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Iowa State to Florida: Five NCAA hoops teams that deserve more credit

Interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley has led Florida to its first top-25 ranking since 2016. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

We are about a month away from the start of the NCAA Tournament, which is both exciting and kind of unbelievable. The women’s college basketball season has progressed quickly, and it’s about to move even faster.

So, in the interest of fairness and keeping you informed, here are five teams in the AP Top 25 that I haven’t talked about enough.

Iowa State

I watched the No. 6 Cyclones play Kansas State the other day, and I had two major takeaways. The first was the play of Emily Ryan, who is second in the country with 7.2 assists per game, behind only Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark. While Ashley Joens gets all of the attention from opposing defenses, Ryan quietly makes things happen. As the sophomore picks apart defenses, she creates looks for herself and her teammates. Ryan almost always makes the correct decision, and her play makes Iowa State tough to guard. With her at point, the Cyclones are an incredibly difficult matchup.

The second key takeaway from Iowa State’s 70-55 victory in that game was the way the Cyclones defended Ayoka Lee. After she dropped 38 points in their previous matchup, the Cyclones made small but crucial adjustments, forcing Lee one step farther away from the basket than she’s comfortable with. Thanks to that defensive game plan, Iowa State held her to 12 points and proved to me that this Cyclones squad has a high basketball IQ.


Seeing the Huskies on this list might be jarring, but I’ve mostly left them alone since Paige Bueckers went out with a knee injury. I haven’t been ignoring No. 10 UConn, but I have been taking a “wait and see” approach. It’s hard to judge a team that’s without its best player, and the Huskies have battled through other stretches without core players like Azzi Fudd and Olivia Nelson-Odada. It’s been an unprecedented season for UConn, to say the least. Last week, the Huskies dropped a game to unranked Villanova, marking their first conference loss in nine years.

All the chaos aside, I think UConn will find itself right where it usually does next month: deep into the NCAA Tournament. Generally, when a star player gets hurt, one of two things can happen: 1) The team completely falls off the rails, or 2) everyone else gets better. On the surface, it seems like option one is occurring, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see a UConn squad that has young players — namely Fudd and fellow freshman Caroline Ducharme — finding themselves. With their confidence rising and Bueckers’ return looming, all the lows the Huskies have suffered this season won’t really matter if they make a late-season surge.


The No. 11 Tigers started the season with a respectable loss to No. 25 Florida Gulf Coast, and since then, have done exactly what you want to see from a team that opens with a loss: They’ve gotten better week after week. There’s not a bad loss in their 21-4 record, and they’ve managed to pull off some impressive wins along the way.

The game I want to focus on is LSU’s 66-60 loss to South Carolina on Jan. 6, because it offers an excellent snapshot of what makes this LSU team worthy of the No. 11 national ranking. The Tigers didn’t have to do anything crazy to stick with South Carolina. Instead, they just played their game. LSU’s top-three scores this season — Khayla Pointer, Alexis Morris and Faustino Aifuwa — were their top-three scorers against South Carolina. And South Carolina’s Big Three — Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson — all had excellent showings of their own: Boston recorded 19 points and 18 rebounds, Cook had 17 points and Henderson finished with 16 points. LSU, not known for its 3-point shooting, made just one attempt from long range and still stuck around in the game.

Based on that performance, the Tigers are clearly good enough to nearly knock off the nation’s top team without needing any kind of luck or fluke situation. That is a great sign for the Tigers going forward.


The No. 17 Gators are both a great example of a team peaking at the right time and a testament to the work of interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley. In fact, early-season Florida and late-season Florida are two very different teams. A squad that loses to Towson and George Mason has no business being in the top 25, but a team that’s defeated LSU, Tennessee and Georgia has no business being unranked. Florida is both of those teams, and the most important thing is that those losses came in November and the wins in January and February.

The Gators are a good reminder that those of us who aren’t playing (media and fans) shouldn’t get too high or too low on a team at the beginning of the season. Florida just needed a little more time to develop. With three double-digit scorers and two other players averaging at least seven points per game, Florida is running a balanced attack. Although star sophomore guard Lavender Briggs won’t return this season after injuring her shin, Florida’s three biggest wins came after Briggs’s injury, meaning the balance the Gators have perfected is playing off.


Last on my list of teams that deserve more attention is No. 20 BYU. I’m a firm believer in giving credit to teams that perform well, even if they don’t play in the greatest of conferences. I am a Gonzaga grad, after all, so it doesn’t take too much critical thinking to understand why I feel that way.

The two-loss Cougars don’t have the chance to play many ranked teams, and the WCC doesn’t boast the steepest competition, but that doesn’t mean BYU hasn’t been tested. The defense I’ve used for Florida Gulf Coast in other weeks also applies to BYU. Teams like these can essentially only go down in the poll and the eyes of basketball critics, because every game on their schedule is one they should win. In other words, victories don’t really give them a bump, but losses certainly push them downward. That is exactly what happened to the Cougars when they suffered a bad loss to Portland on Feb. 3. The got back on track two days later, however, with a road win over a Gonzaga squad that’s getting votes in the AP poll.

Led by Shaylee Gonzales’ 18.7 points a game, BYU is 21-2 and the clear favorite to win the WCC Tournament for an automatic March Madness bid.

Poll talk

I don’t have any Poll Talk this week, as my rankings are very similar to the AP top 25. That doesn’t usually happen, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty more poll opinions to share this season. Until then, I’ll leave you with my rankings and sign off.

JWS’ Top 25 in Week 15

  1. South Carolina (23-1)
  2. Stanford (21-3)
  3. Louisville (22-2)
  4. NC State (23-3)
  5. Indiana (18-4)
  6. Michigan (20-4)
  7. Iowa State (21-3)
  8. Arizona (18-4)
  9. Tennessee (21-4)
  10. LSU (21-4)
  11. UConn (17-5)
  12. Baylor (19-5)
  13. Oklahoma (20-4)
  14. Georgia Tech (19-6)
  15. Texas (17-6)
  16. Florida (19-6)
  17. Maryland (19-6)
  18. BYU (21-2)
  19. Ohio State (19-4)
  20. Notre Dame (19-6)
  21. Georgia (17-7)
  22. Virginia Tech (19-6)
  23. North Carolina (19-5)
  24. Iowa (16-7)
  25. Florida Gulf Coast (22-2)

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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