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Autumn Johnson | November 9, 2021

Here are 7 top storylines you should know heading into the 2021-22 women's college basketball season

Top 7 storylines in women's college basketball

Women's college basketball tips off on Nov. 9, and we're here to get you caught up on all the offseason action that sets us up for an exciting 2021-22 season.

Here are the top seven storylines you should know:

1. The Big Ten is deep and dangerous 

Maryland huddle

The Big Ten is coming off a historic season with a conference-tying record of seven teams making it to the NCAA tournament. Out of this deep pool, Michigan, Maryland and Iowa advanced to the Sweet 16. However, Indiana went beyond the pack going on a historic run to the Elite Eight for the first time. The good news is that all four programs will return their impact starters to run it back. Watch out for Maryland, who are the preseason favorites and bring back the No. 1 scoring offense in the country led by AP Coach of the Year Brenda Frese. 

2. New era in Baylor 

Baylor head coach Nicki Collen

Legendary head coach Kim Mulkey has landed at LSU and now former Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen will be taking charge in Waco. This will be a rebuilding process for Baylor. In addition to a new coach, the Bears lost many key pieces from last season’s Elite Eight run to the WNBA and transfer portal, so we’ll look to see how this team meshes, with lead scorer NaLyssa Smith headlining the Bears. 

3. Best-friend connection in Storrs ... who both happen to be No. 1 overall recruits 

We heard nonstop about National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers, who came into UConn as the 2020 No. 1 overall recruit in the country. Fast forward to 2021, head coach Geno Auriemma brings in another No. 1 overall recruit Azzi Fudd to make some more noise. Chemistry will already be there as Bueckers and Fudd reunite on the court from their Team USA days. Plus, the Huskies return a deep final four squad, with its Big 3 returning — Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook and Olivia Nelson-Ododa — who are now seniors (something we didn't see last season with nine new Huskies). As if this team wasn't deep enough, Auriemma will also add Ohio State transfer Dorka Juhasz to his winning formula.

4. Scary new front court duo in the SEC 

South Carolina had a successful offseason. The Gamecocks added 6-foor-7 Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso — who is the ACC Freshman of the Year and Co-Defender of the Year. As if the Gamecocks' paint could not get any more loaded. Cardoso will accompany Aliyah Boston to create a dominant paint presence on both ends. This will be an unstoppable front court duo in the SEC. Plus, the Gamecocks will return their entire Final Four team. This could be the year South Carolina takes home its second national title.

5. NC State will look for Sweet 16 revenge at the tip of the season

Indiana upsets NC State

Expect the back-to-back ACC champs to play with a chip on their shoulders this season. NC State looks to avenge its Sweet 16 exit that left a sour taste in their mouths as the first No.1 seed out of last year’s NCAA tournament. This is Elissa Cunane’s senior year, and she’ll be surrounded by the same squad that defeated two No. 1 ranked teams last regular season — South Carolina and Louisville. The Wolfpack added Rutgers transfer Diamond Johnson to their winning formula, in hopes to get over the hump.

6. The 2021 national champs could run it back 

2021 National Champs

Let’s head over to the Pac-12. The defending national champs are in a great position to run it back, returning 12 out of 13 players. Stanford did lose last year’s leader Kianna Williams, but the most outstanding player of the tournament, Haley Jones, and Lexi Hull will be looking to step up into that role. This is a versatile squad and now their endless depth has 17 players, adding Northwestern grad transfer Jordan Hamilton and three elite freshmen. The road warriors will be back in Maples Pavillon in front of a home crowd, which are two things they missed out on last season due to COVID-19 protocols. Some normalcy could play a huge role in their continued success. 

7. Don't sleep on these five dark horse teams 

Missouri State advancing to Sweet 16
  • Missouri State — The Bears have made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and will return its standout stars: Brice Calip and Jasmine Franklin.
  • BYU — The Cougars upset Rutgers in the first round and nearly beat runner-up Arizona. All starters will return for another run.
  • Florida Gulf Coast — The Eagles produced the No. 7 offense in the country and went undefeated in the ASUN. In the regular season, the Eagles nearly upset No. 14 Arkansas, falling by single digits. Did I mention FGCU has a certified bucket in Kierstan Bell? She was No. 6 in the nation in scoring and No. 8 in 3-point field goals made. 
  • Troy — The Trojans had the No. 3 scoring offense in the nation (86 ppg) and came close to knocking off the No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the first round. 
  • SFA — Stephen F. Austin went on a 19-game winning streak and gave Georgia Tech a scare in overtime in the NCAA tournament. 

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