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JWS’ NCAA basketball rankings: UConn makes early top-two case

Azzi Fudd is the latest UConn player to go down with an injury. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With an upset- and overtime-filled week of basketball behind us, it’s officially time to unveil our first NCAA rankings of the 2022-23 season.

From South Carolina retaining its top spot with a comeback win over Stanford to UCLA breaking into the top 25, here’s where things stand heading into the end of November.

1. South Carolina (4-0)

2. Stanford (5-1)

The Cardinal’s 76-71 loss to South Carolina exposed a few weaknesses, but Stanford still went to overtime with the No. 1 team and nearly won. That’s enough to keep the No. 2 ranking in my book. I went into the weekend expecting the winner of the Stanford-South Carolina matchup to slide into the No. 1 spot and the loser to sit at No. 2. And despite a game that was sloppy and chaotic at times, Stanford and South Carolina remain the top two teams in the country — though the next squad on this list is breathing down their necks, somewhat surprisingly.

3. UConn (3-0)

Three games into the season, the Huskies have already faced more than their fair share of adversity. First, Paige Bueckers tore her ACL in August and was declared out for the season. Then Ice Brady went down with a season-ending injury, Aaliyah Edwards broke her nose, Caroline Ducharme was limited with neck stiffness and Dorka Juhász broke her thumb.

The latest in their string of misfortunes came on Sunday, when associate head coach Chris Dailey collapsed before tipoff of their game against NC State and was taken off the court on a stretcher. Dailey was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon, the school announced, but the incident visibly shook the team at the time. Despite the scare, the Huskies stormed past NC State 91-69. Azzi Fudd continues to emerge as a bonafide star — she had 32 points on Sunday, tying Maya Moore for the most points in back-to-back games against top-10 opponents in UConn history — and UConn has two statement wins to start the season.

4. Iowa State (4-0)

5. Ohio State (4-0)

6. Notre Dame (4-0)

7. Indiana (5-0)

After losing Ali Patberg, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and Aleksa Gulbe to graduation, the Hoosiers had a lot to replace going into the 2022-23 season. So far, despite the hurdles, they look like an offensive juggernaut. Between Grace Berger, Mackenzie Holmes and newcomer Yarden Garzon, the Hoosiers have started the season 5-0, topping opponents by an average of 35 points, including a 79-67 win over then-No. 11 Tennessee on Nov. 14.

8. Louisville (4-1)

9. Texas (1-3)

It’s hard to keep a 1-3 team in the top 10, but I can’t judge Texas too harshly on its losses. The Longhorns are a completely different team without Rori Harmon running the show, and so far they haven’t had their sophomore point guard due to a foot injury. The loss to unranked Marquette on Saturday is harder to justify, but falling to Louisville and UConn in close games would have been possible even with Harmon on the floor. When she’s back, I expect the Longhorns to start winning big. In the meantime, they have to beat Rutgers and Princeton this week, or they’ll get bumped further down the rankings.

10. North Carolina (4-0)

11. Virginia Tech (3-0)

12. Iowa (4-1)

Keeping Texas in the top 10 with three losses and putting Iowa at No. 12 with just one probably doesn’t make sense at first glance, but I have my reasons. Texas, as I mentioned, will be an entirely new team once Harmon returns. Iowa on the other hand, seems to be the same team as last season — the kind that gets upset early in the NCAA Tournament. Caitlin Clark is a Player of the Year frontrunner, and Monika Czinano is an elite college post player, but Iowa needs to find more offensive weapons if it wants to have more success this season.

Drake took the Hawkeyes to the brink on Nov. 13, and Kansas State pulled off the upset days later because of Iowa’s lack of balance. I need to see something from the Hawkeyes’ supporting cast before I feel comfortable putting them in the top 10.

13. Maryland (4-1)

14. NC State (4-1)

15. Arizona (4-0)

16. Creighton (4-0)

It’s a rare feat for a tournament darling to come out the next season and prove it has staying power, but that’s exactly what Creighton is doing. The Bluejays have two convincing top-25 wins over South Dakota State and Nebraska, and they are 4-0 to start the season. December will be telling for the Bluejays, as they have matchups with Villanova, Stanford and UConn.

17. Baylor (3-1)

18. LSU (5-0)

The Tigers could very well be a top-10 team, but with the level of competition they’ve played to start the season, it’s hard to rank them among squads that have multiple top-25 games to their names. Maryland transfer Angel Reese has been a star for LSU, averaging 23.2 points and 14.8 rebounds per game, and the Tigers have a solid supporting cast around her. But here’s the hang up: LSU has played Bellarmine, Mississippi Valley State, Western Carolina, Houston Baptist and Northwestern State in the first few weeks of the season. The Tigers don’t play a top-25 team until Jan. 30, when they take on Tennessee.

19. Oklahoma (4-1)

20. Tennessee (2-3)

What is going on with this team? The Vols’ talent level is sky high with Tamari Key, Jordan Horston, Rickea Jackson, Jasmine Powell and depth down the bench. And yet, Tennessee is 2-3. The Vols have lost to good teams — Ohio State, Indiana and UCLA — but they look completely out of sync and, at times, apathetic on the court. Talent only goes so far when the players can’t figure out how to blend their skills together. Something has to change, or this is going to be a long season for the Vols.

21. Oregon (3-0)

22. UCLA (5-0)

The Bruins had a case when they topped a solid South Dakota State team on Saturday, but with their dominant 80-63 win over Tennessee on Sunday, they officially earned a top-25 ranking. With Charisma Osborne leading the way and young stars Kiki Rice and Gabriela Jaquez continuing to get comfortable, UCLA should get better with every game.

23. Gonzaga (4-1)

I’ve had my eye on the Bulldogs since the preseason, and with their win over No. 6 Louisville on Saturday, they deserve a spot in the rankings. In a lot of ways, Gonzaga didn’t even play that well against the Cardinals. They had 29 turnovers in the contest but pulled it together in overtime, outscoring Louisville 18-6. If the Bulldogs can solve their turnover problem, they could be a very dangerous team as the season progresses.

24. Utah (4-0)

25. Drake (2-1)

After nearly knocking off Iowa in overtime, the Bulldogs got a top-25 win, defeating No. 22 Nebraska on Saturday in impressive fashion, 80-62. Katie Dinnebier is leading the way with 16 points per game, but Drake plays great team basketball. Four of their starters average over 12 points per game, and the fifth is just behind them at 9.3. It’s hard to stop a team with that many weapons.

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

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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