Aliyah Boston was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2022 NCAA Tournament after leading South Carolina to the title. (Bri Lewerke/Just Women's Sports)

The college basketball season has already delivered upsets, debates and star performances, but before we shift focus to the upcoming NCAA Tournament, a little reflection is due.

Women’s college basketball in 2022 was full of eye-popping moments that deserve a second-look before the New Year.

South Carolina rises to the top

With Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston leading the way, South Carolina won its second title in program history in April, topping UConn in the national championship game. Destanni Henderson scored 26 points as the Gamecocks defeated the Huskies 64-49. The win also cemented South Carolina’s status as one of the top programs in college basketball, with the No. 1 team the favorite once again to win the 2023 title.

Coach Dawn Staley continues to recruit top talent — adding two more five-star players this season — and is a prominent voice when it comes to promoting the sport and supporting causes close to the community, such as the campaign to bring Brittney Griner home from Russia. This was certainly South Carolina’s year, but it won’t be the last time the Gamecocks dominate headlines.

Clark vs. Boston

South Carolina’s star eventually won out, but much of the year was devoted to the Player of the Year debate between Boston and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. The Gamecocks junior averaged 16.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, and her importance to the team on both ends of the floor helped solidify her case for the award. Meanwhile, the sophomore Clark led the country in assists and points, averaging 27 points, eight assists and eight rebounds per game. She wowed spectators with her scoring ability, particularly the logo 3-pointers that have become synonymous with Clark’s game. The POY debate has roared on into the 2022-23 season, with the upperclassmen leading the race once again.

Year of upsets

The 2022 NCAA Tournament ended with two giants battling for the title in South Carolina and UConn, but the postseason itself was packed with shocking results and new names. Perhaps the biggest upset of all came in the second round, when No. 10 Creighton defeated No. 2 Iowa in the waning minutes of the game. Lauren Jensen, an Iowa transfer, stunned the Hawkeyes when she hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to help the Bluejays clinch a spot in the Sweet 16.

And that was far from the only upset. A few more highlights: No. 12 Belmont topped No. 5 Oregon in double overtime in the first round, No. 11 Princeton tipped No. 6 Kentucky, and No. 10 South Dakota defeated Baylor in the second round.

NIL takeover

The Name, Image and Likeness rule that permits college athletes to profit off of their personal brand took effect for the 2021-22 season, and it didn’t take long for plenty of college basketball stars to take advantage.

UConn’s Paige Bueckers signed deals with Bose, Crocs and Gatorade, while Miami transfers Haley and Hanna Cavinder monetized their Instagram and TikTok accounts and Clark signed on with Nike. Other athletes were able to capitalize on the rule at the local level, allowing players across the league to market themselves and make money. Of all athletes in the men’s and women’s Sweet 16 in March, women made up the majority of those with the highest earning potential on social media, according to Opendorse.

Transfers

The transfer portal burst with activity in 2022, with several high-profile players leaving their programs after the 2022 season. Maryland stars Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu departed for LSU and Virginia Tech, respectively, while former top recruit Saniya Rivers parted ways with South Carolina for NC State, to name a few.

The NCAA’s new one-time transfer rule, which allows players to change programs without sitting out a year, led to a record number of athletes in the portal in 2021 and 2022.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.