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JWS’ NCAA basketball rankings: Louisville tumbles amid chaos

Hailey Van Lith leads Louisville in points per game, but the Cardinals are just one game over .500. (Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports)

The women’s college basketball world was chaotic last week, which makes the second JWS top-25 ranking of the season a challenge — but a good challenge. Parity in the NCAA is at an all-time high, and that makes for great competition and thrilling games.

There’s plenty of room for debate, but at least South Carolina and Stanford have delivered each week. After the top two, the hierarchy gets messy. Here’s where things stood two weeks ago in our inaugural top-25 rankings.

1. South Carolina (8-0)

2. Stanford (10-1)

3. UConn (6-1)

The Huskies are coming off a loss to Notre Dame on Sunday, but Azzi Fudd missed most of the contest after appearing to injure her knee. They’ve beaten a lot of good teams so far this season — Texas, NC State and Iowa — and Notre Dame is a team that I can see in the Final Four. For those reasons, I’m keeping them at No. 3.

4. Ohio State (8-0)

If you’re an Ohio State fan, you’re most likely wondering why I’m keeping the undefeated Buckeyes below a UConn squad that just lost. When you look at these teams head-to-head, UConn (with Fudd) is the better team. Ohio State’s best win so far came over Louisville, a team that is underperforming. But if Ohio State keeps its undefeated streak going, with wins over strong Big Ten competition, this team will find itself in the top three.

5. Notre Dame (7-1)

What a crazy week for the Fighting Irish. Three days after losing to Maryland on a buzzer-beater by Diamond Miller, they handed UConn their first loss of the season. Against Maryland, they lacked any sort of inside presence and couldn’t hit from long range. Miller needed a heroic 31 points to lead her team to victory. Against UConn, both Lauren Ebo and Maddy Westbeld had breakout games. The fact that the Irish could correct their errors so quickly and defeat a top team bodes well for them going forward.

6. Indiana (9-0)

The Hoosiers were dominant against North Carolina in a 87-63 win on Thursday. Led by Mackenzie Holmes in the paint (25 points) and Sydney Parrish from the outside (24 points), the Hoosiers shot 53.3 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from beyond the arc. But without Grace Berger, who was injured against Auburn, there will be ups and downs for this team as they learn to make up for the loss of their floor general. Their 65-61 win over unranked Illinois on Sunday was less convincing, but overall the Hoosiers are performing in the face of adversity.

7. Iowa State (6-1)

8. Virginia Tech (8-0)

I didn’t come away from Virginia Tech’s 59-56 win over Tennessee feeling particularly confident in the Hokies. They turned the ball over 16 times and shot just 33.3 percent from the field, while Elizabeth Kitley disappeared offensively against the defense of Tamari Key. The Hokies need her to perform better if they’re going to make a deep run this season. That being said, they managed to get a win without an injured Ashley Owusu (finger), and they got contributions from a lot of different players to make up for Kitley’s quiet game. The Hokies are undefeated, and they won’t need to wait long to prove themselves, with Notre Dame awaiting on Dec. 18.

9. North Carolina (6-1)

10. NC State (7-1)

After getting blown out by UConn on Nov. 20, the Wolfpack responded in a big way against their next ranked opponent, defeating Iowa 94-81 on Dec. 1. Caitlin Clark went off for 45 points, but NC State contained everyone else and used a balanced offensive attack to get the win. Four of five starters finished in double figures, and Saniya Rivers had a breakout game off the bench, scoring 22 points. The South Carolina transfer is a dynamic talent who can contribute in many ways. Her career-high game is a good omen for the Wolfpack moving forward.

11. Arizona (7-0)

12. UCLA (8-1)

13. Oregon (6-1)

14. Creighton (7-1)

15. Maryland (7-3)

My early concerns about the Terrapins have turned out to be true: They go where Diamond Miller takes them. Against Notre Dame, her 31 points and impressive buzzer-beating shot sealed a victory, But against Nebraska a few days later, she was held to 13 points, and despite an excellent game from sophomore Shyanne Sellers (21 points, eight rebounds), the Cornhuskers came away with a 90-67 upset. That’s the second-highest points total for Nebraska this season, raising concerns about Maryland’s defense as well.

16. Iowa (6-3)

17. Michigan (9-0)

18. Utah (7-0)

19. LSU (9-0)

What to do with LSU? I think the Tigers are good, but with their strength of schedule (or rather, lack thereof), it’s hard to tell. Yes, they are undefeated, but they have yet to play a ranked team or tough unranked team. Southeastern Louisiana played the Tigers close in an eight-point loss on Nov. 29, which is less than ideal for an LSU squad trying to prove itself despite the weak schedule. I won’t feel comfortable putting the Tigers in the top 15 until they win in the SEC.

20. Baylor (6-2)

21. Gonzaga (7-2)

22. Louisville (5-4)

Coach Jeff Walz has described this team as “Jekyll and Hyde,” but lately, it’s been a lot more Hyde. A loss to Ohio State makes sense, and losses to South Dakota State and Gonzaga aren’t season ruiners, but a 67-49 defeat to Middle Tennessee on Sunday is downright bewildering. I’ll need to see a lot more from the Cardinals going forward, and another loss to an unranked opponent will likely drop them from the rankings entirely.

23. Villanova (7-2)

24. Oklahoma (7-1)

25. Marquette (7-2)

Marquette has two quality wins over Texas and Gonzaga plus an overtime loss to UCLA. After they were upset by Seton Hall this week, I thought about dropping the Golden Eagles from the top 25, but their resume is good enough to keep them in. I also considered Texas for the last spot this week, and the Longhorns are out of chances after losing to South Florida with Rori Harmon in the lineup.

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

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

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Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

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The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

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