In a little less than a month, the 2019-20 women’s basketball season opens replete with star players, exciting newcomers and a title race that looks fairly wide open in the middle of fall.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a group of teams that already look formidable, teams with talent, experience and pedigree. Teams that look like they will be around for the long haul come spring.
The AP Preseason Top 25 will be released later this month. For now, here’s my preseason NCAA Power 10.
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Sabrina Ionescu, who won last year's Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy, came back to Eugene because she wanted to win a title. With Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Erin Boley back as well, Oregon is the undisputed preseason favorite.
The Ducks absorbed a big blow this summer when Sabally’s younger sister, Nyara, sustained another ACL injury that will likely keep her out of the 2019-20 season.
The only other question mark is who replaces Maite Carzola at point guard. Meanwhile, Ionescu has the chance to become the first player in NCAA women's basketball history to reach career totals of 2,000+ points, 1,000+ assists and 1,000+ rebounds.
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The defending national champions have a great backcourt in DiDi Richards and Juicy Landrum.
If Lauren Cox is back at full speed (she's coming off a knee injury suffered in last spring's Final Four), and South Carolina transfer Te’a Cooper fits in quickly, Kim Mulkey has the pieces for a team that will undoubtedly be the Big 12 favorites and title contenders.
Opening the season with seven straight home games should allow the Bears to get comfortable.
Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer has a veteran backcourt in Kiana Williams and DiJonai Carrington.
Stanford also boasts the Hull twins (Lexie and Lacie) on the wings, experience inside with Nadia Fingall and Maya Dodson and the excitement of a freshman class that includes No. 1 recruit Haley Jones and dunking sensation Fran Belibi.
VanDerveer could pass Pat Summit’s win total late in the season. The Cardinal’s future is very bright.
4. Texas A&M
The Aggies return 97 percent of their scoring and 99 percent of their rebounding production this season. And that's a good place to be for head coach Gary Blair and his team.
Junior guard Chennedy Carter, among the nation’s leading scorers last year, will be a national player of the year candidate on one of the country’s most dangerous teams.
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With 90 percent of their scoring from back, the Terrapins are looking for a better ending than last year’s second-round NCAA tournament exit.
Senior guard Kaila Charles will set the tone. A Nov. 10 matchup at home against South Carolina will be an immediate barometer for a team that will make 15 appearances on national television.
Working on our transition game this morning! So excited to have our scout team back in practice! https://t.co/7m1CEMuDxL— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@umdwbb) October 1, 2019
6. Oregon State
The Beavers always seem to pick up where they left off: at the top of the Pac-12 and as one of the toughest matchups in the country.
Guards Mikayla Pivec and Destiny Slocum will lead the way. Kat Tudor looks to return from last year’s ACL injury, and 6-6 freshman post Kennedy Brown should make an immediate impact on a team looking to keep pace with the Ducks and the Cardinal out west.
It's been a while since we've seen Geno Auriemma’s team ranked this low to start a season. But it’s also been three years since the Huskies last won a title.
Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson are gone for the pro game and it’s time for a reboot in Storrs.
Crystal Dangerfield and Christyn Williams will be the leaders here. Auriemma is waiting with bated breath to see if he can add Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook to his roster this season or whether he will have to wait until next year.
8. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs, reigning SEC champs, have achieved such national stature that replacing the bulk of its starters for the second year in a row (including 6-7 Teaira McCowan) isn’t enough to keep them off this list to start the season.
Getting another year of eligibility for guard Jordan Danberry makes life easier. Promise Taylor, a 6-5 transfer from Ole Miss, is the best candidate to replace McCowan’s productivity in the paint.
With just six weeks until we officially open the season, today we took the court for our first full practice!— Mississippi State WBK (@HailStateWBK) September 28, 2019
📰 https://t.co/5dBbt4uhb9#HailState🐶 pic.twitter.com/NWl1X3Ja64
9. South Carolina
The nation’s top recruiting class has arrived in Columbia, ready to return Dawn Staley’s program to a short list of championship contenders.
But this is a program that lost seven players from last year’s Sweet 16 team, so this might be a late-blooming squad. The Gamecocks will be led by All-SEC senior point guard Tyasha Harris and senior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.
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Cori Close’s team returns four key players in guards Japreece Dean and Lindsey Corsaro, burgeoning star Michaela Onyenwere and Baylor transfer Natalie Chou, who is also ready to pitch in at guard.
A veteran core makes life easier when you want to compete in the brutal Pac-12.