Women's college hoops Top 25 poll: Why Yahoo Sports voted South Carolina No. 1 over other unbeatens

The top three ranked teams in the Associated Press preseason poll all lost within the first two weeks of the season. The fourth-ranked team in that poll survived an upset by one possession and the fifth-ranked one also lost this week.

That leaves South Carolina and the aforementioned preseason No. 4 UCLA as the only preseason Top 10 teams to remain unscathed heading into the third poll. And it means South Carolina is the clear No. 1 with monster wins against two ranked teams, plus a third Power 5 conference team.

The picture beneath them is more blurry, even with fewer upsets over the past week. I am an AP voter this season and will share my ballot weekly with team results and reasonings for movements in my rankings. (The full AP poll results are below.)

No. 1 South Carolina (3-0)

Raven Johnson called it her revenge season following a career-high 17 assists in a 69-point win against Clemson. It’s the most by an SEC player since 2005. The revenge label also applies to South Carolina, which started its season with three straight games scoring at least 100 points and against Power 5 opponents.

The Gamecocks established themselves as the clear top team whether Iowa lost or not. They’ve won by an average of 45.3 points largely because their offense is torching opponents for 107.7 average points over three games.

No. 2 Stanford (4-0)

The second-best team in the country isn't as clear. Stanford beat out UCLA and Colorado on my ballot with their demolition of Indiana last week and the way they found a 82-79 overtime win against Duke despite Cameron Brink's foul trouble. They also have the best defensive rating of the three by a long shot. The 71.9 points per 100 possessions ranks 19th.

Brink and Kiki Iriafen are the dual V8 engines leading the Cardinal. Brink dealt with foul trouble throughout the second half, but stayed on the court and increased her consecutive free throw streak to 72. It’s three short of tying the NCAA Division I record. She had 29 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and three assists. Iriafen had 27 points and nine rebounds. Hannah Jump was 5-of-10 from the 3-point line.

They defeated Cal Poly by 54 earlier in the week.

No. 3 Colorado (4-0)

The Buffaloes had only one game this week, a 15-point road win against SMU, and it wasn't much to assess them up or down too much. They came into the week at No. 5 as Aaronette Vonleh continues to own the paint against teams. She's averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and one block per game.

Their season-opening win over LSU keeps them toward the top.

No. 4 UCLA (4-0)

UCLA is averaging 93 points (ranking eighth) over its four wins and five players are averaging double digits. Three players are shooting at least 40% from beyond the arc, led by Charisma Osborne (3.5 3s per game, 53.8%). It’s a strong, balanced attack, but the Bruins haven’t played the formidable opponents that Stanford and Colorado have early.

Princeton, a very good team in a quality Ivy League, nearly upset the Bruins on Friday night in Los Angeles. The Tigers pulled within two with eight seconds on the clock, and lost 77-74.

No. 5 Iowa (4-1)

It wasn't that surprising Kansas State upset Iowa, 65-58. The Wildcats did the same last year and that was without star 6-foot-6 center Ayoka Lee. It was the first time in the Caitlin Clark era that Iowa was held under 60 points, and Clark struggled to get anything going en route to a 9-of-32 showing. She still scored 24, but without much help.

Clark and the guards were more aggressive against the smaller Drake, opening up the offense in a 113-90 victory. Kate Martin's 25 points were huge to establish and Sharon Goodman's 15 off the bench will be needed. Clark scored 35, shooting 14-of-22 (5-of-11 from 3) with a more impressive line of 10 assists, seven steals and six rebounds. The team had a combined 16 steals, three more than their 2022-23 season high. They still need to learn how to play a new way without post Monika Czinano.

No. 6 Utah (4-1)

Utah also took a seven-point loss this week to Baylor 84-77 in a clash of Top 25 teams. Baylor's defense was superb and the Bears met the moment, whereas Utah looked befuddled and rushed late in a close contest. The bigger issue was Alissa Pili sat most of the first half with foul trouble (she drew two in the first two minutes) and Gianna Kneepkens drew her fourth in the third quarter that sent her to the bench.

Pili's absence completely changed the game into Baylor's favor. The Utes kept going to her in the second, but they needed to establish that early. Utah bounced back against Alaska-Anchorage 101-57 in Pili's homecoming at the Great Alaska Shootout and against Eastern Kentucky 117-72.

No. 7 Connecticut (3-1)

Connecticut clamped down on Maryland 80-48 and sped away from Minnesota 62-44 to sweep their week. The Huskies did it without Azzi Fudd, who the team said sustained a knee injury in practice earlier in the week and will go through testing soon. The injury bug still hasn't left Storrs.

Paige Bueckers went into takeover mode against Maryland, an impressive task without Fudd and after the NC State loss. The offense was less pretty in Minnesota, but nearly everyone who saw minutes scored and the Huskies found a way to win. Three different players have led the team in assists over four games. But much like last season, it still seems a question of what team will come out to play.

No. 8 Virginia Tech (2-1)

The Hokies were another team with only one game heading into the week of Thanksgiving tournaments. They thumped Houston Christian 105-36 behind six players in double digits and six hitting 3s. They were 12-of-27 behind the arc.

Tech is first in offensive rating (131.6), second in effective field-goal percentage (62.1) and ninth in turnovers per game (10.7).

No. 9 LSU (4-1)

It is messy in Baton Rouge. Angel Reese, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and Kateri Poole, a starter on the title run, were both benched in the Kent State win last week. After trailing by a couple possessions, Aneesah Morrow (17 points, nine steals, eight rebounds) and freshman Mikaylah Williams (42 points, 15-of-20 overall and 5-of-8 from 3) came alive to put LSU back on the right path.

Reese did not travel with the team for their Southeastern Louisiana game, a 73-50 win. Mulkey nor Reese have given reasoning. There are enough stars to weather the storm for now, and winning both games without Reese is worth keeping a spot in the top 10. But there is no signature win as there are for teams above them.

No. 10 Texas (4-0)

Texas hasn’t played any top talent yet (though Arizona State looms this week), but its defense has been impressive. Only one of its four opponents has scored more than 60 points. The average 50 points allowed ranks 16th (66.9 defensive rating is seventh), led by its 11.9 turnover rate (ranking fifth) and 16.4 steal rate (sixth). Its 2.07 assists-to-turnover rate is 2.07, ranking third.

The Longhorns have never trailed and own the paint points, 212-86.

No. 11 USC (3-0)

USC became the latest powerhouse team to welcome Le Moyne to Division I. The Trojans won 93-42 on Monday night in their only game of the week. JuJu Watkins scored 35 points, pumping her average to 28.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, three assists and 2.7 steals per game. The freshman is already on the Player of the Year watch lists and backing it up with her play.

No. 12 Notre Dame (3-1)

The Fighting Irish swept their two games with wins over Northwestern 110-52 and Illinois 79-68. Hannah Hidalgo is a steal machine with 27 total. Her 6.8 per game leads Division I. She's also one of five players to score at least 21 points in each game this season (out of at least three games played).

As well as waiting for point guard Olivia Miles to return, Notre Dame is also without guard Sonia Citron. Citron sustained a knee injury that head coach Niele Ivey said is not severe. Citron will be out “a couple of weeks.”

No. 13 Ohio State (2-1)

Ohio State took care of Boston College 88-66 in its only game last week. Cotie McMahon scored 24 and Emma Shumate scored a career-high 10 off the bench.

No. 14 Tennessee (3-1)

Destinee Wells, a transfer from Belmont, led Tennessee in its 27-point win over Troy after surviving an unnecessary overtime win over Memphis. How the Lady Vols have weathered a storm without key players should help them later on in the season.

The Lady Vols bounced back without senior forward Rickea Jackson (day-to-day with lower leg injury), senior point guard Jasmine Powell (wrist) and sophomore guard Avery Strickland (concussion). Jackson is averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. She has been in a boot on her right foot.

No. 15 Florida State (4-0)

Florida State survived Florida 79-75 and defeated South Alabama 80-45 in a week that wasn't a disappointment by any means, but didn't stand out for much movement.

No. 16 Baylor (3-0)

Baylor looked more poised than Utah in the Bears' upset win this week. Sarah Andrews hit big 3s late and the Bears handled late-game situations well. It was their defense that was most impressive and could carry them far, including a move up the rankings.

No. 17 Indiana (3-1)

Indiana swept its two games with wins against Murray State 112-79 and Lipscomb 77-44. Those were needed bounce-back victories after a loss to Stanford, but nothing to move the Hoosiers around the rankings too much. Their 1.77 assists-to-turnover rate ranks ninth.

No. 18 North Carolina (4-0)

North Carolina took out Hampton 62-32 and Elon 68-39. The Tar Heels won three of four games by at least 29 points and the four-point skim over Davidson. Four starters are averaging around 12 points per game.

No. 19 Louisville (4-0)

The Cardinals defeated Bellarmine 111-33 and Bucknell 77-44. The 33 points by Bellarmine was the fewest it has scored this season, which included a 113-64 loss to UCLA. Louisville's 11.5 steals per game are top-50 in the D-I.

No. 20 NC State (4-0)

NC State defeated Elon 90-35 and survived a scare against Rhode Island 67-58. The nine-point win was its worst offensive showing of the short season. The Wolfpack hit two 3s compared to eight in their upset win over UConn, and lost the battle on the boards for the first time this season.

No. 21 Kansas State (4-0)

Kansas State enters the rankings for taking out Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Wildcats have Lee back in the paint, making them better than their .528 club from last season. Lee is averaging 22 points and 8.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game while she works her way back into full play.

No. 22 Washington State (5-0)

Washington State also swept its week with wins against Montana 61-49 and Prairie View 81-43. The veteran duo of guard Charlisse Leger-Walker and center Bella Murekatete is averaging 14.8 points each. Freshman Alex Covill, a 6-6 center, is averaging 2.8 blocks per game to rank in the top 15 in the category.

No. 23 Oklahoma (5-0)

Oklahoma notched wins over Alabama State 92-46 and Virginia 82-67 this week. The Sooners are undefeated through five games for the first time under head coach Jennie Baranczyk, who is in her third season. They've won on the boards each game and were at least 43% from the floor.

No. 24 Princeton (3-1)

The Ivy League had a big week and, at least as of today, could put multiple teams in the tournament. Princeton nearly upset UCLA 77-74 and defeated San Diego 62-51 last week. Ivy competitor Harvard kept it close with Baylor on Sunday 81-71.

No. 25 Maryland (2-2)

Maryland is barely holding on. The Terps were crushed by UConn even though the Huskies were without Fudd. And they escaped Syracuse on Sunday with a defensive stop.

Head coach Brenda Frese schedules tough nonconference games to prepare the team for deep tournament runs. The defense improved against Syracuse, but nothing from Maryland so far has prompted strong confidence in them.

Also considered: Davidson, Duke, Ole Miss, Creighton.

AP Top 25 poll (as of Nov. 20)

1. South Carolina (3-0)2. UCLA (4-0)3. Colorado (4-0)4. Stanford (4-0)5. Iowa (4-1)6. UConn (3-1)7. LSU (4-1)8. USC (3-0)9. Virginia Tech (2-1)10t. Utah (4-1)10t. NC State (4-0)12. Texas (4-0)13. Florida State (4-0)14. Baylor (3-0)15. Ohio State (2-1)16. Kansas State (4-0)17. Notre Dame (3-1)18. North Carolina (4-0)19. Tennessee (3-1)20. Louisville (4-0)21. Indiana (3-1)22. Oklahoma (5-0)23. Washington State (5-0)24. Ole Miss (4-1)25. Mississippi State (5-0)

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