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UConn returns to top spot in espnW preseason rankings

Women's College Basketball, Connecticut Huskies, South Carolina Gamecocks, Texas Longhorns, Baylor Lady Bears, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ohio State Buckeyes

South Carolina celebrated its NCAA title and shared the joy throughout the state over the past several months. Now the Gamecocks begin this season with just two returning starters and some new challenges. Meanwhile, if anyone was looking for a "reprieve" from UConn as the favorite -- that's not going to happen. The Huskies enter 2017-18 looking even stronger than last season, when they lost just once -- in the national semifinals.

UConn unanimously leads things off in our espnW preseason top 25, as voted on by espnW.com's Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel. But there's plenty of intrigue about how the rest of the list shakes out.

Creme provides the analysis for each team below.

1. Connecticut Huskies

2016-17 record: 36-1; lost in Final Four
Notable returners: Napheesa Collier (20.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG); Katie Lou Samuelson (20.2 PPG, 3.2 APG); Kia Nurse (12.7 PPG, 3.9 APG); Gabby Williams (14.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.1 APG)

Sure, the 111-game winning streak ended and the Huskies didn't win a fifth straight national championship, but the loss to Mississippi State -- much like a regular-season loss to Stanford in 2014 - is likely just a brief interruption in another round of complete dominance. Until the Final Four, UConn was indisputably the best team in the country last season -- and the Huskies are better this year. All the key contributors are back in seniors Nurse and Williams and juniors Samuelson and Collier, and each of them could rank among the top-10 players in the country. And yet, Azurá Stevens, a 6-foot-6 Duke transfer, could be the best of the bunch. Depth, the one area that could be seen as a UConn vulnerability the past few seasons, is now just another strength when you add in guard Crystal Dangerfield, the No. 1 recruit in 2016 who has reportedly improved in the offseason, Megan Walker, this year's top high schooler, 6-2 Kentucky transfer Batouly Camara and two more top-20 recruits. The Huskies' first four games are against top-25 teams, and they play five of the preseason top-10 this season. The question all year long will be which one, if any, is capable of doing what Mississippi State did in the Final Four in Dallas.


2. Texas Longhorns

2016-17 record: 25-9; lost in Sweet 16
Notable returners: Brooke McCarty (14.1 PPG, 3.6 APG); Ariel Atkins (12.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG); Joyner Holmes (12.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG)

The door is open for the Longhorns to not only get over the hump in the Big 12 and climb past Baylor, but also to reach the program's first Final Four since 2003. The backcourt of McCarty and Atkins returns as perhaps the best in the country outside of Storrs. McCarty is the reigning Big 12 player of the year and Atkins was a first-team all-conference pick. A typically challenging nonconference schedule that includes November/December games against LSU, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State is even more difficult with the absence of Holmes. The 6-3 sophomore and Big 12 freshman of the year is out until Dec. 23, serving a university suspension for an undisclosed violation. That could also open the door for more production from junior Lashann Higgs on the wing or 6-4 South Carolina transfer Jatarie White, who was a top-20 recruit in 2014 but was hindered by injury and illness the past two years in Columbia.


3. Baylor Lady Bears

2016-17 record: 33-4; lost in Elite Eight
Notable returners: Kalani Brown (15.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG); Kristy Wallace (7.6 PPG, 5.6 APG); Lauren Cox (7.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG)

Kim Mulkey brought in a four-guard recruiting class built on quickness and speed, but make no mistake: If the Lady Bears are going to break a streak of four consecutive losses in the Elite Eight and reach their first Final Four since 2012, it will come on the shoulders of their size. The 6-7 Brown and 6-4 Cox will have to lead the way. Both are capable of averaging a double-double and should dominate most nights. Steady point guard Wallace will prioritize getting them the ball but could also be more of a scorer after the departures of Alexis Jones, Nina Davis and Alexis Prince. Sophomore Natalie Chou, a 42 percent 3-point shooter a year ago, should also take on a bigger role. The freshmen, led by Didi Richards and Alexis Morris, could give Mulkey the ability to press and mix defenses more.


4. Mississippi State Bulldogs

2016-17 record: 34-5; lost in NCAA title game
Notable returners: Victoria Vivians (16.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG); Morgan William (10.9 PPG, 4.6 APG); Teaira McCowan (8.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

When coach Vic Schaefer recruited Vivians and William, he started the Bulldogs on the path that led them to last year's national championship game. Mississippi State got better every season, culminating with the monumental upset of UConn in the Final Four. But the job remains undone, as the Bulldogs fell just short of a championship and lost three times to South Carolina last season. Vivians and William are seniors and make up one of the best backcourts in the country, and even more might be asked of them because the Bulldogs graduated most of their depth. Guards Blair Schaefer and Roshunda Johnson should take on bigger roles, and 5-7 freshman Myah Taylor might need to contribute right away. The biggest difference for Mississippi State should come in the middle, where 6-7 junior McCowan was a dominant force in the NCAA tournament. If she is able to take that next big step in consistency, Schaefer has one of the best post players in the country at his disposal.


5. Ohio State Buckeyes

2016-17 record: 28-7; lost in Sweet 16
Notable returners: Kelsey Mitchell (22.6 PPG, 3.9 APG); Stephanie Mavunga (11.4 PPG, 108 APG); Sierra Calhoun (9.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG)

For three years, the Buckeyes have been built around the ballhanding, shooting and will of Kelsey Mitchell. That brought the program to renewed heights -- but not much NCAA tournament success. With Mitchell's last season looming and the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio State's motivation to change that couldn't be higher. Mitchell has a chance to break Kelsey Plum's NCAA scoring record, but it would likely take an appearance on the season's final weekend. For the Buckeyes to get there, Mitchell needs the continued help of Mavunga, Calhoun and redshirt senior Linnae Harper. Coach Kevin McGuff's depth of a year ago took a hit with the graduation of Shayla Cooper and the transfers of Tori McCoy and Kiara Lewis, but that should also mean more defined roles and more opportunity for seniors Asia Doss and Alexa Hart, a Columbus native.


6. Stanford Cardinal

2016-17 record: 32-6; lost in Final Four
Notable returners: Alanna Smith (9.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG); Brittany McPhee (13.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG); Kaylee Johnson (3.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG)

The Cardinal reached their 13th Final Four a year ago because of senior leadership and a few underclassmen raising their level of play when it mattered most. Opening the season with Ohio State and UConn will immediately tell us if McPhee, a senior, and Smith, a junior, can be the leaders Stanford needs. McPhee broke out in the NCAA tournament, averaging better than 17 PPG, including 27 points in an Elite Eight comeback against Notre Dame. The 6-3 Smith has a chance to become one of the top post players in the country. Nadia Fingall, a 6-3 sophomore, also figures to be improved, and Johnson, a senior, rebounds, defends and does all the little things. Freshman forward Maya Dodson figures to be a major contributor by the time Pac-12 play rolls around. Marta Sniezek (4.4 APG in 2016-17) is back at the point but will get help from top-10 recruit Kiana Williams.


7. South Carolina Gamecocks

2016-17 record: 33-4; national champions
Notable returners: A'ja Wilson (17.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG); Bianca Cuevas-Moore (8.3 PPG, 37.4 3PT%; Tyasha Harris (5.6 PPG, 3.2 APG)

Dawn Staley enters the season with a mixed bag. The Gamecocks coach presides over the defending national champion and returns a favorite for national player of the year in Wilson. But Staley must replace 48 percent of her scoring production from a year ago, integrate five new players and develop an almost entirely new rotation around Wilson. As centerpieces go, however, few could be better than the 6-5 center. With Alaina Coates gone, Wilson will have more room to operate in the paint, much like she did in the NCAA tournament when Coates sat out with an ankle injury. A 20-point, 10-rebound season wouldn't be a surprise. The bulk of her frontcourt support should come from 6-3 Kentucky transfer Alexis Jennings, who averaged 8.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG over two seasons as a Wildcat before sitting out last season. The combined 25.9 PPG of wings Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray is gone, but the backcourt is intact with Harris and Cuevas-Moore. Harris might be ready for a big leap forward as a sophomore point guard. Graduate transfer Lindsey Spann from Penn State (10.5 PPG last season) will help the perimeter shooting, and freshman wing Lele Grissett adds plenty of athleticism.


8. Oregon Ducks

2016-17 record: 23-14; lost in Elite Eight
Notable returners: Ruthy Hebard (14.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 58.8 FG%); Sabrina Ionescu (14.6 PPG, 5.5 APG); Lexi Bando (10.2 PPG, 47.5 3PT%)

Reaching the Elite Eight last March might have accelerated Kelly Graves' rebuilding plan by a year or two. Now come the expectations. His two best players -- Hebard and Ionescu -- are still only sophomores, and the top seven scorers from a year ago are back. Bando and Maite Cazorla are more than just 3-point shooters, but that is their biggest strength. Along with Ionescu, they made the Ducks the most accurate long-range team in the Pac-12 (the Ducks averaged 6.1 3-pointers per game and shot 39.2 percent from beyond the arc). Hebard, already a calm, steady force in the post, led the conference in field goal percentage. The Ducks might have gotten even more versatile with the addition of athletic 6-4 freshman wing Satou Sabally of Germany. With a nonconference schedule that includes games against Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and possible matchups with Louisville and Michigan in the Preseason WNIT, Graves' talented bunch will be even better prepared for a deep tournament run.


9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2016-17 record: 33-4; lost in Elite Eight
Notable returners: Arike Ogunbowale (15.9 PPG, 45.4 3PT%); Marina Mabrey (14.6 PPG, 2.5 APG); Kathryn Westbeld (8.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG)

The personnel losses keep piling up in South Bend. The knee injury suffered by All-American Brianna Turner in the NCAA tournament will keep her out for the season. Freshman Erin Boley, the headliner in last year's recruiting class, has transferred. Senior point guard Mychal Johnson (ACL) is lost for the year. But there's reason for optimism with a quartet of guards -- Ogunbowale, Mabrey, Lili Thompson (Stanford transfer) and Jackie Young -- that should allow Notre Dame to open the floor and play the kind of free-flowing offense with which Muffet McGraw's best teams have excelled. Last week's news that Nebraska transfer Jessica Shepard will be eligible right away gives McGraw a proven veteran scorer and passer with size and softens the blow of Turner's loss. The early reviews of 6-3 freshman center Mikayla Vaughn have been good, and Shepard's presence means Vaughn can ease into the lineup.


10. Louisville Cardinals

2016-17 record: 29-8; lost in Sweet 16
Notable returners: Asia Durr (19.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG); Myisha Hines-Allen Thomas (13.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG); Kylee Shook (5.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG)

Durr, who participated in October's USA Basketball training camp, seems primed to ascend into the nation's elite players. The 5-10 junior set a program record with 119 3-pointers last season and has already been tabbed the ACC preseason player of the year. Coach Jeff Walz might need her to live up to every bit of that early as he figures out the roles of eight freshmen and sophomores on his roster. The explosively quick 5-6 Dana Evans is the best of a highly regarded rookie class and will likely take over point guard duties. Getting the ball to Durr and another potential All-American in Hines-Allen will be her primary role.


11. Duke Blue Devils

2016-17 record: 28-6; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Lexie Brown (18.3 PPG, 3.9 APG); Rebecca Greenwell (16.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG); Leaonna Odom (8.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG)

Duke's offense should look much like it did last year, when Brown and Greenwell combined to take 43 percent of the Blue Devils' overall shots and 82 percent of the 3-point attempts. That's not necessarily a bad thing. They were both first-team All-ACC a year ago, play with a high basketball IQ and get to the free throw line. Finding a better backcourt tandem is difficult. Brown and Greenwell could use some help, though, and a big step forward by sophomore Odom would be a boost. Freshman Mikayla Boykin averaged more than 37 points per game as a high school senior and could also be another weapon. Jade Williams, a 6-5 freshman, could ultimately anchor a defense that is Duke's calling card and was the best in the ACC a year ago.


12. UCLA Bruins

2016-17 record: 25-9; lost in Sweet 16
Notable returners: Jordin Canada (17.8 PPG, 7.1 APG); Monique Billings (16.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG); Kennedy Burke (12.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG)

The Bruins are coming off back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances for the first time in school history. Merely reaching a third straight would be a disappointment. Much of what Cori Close has done to rebuild the program was pointed to this season, Canada's senior year. The ultra-quick, All-American point guard directs much of what the Bruins do on offense but also has plenty of veteran help around her. The 6-4 Billings is one of the best and most versatile post players in the country, while Burke gives UCLA a third double-figure, veteran scorer. Close brought in a top-notch recruiting class headlined by athletic 5-11 forward Michaela Onyenwere, but none of the newcomers address the Bruins' biggest weakness: They shot just 30.5 percent from 3-point range a year ago, and the two shooters who combined for 125 of UCLA's 216 made 3-pointers last season are gone.


13. Tennessee Lady Vols

2016-17 record: 20-12; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Mercedes Russell (16.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG); Jaime Nared (15.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG); Meme Jackson (4.7 PPG, 1.6 APG)

Holly Warlick's top-ranked recruiting class needs to deliver right away. After consecutive tumultuous seasons, graduation losses and program defections (Diamond DeShields, the team's leading scorer at 17.4 PPG a year ago, left the program in June despite having a year of eligibility remaining), the Lady Vols' long-term future might at least partially hinge on how 6-foot Evina Westbrook, considered the top incoming guard in the country, 5-7 point guard Anastasia Hayes and 6-2 guard/forward Rennia Davis perform in their rookie seasons. They will be guided and expected to get the ball to fifth-year senior post Mercedes Russell, who might have more opportunity and incentive to dominate than she ever has. Nared, another senior, will look to be more consistent, and Jackson, a junior, hopes a promising offseason translates into more production.


14. West Virginia Mountaineers

2016-17 record: 24-11; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Tynice Martin (18.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG); Teana Muldrow (14.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG); Chania Ray (8.6 PPG, 5.9 APG)

Despite returning four starters, the reigning Big 12 tournament champion Mountaineers could struggle early. But much like last season, they should be a much better team later in the year. A foot injury to star guard Martin is the primary concern. She is expected to miss games in November and December, and coach Mike Carey lacks the proven depth to compensate. Still, Muldrow is a double-double threat, and Ray led the Big 12 in assists a season ago. Much more is expected of 6-3 senior Kristina King, who was the consensus top junior college player in the country in 2016.


15. Florida State Seminoles

2016-17 record: 28-7; lost in Elite Eight
Notable returners: Shakayla Thomas (14.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG); Chatrice White (8.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG); Imani Wright (10.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG

The Seminoles' nonconference schedule is manageable until back-to-back December games against Arizona State and Texas. That's a good thing for Sue Semrau as she figures out how to best replace 55 percent of her team's assists and almost all of its ballhandling with the graduation losses of Leticia Romero and Brittany Brown. Wright, a senior, might have to take on more playmaking duties, but most of it should fall to TCU graduate transfer AJ Alix (9.6 PPG and 297 3-pointers in three seasons). Thomas, last year's leading scorer and one of the country's best midrange players, remains the primary offensive weapon, and 6-4 White should be even better in her second season in the program.


16. Maryland Terrapins

2016-17 record: 32-3; lost in Sweet 16
Notable returners: Kaila Charles (9.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG); Kristen Confroy (5.1 PPG, 38.3 3PT%); Ieshia Small (5.1 PPG, 2.1 APG)

The opportunity to represent the United States at the World University Games this summer couldn't have come at a better time for Brenda Frese's program. That's because the Terrapins, who have dominated the Big Ten since joining the conference in 2014, will be breaking in a new look in 2018. Gone are top-10 WNBA picks Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the core of three straight Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships, and point guard Destiny Slocum, one of the nation's best freshmen a year ago, who transferred to Oregon State. This year's mix -- led by returning starters Charles and Confroy -- got a chance to work in new roles in Taiwan, where the Terps went 5-1. The hope is that sophomores Blair Watson and Stephanie Jones will make big gains, and that freshman Channise Lewis takes over for Slocum at the point. Florida transfer Eleanna Christinaki, a versatile wing, could provide a huge boost when she becomes eligible in the second semester.


17. Missouri Tigers

2016-17 record: 22-11; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Sophie Cunningham (17.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG); Cierra Porter (13.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG); Jordan Frericks (12.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG in 2015-16)

The day Cunningham committed to Missouri was the biggest moment in Robin Pingeton's eight years in Columbia. Some even bigger moments could on the horizon over the next two years. Entering her junior season Cunningham is one of the best players in the country and the kind of all-around talent who can carry a team to deep NCAA tournament runs. It certainly helps that Jordan Frericks, a second-team All-SEC performer in 2015-16, is back after missing last season with a knee injury. Cierra Porter, a 6-4 junior forward, gives the Tigers size and a third scoring threat as they go about the task of running down South Carolina and Mississippi State in the SEC.


18. Marquette Golden Eagles

2016-17 record: 25-8; lost in NCAA tournament first round
Notable returners: Allazia Blockton (17.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG); Natisha Hiedeman (13.9 PPG, 3.5 APG); Erika Davenport (13.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG

Carolyn Kieger's first true recruiting class has turned around the Golden Eagles. As sophomores a year ago, Blockton, Hiedeman, Davenport and Danielle King led Marquette to a Big East third-place finish, a conference tournament title and its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2011. Now the Golden Eagles are the heavy favorite in the Big East, with Blockton the consensus pick as the league's best player. Road games at Notre Dame, Michigan and Green Bay, plus a neutral site matchup with Tennessee, should have Marquette even better prepared for the NCAA tournament.


19. Oklahoma Sooners

2016-17 record: 23-10; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Maddie Manning (12.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG); Vionise Pierre-Louis (11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG); Gabbi Ortiz (8.9 PPG, 3.7 APG)

The Sooners got a huge boost when Manning was granted a sixth year of eligibility. The leadership, toughness, resolve and basketball IQ of the 6-2 guard will guide Oklahoma as it tries to chase down Baylor and Texas in the Big 12. Point guard Ortiz and post Pierre-Louis are also in their final seasons and hope to get the Sooners back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. Those three will have to carry a big load because the next-highest scorer back from a year ago, LaNesia Williams, averaged just 2.5 PPG. Much will be needed from top recruit, guard Ana Llanusa, the 2017 Oklahoma Gatorade player of the year.


20. South Florida Bulls

2016-17 record: 24-9; lost in NCAA tournament first round
Notable returners: Kitija Laksa (19.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG); Maria Jespersen (14.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG); Tamara Henshaw (7.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG)

The Bulls are as international as any team comes with eight players born outside the United States on their roster, but they are also as experienced as anyone, with four returning starters. Jespersen, a forward from Denmark, and Spanish point guard Laia Flores are poised to become the first graduating class in program history to reach four straight NCAA tournaments. It helps that they are joined by Laksa, a junior from Latvia who was the third-leading scorer in the AAC last season, and Henshaw, the reigning AAC freshman of the year. With UConn looming as the immovable object in the conference, no better than second place seems inevitable, but with a nonconference schedule that includes LSU, Oklahoma, Dayton, Michigan State, Ohio State and possibly Notre Dame (in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament later this month), the Bulls should be more than prepared for the NCAA tournament.


21. Michigan Wolverines

2016-17 record: 28-9; WNIT champions
Notable returners: Katelynn Flaherty (20.2 PPG, 3.0 APG); Hallie Thome (16.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG); Jillian Dunston (5.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG)

Flaherty has quietly become one of the nation's top perimeter scorers during her three seasons in Ann Arbor, but she has yet to play in an NCAA tournament. The Wolverines expect that to change this year. Michigan capped last season's program-record 28 wins with a WNIT championship and should carry that momentum into its first Big Dance appearance since 2013. Thome, a 6-5 junior, provides the inside balance to Flaherty's work on the outside. And if 6-1 freshman Hailey Brown can give coach Kim Barnes Arico similar production to last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, Kysre Gondrezick (who transferred to West Virginia), Michigan should have enough to challenge Maryland for second place in the Big Ten.


22. Oregon State Beavers

2016-17 record: 31-5; lost in Sweet 16
Notable returners: Marie Gulich (9.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG); Mikayla Pivec (7.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG); Kat Tudor (4.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG)

No one single player was as important to her team last season as Sydney Wiese was to the Beavers. She led the team in minutes, scoring, assists, 3-point shooting and free throw percentage. Wiese dictated everything Oregon State did -- and now she's gone. That opens the door for the next wave of talent in the program coach Scott Rueck has built from scratch. Sophomore guard Pivec looks like the player ready to take the mantel from Wiese. Pivec's aggressiveness coupled with added opportunity should translate to more production. Gulich, a 6-5 senior, will have to dominate for longer stretches but could have some help inside from 6-3 freshman Taya Corosdale.


23. California Golden Bears

2016-17 record: 20-14; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Kristine Anigwe (21.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG); Asha Thomas (8.9 PPG, 3.3 APG); Mikayla Cowling (8.6 PPG, 4.7 APG)

With a roster full of returning veterans and Anigwe, a junior forward, primed to ascend to the top players in the game, the Bears should have an easier time reaching the NCAA tournament than they last season, when they were among the last four in. Much of that will depend on the guard play and perimeter shooting that lacked consistency a year ago. Point guard Thomas should get more help if sophomores Mi'Cole Cayton and Jaelyn Brown are improved, and freshman Kianna Smith plays like the top-20 recruit she was. Cowling, a senior wing, was Cal's leader in assists, steals, free throw percentage and minutes a year ago and is the glue.


24. Texas A&M Aggies

2016-17 record: 22-12; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Khaalia Hillsman (16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG); Danni Williams (16.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG); Anriel Howard (10.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG)

Freshman Chennedy Carter begins her career in College Station with plenty of expectations and just as much responsibility, replacing the national leader in assists last season in Curtyce Knox (8.9 APG). Fortunately for Gary Blair and his otherwise veteran Aggies' team, his new point guard also comes with plenty of talent and confidence. The 5-7 Arlington, Texas, native is the No. 2-rated point guard in this year's freshman class and could also add some scoring punch to help Williams and Hillsman, who combined to scored 48 percent of the Aggies' offense in 2016-17. Howard needs to improve her offensive efficiency, but at just 5-11, she is the SEC's top returning rebounder and one of the best in the country.


25. Arizona State Sun Devils

2016-17 record: 20-13; lost in NCAA tournament second round
Notable returners: Reili Richardson (8.4 PPG, 3.8 APG); Sabrina Haines (6.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG); Robbi Ryan (6.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG)

During South Carolina's run to its first national championship, the toughest game the Gamecocks faced in the tournament was against Charli Turner Thorne's Sun Devils. Arizona State always seems to be a tough out. That shouldn't change in 2018 even though Turner Thorne will have to orchestrate a transition from a post-oriented offense to one dominated by the backcourt. Hard-nosed and highly regarded guards Richardson and Ryan move into their sophomore years and will have all-time ASU great Briann January to help them in her first season as an assistant coach. The duo, along with junior guard Haines, will have to score more to compensate for the nearly 29 PPG lost with the graduations of the reliable frontcourt trio of Sophie Brunner, Quinn Dornstauder and Kelsey Moos. The healthy return of 6-1 sophomore Jamie Ruden and the early development of 6-5 freshman Eva Rubin will determine how guard-heavy the Sun Devils will have to be.

Also receiving votes: Belmont, DePaul, Indiana, LSU

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