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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.