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Ten teams that have my attention in women’s college basketball

Arizona’s Lauren Ware shoots over Marist defenders during a win last Friday. (Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

We’re two weeks into the season, and women’s college basketball has already seen overtime, upsets and reshuffling of rankings. There is a lot to unpack from this early slate of games, so here are 10 teams that have my attention, for better or for worse.

Texas

The Longhorns started the season ranked 25th in the AP poll, and I didn’t even have them in my JWS preseason rankings. When they topped then-No. 3 Stanford 61-56 on Nov. 14, it came as a shock. But should it have?

Texas’ 131-36 victory over New Orleans five days earlier should have been an indication that Texas could make some noise this season. No, New Orleans isn’t Stanford. And yes, it is a team the Longhorns should have beaten up on, but regardless of the opponent, out-scoring another team by nearly 100 points is a hugely impressive feat. That lopsided victory was our first look at the pace and intensity at which Texas plays.

JWS basketball analyst Rachel Galligan said she had a chance to watch Texas practice in October and was floored by the team’s pace, even in a non-game setting. The Longhorns ran all over Stanford in the upset win, showcasing a style of play that’s going to wreak havoc on a lot of teams before the season is through. The game also served as a great introduction to freshman Rori Harmon, who scored 17 points and fits perfectly into the Longhorns’ up-tempo style, and a reintroduction to Mississippi State transfer Aliyah Matharu, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Tennessee

I quite literally finished typing the above section, and then watched as Tennessee defeated Texas 74-40 in overtime on Sunday. The Vols have a lot of fight, and a lot of talent. They entered the season ranked 15th in the AP poll, a spot they wouldn’t have earned without standout player Rae Burrell. So when Burrell went down with what seems like a serious injury (she’s out indefinitely, and the only information Tennessee has given is that it’s not an ACL), it was fair to wonder if they were destined for a subpar season.

Instead, Tennessee proved it’s much more than just Burrell. Tamari Key was on another level against Texas, recording a triple-double with 10 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks. Meanwhile, Jordan Horston had a double-double with 28 points and 15 rebounds. The Vols are a complete team, and if Burrell comes back, they will be even better. Her absence gives other players a chance to find themselves and develop confidence that will be valuable when she’s healthy once more.

Stanford

Should the defending champs be concerned? Maybe, and maybe not. Against Texas, the Cardinal clearly missed Kiana Williams, their point guard last season. Texas’ intense pressure flustered Stanford into committing 20 turnovers. The loss showed that Stanford has to adjust to life without Williams, and if they don’t, fly-around defense could be the key to defeating the Cardinal this season.

Stanford had similar difficulties at times against another defensive-minded team in unranked Gonzaga on Sunday, but they were without Haley Jones — for unknown reasons — in that contest. Stanford showed resilience in a tough road environment, rallying from being down 13 at one point to top the Zags 66-62 in a game that went down to the wire. A Nov. 25 matchup with a very poised Indiana squad will be the next big test for Stanford.

Arizona

The Wildcats are another team that started the season under-ranked, at No. 23 in the AP poll. But when they upset No. 6 Louisville 61-59 in overtime on Nov. 12, they proved that Arizona in the post-Aari McDonald era is going to be just fine.

Arizona has a new identity, and it’s all about defense. That’s not too different from last season, but the scoring prowess of McDonald got the most attention (for obvious reasons). The Wildcats made Louisville work for every possession, holding the Cardinals to 28.2 percent shooting and 18.2 percent from 3. Their defensive pressure helped them stay in control, even when their offense was struggling at the start. The Wildcats forced Louisville into 17 turnovers but committed the same number themselves.

Still, there were bright spots on the offensive end. Cate Reese recorded 21 points, making all six of her free throws and shooting 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Ariyah Copeland, a transfer from Alabama, proved to be a welcome addition in the paint. She scored just eight points, but each bucket was timely and the comfort she showed in Arizona’s system and flow of the game tells me there is more where that came from.

Louisville

That brings me to a Louisville team that’s had an inconsistent start after beginning the season ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. Losing to Arizona isn’t a bad upset in my opinion, given the Wildcats are clearly better than their ranking showed at the time. But Louisville has some things to work out. Against Arizona, the Cardinals showed their youth, often getting flustered in high-intensity situations, committing turnovers or taking ill-advised shots.

Later in the week, the Cardinals found themselves up 16 entering the fourth quarter against unranked Washington, before seemingly taking their foot off the gas and allowing the Huskies to get within three points. The Cardinals figured things out and ended up winning 61-53, but once again, they struggled at the 3-point line, going 2-for-10. They did clean up their turnovers against Washington, committing only nine. All that said, a semi-bumpy start isn’t unexpected for Louisville, and Cardinals fans shouldn’t be too concerned. This is a young squad that still needs to figure out who it is without Dana Evans, a consistent and experienced playmaker last season who led her team with 20.1 points per game.

Kentucky

After an up-and-down 2020-21 season, I thought Kentucky would have made more progress in coach Kyra Elzy’s second year at the helm. And while no squad will have everything figured out just two weeks into the season, Kentucky’s loss to Indiana was pretty telling.

Rhyne Howard is arguably the best scorer in the NCAA, and yet at times, the Wildcats don’t seem to know it. She still scored 23 points in the loss, and good teams need to have balance, but there are stretches where she is taken completely out of the offense in favor of an ill-advised shot or another playing taking over. She’s the kind of player who should be touching the ball on every possession. If the Wildcats consistently play through her, the rest of the offense should follow and other players will find success.

Losing to a top-10 team isn’t the end of the world, however, and Kentucky has plenty of time to get back on track. A matchup with No. 22 West Virginia on Dec. 1, followed by a game against No. 10 Louisville on Dec. 12, should give us a better idea of where the Wildcats stand.

Indiana

The Hoosiers are the most cohesive team I’ve seen so far this season. On both ends of the floor, each player seems to know exactly where every teammate will be at any given time. Mackenzie Holmes, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, is a force on offense and easily the best player on this squad. But Indiana has impressed me with its balance thus far. Through five games (including an exhibition), four Hoosiers have averaged double-figures, and they’ve had three different leading scorers in those games.

After the win over Kentucky, Indiana jumped up to No. 4 in the AP Poll, which might be too much, too soon. Kentucky, as I mentioned above, is an inconsistent team, and Indiana hasn’t played anyone else that can give us a baseline on which to judge its abilities. But that won’t last long. The Hoosiers are slated to play Stanford and NC State in the next two weeks, before diving into a tough Big Ten conference schedule. By the time their Dec. 2 game against the Wolfpack wraps up, we should know what kind of team Indiana really is.

South Carolina

So far, I haven’t seen anything to contradict South Carolina being the best team in the country. The Gamecocks have already defeated two top-10 teams in No. 5 NC State and No. 9 Oregon. This team has so much talent at every position. Against NC State, the guards led the charge, with Zia Cooke recording 17 points and Destanni Henderson finishing with 14. Later, when the Gamecocks topped Buffalo, it was all about post play as Aliyah Boston finished with 23 points and Kamilla Cardoso had a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds), adding two blocks for good measure.

The Gamecocks will face the ultimate test in No. 2 UConn on Monday, in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. South Carolina certainly isn’t shying away from top-notch competition to start the season, something that can only be a benefit down the line.

UConn

That brings me to the Huskies. They faced their first true test against No. 23 South Florida on Sunday and answered the bell. The teams were tied entering the fourth quarter, but UConn outscored South Florida 15-8 in the final period to win 60-53. Freshman Azzi Fudd led the charge, scoring 18 points on six 3-pointers.

Fudd and Paige Bueckers (who had a career-high 34 points against Arkansas) are going to get a lot of attention this season, but it’s the play of Christyn Williams that should have UConn fans excited. She led the Huskies with 31 points on 12-for-14 shooting from the field in a victory over Minnesota, and through three games, she’s averaging 19.6 points per game. She seems to have turned into the player everyone thought she could be as the No. 1 recruit in 2018. With Williams playing at this level, UConn’s roster is hard to match.

Maryland

The Terrapins weathered a late-game comeback by No. 6 Baylor on Sunday to cement themselves as one of the best teams in the country. The most impressive part? They did it without Diamond Miller, who played a few minutes before leaving the game with the same knee injury that kept her out to start the season. The Terrapins had a balanced effort in the win, led by Ashley Owusu’s 24 points, six assists and four rebounds. Angel Reese had 17 points, Chloe Bibby had 16 and Mimi Collins finished with 10. Freshman guard Shyanne Sellers was also impressive, doing a little bit of everything with seven points, six rebounds and three assists.

If Maryland is this good without Miller, imagine what the Terrapins will do when she’s healthy. They did give up a double-double to NaLyssa Smith (30 points, 15 rebounds), but that says more about the skills of Smith than anything negative about Maryland.

JWS’ Top 25 in Week 3

  1. South Carolina (5-0)
  2. UConn (3-0)
  3. Maryland (6-0)
  4. Iowa (4-0)
  5. NC State (4-1)
  6. Stanford (3-1)
  7. Indiana (4-0)
  8. Baylor (3-1)
  9. Arizona (4-0)
  10. Louisville (3-1)
  11. Texas (3-1)
  12. Tennessee (4-0)
  13. Michigan (4-0)
  14. Ohio State (3-0)
  15. Iowa State (4-0)
  16. Oregon State (3-0)
  17. Florida State (4-0)
  18. Georgia Tech (4-1)
  19. UCLA (3-0)
  20. Kentucky (3-1)
  21. Virginia Tech (5-0)
  22. South Florida (3-2)
  23. West Virginia (3-0)
  24. Florida Gulf Coast (5-0)
  25. Texas A&M (4-0)

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.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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