The 2019-20 women's college basketball season begins next week. And with new beginnings, we have a new preseason No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
For the first time ever, the Oregon Ducks are the preseason No. 1, receiving 25 of 28 first place votes. Kelly Graves' squad — led by the electric Sabrina Ionescu — made the Final Four last season and are looking to get back there again this season.
Oregon is the 15th different team to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll and the first Pac-12 team to be ranked No. 1 since Stanford in 1996. Rounding out the top five with Oregon is Baylor at No. 2, Stanford at No. 3, Maryland at No. 4 and UConn at No. 5. While the ACC didn't have any teams in the top five, it does have six teams ranked in the poll, which is the most for any conference this year.
For UConn, a streak stays alive with the release of this poll. The Huskies have now been ranked in the top five for 239 straight weeks.
The Tennessee Lady Vols weren't so lucky. Tennessee missed out being ranked — finishing at 31st in the voting — which ended their streak of consecutive preseasons ranked, a run that stretched back to 1977.
2018-19 FINAL RANK
Ducks are No. 1
This is the first time Oregon has ever been ranked as the preseason No. 1. They had only appeared in the AP's preseason poll eight times before and the Ducks' highest ranking was third. After bowing out in the Final Four last year, Oregon ended its 2019 campaign ranked seventh in the AP Poll.
The last time the team ranked preseason No. 1 went on to win the title was UConn in 2016. The Huskies also pulled this feat off in 2015, 2014, 2010 and 2009. Baylor was ranked as the preseason No. 4 last year.
Of course, Oregon returns dynamic guard Sabrina Ionescu, the NCAA's all-time leader in triple-doubles. The Walnut Creek, California, native is a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, a two-time Lieberman Award winner, and last season took home the Wooden and Wade trophies.
The Ducks also return Miller Award finalist and All-Pac-12 member Satou Sabally, who was the third most efficient player in the NCAA last season according to Synergy Sports, scoring 1.09 points on her possessions. The Ducks bring back 3-point sharpshooter Erin Boley and All-Pac-12 member Ruthy Hebard.
SABRINA IONESCU TRACKER: Where we left off with Oregon's triple-double record-breaker
Defending champs Baylor come in at No. 2
The reigning national champions check in at No. 2 in the preseason AP Poll. The Lady Bears had three first-place votes and finished 22 points behind Oregon. Baylor ended last season as No. 1.
While Baylor lost two key starters in center Kalani Brown and point guard Chloe Jackson, they bring back Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Cox and two versatile guards in DiDi Richards and Juicy Landrum. Richards was an All-Big 12 defender and made the Greensboro All-Regional team. She was key for Baylor in stifling Ionescu in the Final Four. Landrum led Baylor in three-pointers made, was third in rebounding, third in assists and fourth in scoring.
Baylor also brings back Nalyssa Smith, who stepped up for an injured Cox in the championship game. The Lady Bears also added All-SEC second team selection Te'a Cooper, a transfer from South Carolina at point guard. Erin DeGrate, a forward from Texas Tech, also joins the squad.
Traditional powers UConn, Notre Dame check in at fifth, 16th
UConn and Notre Dame may have lost a lot in the offseason, but they remain in the AP Poll. The Huskies are fifth and the Irish are 16th. It's looking like transition years for the Huskies and Irish, but they will still be forces to be reckoned with this season.
Between the two teams, seven starters are gone from their Final Four match-up a season ago, with Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson, Arike Ogunbowale, Jackie Young, Marina Mabrey, Brianna Turner and Jessica Shepard all off to the WNBA. But both Muffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma have restocked their squads with strong recruiting classes and transfers.
Likely leading the way for UConn this year will be Crystal Dangerfield, who was sixth in the nation in assists last season. She'll be boosted by Murray State transfer Evelyn Adebayo, who averaged a double-double in points and rebounds.
For Notre Dame, the play of Stanford graduate transfer Marta Sniezek will be crucial. The McLean, Virginia native was an All-Pac-12 defender in 2017-18 and led the Cardinal in assists that season. North Carolina transfer Destinee Walker will play a big role, as will highly-touted freshmen Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples, both ranked as top-20 recruits by ESPN. This is the first time Notre Dame has been ranked outside of the top 10 since 2011.
Arkansas and Indiana among newcomers to the poll
Arkansas is ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the first time since 2002. Mike Neighbors' Razorbacks check in at No. 22. The Razorbacks lost in the SEC Tournament final last season and also won two games in the WNIT.
For the second time in school history, Indiana is ranked in the preseason Top 25, checking in at No. 24. The Hoosiers won 21 games last season and captured crucial Big Ten victories over Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota. They also upset Texas, a seventh-seed, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Also joining the preseason poll after not being ranked in last season's year-end edition are Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan.