lisa Leslie Award. A healthy Key along with Jackson should give a huge boost to a team that made it to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive time and 36th in program history.

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame made it to the Sweet 16 this past season but wasn't able to get past Maryland as the Fighting Irish had to do without first-team All-ACC guard Olivia Miles, who suffered a knee injury in the regular-season finale against Louisville. Things might have been different if she was healthy, but next season could be promising. Having Miles back fully healthy, along with the other double-digit scorers in Sonia Citron and Maddy Westbeld, will make the Fighting Irish one of the most competitive teams in the ACC once again.

12. Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns earned a Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time since the 2003-04 season, but they got bounced by Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That was a disappointing ending, but Texas will be ready to bounce back by returning most of its key pieces. Texas is losing Sonya Morris, but leading scorer Shaylee Gonzales will be using her extra year of eligibility to return. Rori Harmon is one of the top players in the nation when it comes to creating offense, as she averaged 7.4 assists per game. Aaliyah Moore was a top player for the Longhorns during the 2021-22 season but only played nine games her sophomore year because of a knee injury. Having Moore fully healthy again will make Texas very dangerous.

13. Maryland Terrapins

The Terrapins are losing their top scorers Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers as they chase their WNBA dreams. This would make Shyanne Sellers the only double-digit scorer returning with 13.9 points per game. However, returning veterans Faith Masonius, Lavender Briggs and Brinae Alexander could help the Terrapins reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year. Alexander played in all 35 games but only started one of them. She averaged nine points per game and made 43.9% of her shots from beyond the arc, so next season could be promising for her.

14. Virginia Tech Hokies

This past season, the Hokies won their first ACC Tournament title and were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. They hadn't made the Sweet 16 since 1999 but went all the way to the Final Four. Virginia Tech can keep that momentum going as ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley -- who averaged 18.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game -- is returning. Having Georgia Amoore back for her senior season is another huge win. Amoore became the first player in program history to register a triple-double in December, and she eventually became the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament MVP and the Most Outstanding Player of the Seattle 3 Regional.

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15. Ole Miss Rebels

The Rebels reached their first Sweet 16 since 2007 after upsetting No. 1 seed Stanford in the second round 2023 NCAA Women's Tournament. They are losing their top scorer Angel Baker, a first-team All-SEC selection. However, SEC All-Defensive Team selection Madison Scott will be back for her senior season. She was a big part of Ole Miss successful campaign, scoring 11.6 points per game on 51% shooting, as well as adding eight rebounds per game. Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin already added more offensive firepower with North Carolina transfer Kennedy Todd-Williams -- who averaged 13.4 points per game last season for the Tar Heels -- and Auburn transfer Kharyssa Richardson.

16. Louisville Cardinals

Louisville made the Elite Eight for a fifth consecutive season in 2023. Cardinals star Hailey Van Lith is a competitive player, so she will be looking to make it back again for her senior year. The AP All-America Honorable Mention led her team with 19.7 points per game through the 2022-23 season and scored 20 or more points in each of Louisville's four NCAA Tournament games. Olivia Cochran is the next top scorer returning at 8.4 points per game, so she'll have to take a bigger role this fall. It should be possible as the forward shoots at 50% from the field and led the team in rebounds with 6.5 boards per game.

17. Duke Blue Devils

Shayeann Day-Wilson -- who made the All-ACC Freshman team in the 2021-22 season -- has entered the transfer portal. However, Duke's leading scorer and AP All-America Honorable Mention Celeste Taylor will be back. Duke finished the 2022-23 season with the second best scoring defense in the nation, holding opponents to just 51 points per game. Taylor was a big part of that and was named a finalist for the 2023 Naismith Women's Defensive Player of the Year award. She also led the team's offense with 11.4 points per game. Duke is also adding freshman Jadyn Donovan, a finalist for the Naismith Girls Basketball National Player of the Year award.

18. Creigthon Bluejays

The Bluejays had an historic Elite Eight run in 2022 with Emma Ronsiek, Lauren Jensen and Morgan Mary leading the way but they fell short this year as they got blown out by Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Those three players have been the leaders for Creighton in the last few seasons and were the only double-digit scorers in the 2022-23 campaign. If they can find the momentum they had in back in 2022, Ronsiek, Jenson and Mary could have a memorable senior season.

19. North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina lost double-digit scorer Kennedy Todd-Williams to the transfer portal and Eva Hodgson to graduation. However the Tar Heels' leading scorer Deja Kelly will be back. Kelly registered 10 games with 20 or more points, including one in North Carolina's loss to Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after she briefly left the court with an injury. Kelly will be hungry for more in her senior year, and success is not out of the question with Alyssa Ustby by her side, as both players were first-team All-ACC selections. North Carolina is also adding five-star center Ciera Toomey.

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20. USC Trojans

Lindsay Gottlieb's Trojans sent a message when they handed then-No. 2 Stanford its first loss of the season in January. They went on to make it to their first NCAA Tournament since 2014 and just their third appearance this century. Although they are losing their top two scorers, the Trojans will keep Rayah Marshall, who registered 12.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game along with a total of 98 blocks -- a new USC single-season blocks record. The team will get an extra boost with Juju Watkins, the top recruit in the nation.

21. Colorado Buffaloes

The Buffaloes have made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since a four-year stretch from 2001-2004. They also reached their first Sweet 16 since 2003 this past season. Colorado is looking to keep that momentum going by returning its top four scorers: Quay Miller, Aaronette Vonleh, Frida Formann and Jaylyn Sherrod. Vonleh was named the Pac-12's co-Most Improved Player a year after transferring from Arizona.

22. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas missed the 2023 NCAA Tournament but won the WNIT. The Jayhawks are returning most of their key players, including their two leading scorers in Zakiyah Franklin and WNIT MVP Taiyanna Jackson. Jackson is also a big contributor on defense as she ranked sixth in the nation in blocks per game. The addition of four-star wing S'mya Nichols could give the Jayhawks an extra push to return to the NCAA Tournament.

23. Florida State Seminoles

WBCA Freshman of the Year Ta'Niya Latson led Florida State with 21.3 points per game this past season but missed the NCAA Tournament with an injury. She'll be back this fall, along with the other two double-digit scorers in Makayla Timpson and Sara Bejedi. The Seminoles have made the NCAA Tournament 10 consecutive seasons, but they'll be chasing their first second-round appearance since 2019.

24. Baylor Bears

The Bears made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before ending their season with a loss to UConn. Caitlin Bickle and Ja'Mee Asberry won't return, but the Bears will bring back their other top scorers in All-Big 12 first-team selection Sarah Andrews and Big 12 All-Freshman team selection Darianna Littlepage-Bug. Belmont transfer Madison Bartley -- who made the 2022-23 All-MVC first-team -- will be a good addition to the Baylor roster as she averaged 14.1 points on 51.3% shooting from the field last season.

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25. Oregon Ducks

Two-time All-Pac-12 first-team selection Endyia Rogers withdrew from the WNBA Draft, but it's unclear yet if she will return to Oregon. Te-Hina Paopao entered the transfer portal, as did Sedona Prince, who originally entered the draft. Even so, the team's future looks bright with Pac-12 All-Freshman team selections Chance Gray and Grace VanSlooten. Oregon is also adding JUCO transfer and Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year Bella Hamel, as well as a solid freshman class that includes three four-star players in Sofia Bell, Sammie Wagner and Sarah Rambus.


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