JWS’ NCAA Top 25: Olivia Miles, Notre Dame surge to No. 3

Olivia Miles is fifth in the nation with 7.2 assists per game, tying her with Iowa's Caitlin Clark (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Once again, the top two teams in the JWS college basketball Top 25 remain intact. South Carolina and Stanford are the teams to beat, but the rest of the rankings got a shake-up this week.

Kansas and Virginia make their first appearances, while Notre Dame jumps two undefeated teams for the No. 3 spot. Let’s evaluate where the top teams stand before the holiday break. You can find our last top-25 rankings here.

1. South Carolina (11-0)

2. Stanford (11-1)

Cameron Brink, Hannah Jump and Haley Jones are one heck of a trio, and they make this Stanford team hard to top. They have three completely different but effective games, all of which were clicking in a 77-70 win over Tennessee on Sunday. Brink had 21 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks to lead the way, while Jones and Jump recorded 19 points each. The Cardinal were down 58-53 heading into the fourth quarter, but the No. 2 squad didn’t panic. Instead, they chipped away at the deficit and closed out the game on a 24-12 run to seal the victory. Maturity will help this team down the stretch, and the win was indicative of their ranking.

3. Notre Dame (9-1)

The AP poll still has Notre Dame at No. 5, but a 63-52 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday cemented my belief that Notre Dame deserves the No. 3 spot. I’d previously considered moving the Fighting Irish over Ohio State and Indiana, and this week’s win convinced me — strangely enough because Notre Dame looked flat-out bad for most of the contest. Even at its worst, Notre Dame showed it is still good enough to beat another top-10 opponent. In crunch time, the Irish didn’t let their previous mistakes define the game. Olivia Miles had a near triple-double (16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists), and Notre Dame ended the game on a 23-9 run to secure the win.

4. Ohio State (11-0)

5. Indiana (11-0)

6. UConn (8-2)

7. North Carolina (9-1)

8. NC State (11-1)

9. Virginia Tech (10-1)

10. Utah (10-0)

The Utes have won in a lot of different ways this season, from blowouts to two-point victories. In their one win over a ranked opponent on Nov. 16, they scored a whopping 124 points against Oklahoma and showed how dangerous this team can be. Offensively, they average 93 points per game with a roster full of scorers. Alissa Pili leads the team with 20.7 points per game, followed by Gianna Knnepkens and Jenna Johnson with 14.4 and 12.6, respectively. Then, Kennedy McQueen and Issy Palmer each average 10 points per game, while Teya Sidberry and Dasia Young come in at just under seven. That all adds up to a balanced squad that’s hard to beat — and fun to watch.

11. UCLA (11-1)

12. Iowa (9-3)

13. Iowa State (8-2)

14. Arkansas (13-0)

The Razorbacks haven’t played the toughest schedule, but an undefeated record and wins over Kansas State and Creighton are enough to draw attention. The bottom half of these rankings are a mess, with a lot of solid teams in consideration. Arkansas (No. 17 in the AP Poll) slides into my top 15 after going on the road Saturday and beating Creighton. The Razorbacks led for most of the contest and weathered every Creighton run. Samara Spencer led the way with 26 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line, and UConn transfer Saylor Poffenbarger recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Arkansas has two tough upcoming matchups against AP No. 16 Oregon and No. 10 LSU.

15. Maryland (9-3)

16. LSU (12-0)

17. Oregon (9-1)

18. Kansas (10-0)

A 77-50 victory over then-No. 12 Arizona on Dec. 8 thrust Kansas into the rankings, but there is a lot to like about this Kansas team aside from the upset win. The Jayhawks have one of the most cohesive offenses in the country. They run everything through center Taiyanna Jackson but don’t discriminate when it comes to making the extra pass and taking the best available shot. They understand how to use their spacing and lanes to attack the hoop, which makes for a smooth offense with a lot of contributors. And when they need a basket, the Jayhawks still have a go-to scorer in Jackson. That’s the perfect recipe for offensive success.

19. Gonzaga (11-2)

20. Michigan (10-1)

21. Creighton (8-2)

The Bluejays have wins over South Dakota State, Nebraska and Villanova — all of whom were ranked when they played — and another over a solid Drake team. But with losses to AP No. 25 St. John’s and No. 21 Arkansas, it’s hard to know what to make of this squad. They have all the tools for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but right now they only seem to show up part of the time. Their next two games are against Stanford and UConn, which should provide a much clearer picture.

22. Arizona (9-1)

The Wildcats have a lot to work out. They shot well in a 75-54 win over Baylor on Saturday (47.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc), but a lot of that had to do with the Bears — who are not a top-25 team in my mind — not defending the ball well. Arizona had open shots and they knocked them down, but there wasn’t a lot of flow to the offense as players still appear to be figuring out their roles.

I was, however, more impressed with their defense. The Wildcats held Baylor to 32.8 percent shooting from the field and 25.1 percent from long range, while forcing 19 turnovers. They never allowed Baylor to get comfortable, and their defense led to 18 fast-break points. Running the floor after creating turnovers is a clear strength of this team. Now, they have to find more rhythm in the halfcourt.

23. Oklahoma (9-1)

24. Marquette (9-2)

25. Virginia (12-0)

The last spot on this list is always a toss-up for me. This week, I considered St. John’s, Villanova, Tennessee, Baylor and Kansas State, but the undefeated Cavaliers have earned the spot thanks to consistent performances. Minnesota and Penn State have been their toughest opponents so far, but UVA will have the chance to prove itself in a tough ACC slate against teams like Virginia Tech, NC State, North Carolina and Notre Dame. I don’t expect UVA to stay undefeated, but they are capable of an upset or two.

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