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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | October 19, 2021

Women's college basketball rankings: South Carolina, UConn lead preseason AP Top 25 poll

South Carolina is atop the preseason women's basketball Power 10

Reigning NCAA women's basketball national champion Stanford received first-place votes in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, but it's not preseason No. 1. The same goes for UConn, which has won a record 11 national championships.

Sorry to the Cardinal and Huskies, but the honor of being preseason No. 1 goes to another women's basketball power: South Carolina. The Gamecocks took the preseason top spot for the second season in a row.

That's just one of the interesting pieces of news and notes from the release of the preseason AP poll.

Here are the rest of our takeaways from the preseason AP Top 25 poll for the 2021-22 women's college basketball season.

View the complete preseason AP Top 25 poll.

AP Top 25 Poll: Preseason

RANK

school (first-place vOtes)

POINTS

PREVIOUS RANK

1 South Carolina (14) 705 6
2 UConn (10) 696 1
3 Stanford (5) 682 2
4 Maryland 632 7
5 NC State 589 3
6 Louisville 575 8
7 Baylor 521 5
8 Indiana 521 12
9 Iowa 513 NR
10 Oregon 479 23
11 Michigan 403 16
12 Iowa State 376 NR
13 Kentucky 368 18
14 Oregon State 273 NR
15 Tennessee 244 13
16 Florida State 231 NR
17 Ohio State 197 22
17 Georgia Tech 197 NR
19 West Virginia 192 17
20 UCLA 175 9
21 South Florida 146 19
22 Arizona 135 11
23 Texas A&M 123 4
24 Virginia Tech 98 NR
25 Texas 79 NR

Others receiving votes: Georgia 65, Michigan State 63, Florida Gulf Coast 43, Missouri State 18, South Dakota 13, BYU 11, LSU 10, Arkansas 10, Washington State 9, Notre Dame 8, Oklahoma State 8, DePaul 6, Belmont 5, Oklahoma 3, South Dakota State 1, Mississippi 1.

The usual suspects headline the preseason poll

The four schools that earned No. 1 seeds in the 2021 NCAA tournament — South Carolina, UConn, Stanford and NC State — are all ranked in the top five of the preseason AP Top 25 poll, with Maryland, which earned a No. 2 seed, checking in at No. 4 in the poll, one spot ahead of the Wolfpack. South Carolina, UConn and Stanford are the top three teams, in that order, and each received first-place votes, as there's differing opinions among the AP poll voters about who's the best team in the country entering the start of the season. That makes for compelling discourse and hopefully equally compelling competition.

In total, the top eight teams in the preseason poll — the aforementioned five schools, plus No. 6 Louisville, No. 7 Baylor and No. 8 Indiana — each finished in the top 12 of the final AP poll from last season, so generally speaking, many of the best teams from the 2021 campaign are expected to be among the best in the country for the 2022 season.

MORE RANKS: The preseason Power 10 for 2021-22

Preseason No. 1 South Carolina has a tough road ahead

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley recently signed a new contract that will keep one of the best coaches in the game in Columbia, and now the Gamecocks enter the fall as the team to beat. Their schedule, particularly in the non-conference portion, will be challenging, starting with a season opener just across state lines at No. 5 NC State, followed by a  potential matchup against preseason No. 10 Oregon in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a game against No. 4 Maryland in the Jimmy  V Classic and a home date against reigning national champion and preseason No. 3 Stanford on Dec. 21.

In January, South Carolina will host No. 2 UConn in a potential matchup between the country's top two teams.

In total, South Carolina could wind up playing half of the country's top-10 teams in the preseason during its non-conference schedule alone, which is sure to test one of the best programs in the country, which has its sights set on another No. 1 seed and a deep NCAA tournament run.

The Hawkeye State has a pair of bounce-back teams

The two highest-ranked teams in the preseason AP poll that weren't ranked in the final AP poll during the 2021 season are No. 9 Iowa and No. 12 Iowa State. The Hawkeyes, led by star freshman Caitlin Clark, who led the country in scoring at 26.6 points per game, earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, where they fell to UConn in the Sweet 16, while the Cyclones — powered by the country's fifth-leading scorer, Ashley Joens (24.2 ppg) — received a No. 7 seed, beat No. 10 seed Michigan State in the first round and then lost to No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the second round.

A dispersal of the country's top teams

Seven different conferences are represented in this season's preseason AP Top 25 poll, including five conferences that have either four or five teams ranked in the preseason poll. The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have five ranked teams apiece, while the Big 12 and SEC have four each. The Big East and AAC are each represented by one team — UConn and South Florida, respectively.

1-on-1: Final Four MOP Haley Jones recounts her memorable offseason

While the balance of power could shift over the course of the season, there are numerous ranked opponents available in a handful of conferences, so any team in the country's top five conferences will have significant opportunities to challenge themselves and try to produce an NCAA tournament resume.

Plus, several of the teams that headline the "others receiving votes" category represent additional conferences, such as Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun, Missouri State in the Missouri Valley, South Dakota in the Summit League and BYU in the WCC.

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