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Autumn Johnson | November 24, 2020

The 2020-21 women's college basketball season: Preview, key players and teams to watch

Women's college basketball rankings: Preseason Power 10

We're a day away from the first games of the 2020-21 women's college basketball season. It's a season, like every sport, that's already seen more than its fair share of schedule changes because of the coronavirus.

Here are some of the essentials to know before the season tips off for real Wednesday. This is the quick guide to the 2020-21 women's college basketball season.

Here's how this season schedule is different 

The women's college basketball season begins Wednesday, Nov. 25, which is 15 days later than originally scheduled. No exhibitions or scrimmages were held this fall. Teams can play up to 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games, or a team can schedule 25 regular-season games if it does not compete in a multiple-team event. 

The Top 25 teams that play Wednesday on opening day

These are some of the conference-play start dates for some conferences:

  • Big 10 starts Dec. 2
  • Big 12 tips off Dec. 2
  • Pac-12 and Big East begin Dec. 4
  • ACC starts Dec. 9
  • SEC is scheduled for Dec. 31

Here are some of the top teams to watch 

The preseason AP Top 25 women's basketball poll was released in early November. No. 1 South Carolina headlines the elite list for the first time in program history. No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 UConn and No. 4 Baylor follow after. Here's an analysis of how the preseason AP poll predicts success. 

No. 1 South Carolina:  One of the biggest storylines in women's basketball is the Gamecocks finishing the 2019-20 ranked No. 1 in the country and coming into the 2020-21 in the same fashion. Before the pandemic ended the season, South Carolina held the nation's longest winning streak (26 games). They will return their three starters — Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Naismith Freshman of the Year Aliyah Boston. Senior Lele Grissett and junior Victaria Saxton and Destanni Henderson will also be tasked with more minutes to help the Gamecocks' sustain their success. 

No. 2 Stanford: The Cardinal's Funky Four Haley Jones, Hannah Jump, Francesca Belibi and Ashten Prechtel — return as experienced vets. Overall, the Pac-12 favorites return nine players, which gives Stanford immense depth and endless combinations. In addition to the Funky Four, top scorers Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull return to the starting lineup. Plus, we will see the No. 3 recruit in country Cameron Brink bring an incredible offensive and defensive presence as a 6-foot-4 forward. 

No. 3 UConn: Talk about another team with endless potential. There's no seniors for the Huskies, but they bring back an experienced core in — Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook. Six elite newcomers also join forces with UConn, which is headlined by the No. 1 recruit in the country Paige Bueckers. 

No. 4 Baylor: Since the spread of COVID-19 ended the season, the Bears are still the reigning national champions. There's no time table for DiDi Richards' return after she sustained a spinal cord injury after colliding with Moon Ursin during practice. Lead scorer NaLyssa Smith will have to step up in her absence, including Queen Egbo and Stanford graduate transfer DiJonai Carrington.

To learn more about each AP Top 25 women's basketball team, click or tap here to read at least one thing about every team in the top 25.

These are potential All-America candidates

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky, 6-2, junior, 30 of 30 votes (23.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 38.2 3-point pct)

Howard is the first player from Kentucky's women's basketball program to be honored as a preseason All-American by the Associated Press. The Naismith Player of the Year candidate was the country's second leading scorer. 

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina, 6-5, sophomore, 30 of 30 votes (12.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 60.9 fg pct). 

The Naismith Freshman of the Year and Lisa Leslie Award winner helped the Gamecocks secure an SEC title and finish as the No. 1 team before the pandemic ended the season. Boston enters the season as the top scorer and rebounder. 

Aari McDonald, Arizona, 5-6, senior, 27 of 30 votes (20.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 79.1 ft pct)

Like Howard, McDonald is the first preseason All-American for Arizona women's basketball program. The All-American guard is not only the Wildcat's offensive threat, but she also brings an incredible defensive effort as a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Finalist. 

Dana Evans, Louisville, 5-6, senior, 23 of 30 votes (18.1 ppg, 4.2 apg, 89.0 ft pct)

Evans became the first player in conference history to be named 2020 ACC Player of the Year a season after being named Sixth Player of the Year. Louisville's lead scorer helped the Cardinals to their third consecutive ACC title. 

Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA, 6-0, senior, 16 of 30 votes (19.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 46.9 fg pct)

Onyenwere led the Bruins in scoring and is on track to break the 2,000 career points milestone by the end of the season. The Junior All-American is also the Bruins' top rebounder. 

What are the March Madness dates I need to know? 

Here is the complete women's NCAA tournament schedule, as of Nov. 24, 2021. Dates and sites may change because of the pandemic. The NCAA announced earlier this month it is in talks with the state of Indiana to hold the entire men's tournament in the Indianapolis metro area.

Selection Show Monday, March 15 N/A N/A
First Round
(Round of 64)
Friday, March 19
Saturday, March 20
Campus sites Campus sites
Second Round
(Round of 32)
Sunday, March 21
Monday, March 22
Campus sites Campus sites
Albany Regional
(Sweet 16, Elite Eight)
TBD Albany, New York Times Union Center
Austin Regional
(Sweet 16, Elite Eight)
TBD Cedar Park, Texas H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
Cincinnati Regional
(Sweet 16, Elite Eight)
TBD Cincinnati, Ohio Cintas Center
Spokane Regional
(Sweet 16, Elite Eight)
TBD Spokane, Washington

Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena

Women's Final Four
National Championship
Friday, April 2
Sunday, April 4
San Antonio, Texas Alamodome

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