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The top 25 women's basketball players for 2017-18

Women's College Basketball, Tennessee Lady Vols, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins

Who are the most talented women's college basketball players in the country? From whom do we expect big things this season? Who are the front-runners for national player of the year? After tallying the votes from Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel, espnW ranked the best players in the nation. (Note: Players suspended for the first semester were not eligible.)

1. A'ja Wilson, South Carolina, F, 6-foot-5, senior

2016-17: 17.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 90 blocked shots

She was the Final Four's most outstanding player and was also named the SEC's player of the year for the second season in a row. Now, with three starters gone from last year, South Carolina needs even more leadership from Wilson, the hometown hero who led the Gamecocks to their first NCAA title. Coach Dawn Staley also wants Wilson to expand her range with an eye toward the WNBA. -- Mechelle Voepel


2. Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State, G, 5-foot-8, senior

2016-17: 22.6 PPG, 3.9 APG, 36.9 3-point field goal percentage

Mitchell is the most aggressive offensive player in the country with the ball in her left hand in the open floor. She is a relentless attacker who also has a deep shooting range, but an explosive first step remains Mitchell's greatest weapon. With more help around her, Mitchell's scoring average dipped 3.5 PPG from her sophomore to junior season, yet she is still within striking distance -- albeit a long shot at 924 points away -- of the NCAA's all-time scoring record set by Kelsey Plum last season. Scoring record or not, no player is as capable of taking over a game in the blink of an eye. -- Charlie Creme


3. Napheesa Collier, UConn, F, 6-foot-1, junior

2016-17: 20.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 67.8 field goal percentage

UConn might be the gold standard of sharing the ball, but only six returning players in the nation averaged more points per game a season ago than Collier. Her coach didn't win all those titles by thinking his genius is more important than talent. To average more than 20 points and miss fewer than four shots per game is remarkable. Even teammate Katie Lou Samuelson, a model of efficiency, missed nearly twice as many shots per game. And from a judicious 3-point touch to averaging better than two blocks per game, Collier is far from one-dimensional. -- Graham Hays


4. Gabby Williams, UConn, F, 5-foot-11, senior

2016-17: 14.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.1 APG

Few players anywhere can stuff a stat sheet like Williams, who also had 100 steals and 52 blocked shots last season. Because of UConn's personnel, she often guarded much bigger players using her athleticism. This year, the Huskies have more size, and Williams should be able to spend more time on the perimeter. Wherever she is, though, she makes an impact. -- Mechelle Voepel


5. Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn, G/F, 6-foot-3, junior

2016-17: 20.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 42.0 3-point field goal percentage

UConn coach Geno Auriemma will probably still make jokes about the Californian's West Coast mellowness or defensive willingness, but the rest of the country is doing its best to avoid antagonizing her. It is difficult enough to defend a 6-foot-3 player who makes 3-pointers look like free throws. But as good as Sameulson is from deep, she proved a season ago to be a complete offensive player. Take away the 3-point line and she still would have averaged 17 points a game, more than Louisville's Asia Durr and almost as many as South Carolina's A'ja Wilson. -- Graham Hays

6. Jordin Canada, UCLA, G, 5-foot-6, senior

2016-17: 17.8 PPG, 7.1 APG, 43.4 field goal percentage

Quietly competitive, Canada has slowly transformed into a more vocal leader her senior year, hoping to lead a program she is largely responsible for resurrecting to its first Final Four. A drive-and-dish point guard with a dangerous first step and great quickness, Canada ranked ninth in the country and first in the Pac-12 in assists per game a season ago. Canada also established a career high in points per game and vastly improved her deep-shooting accuracy, the biggest weakness in her game. If the jump shot continues to evolve, Canada becomes nearly impossible to guard one-on-one. -- Charlie Creme


7. Asia Durr, Louisville, G, 5-foot-10, junior

2016-17: 19.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 40.5 3-point field goal percentage

There are players who will average more points or shoot a better percentage from the 3-point line, although neither list will be that long. But there is no more stomach-churning experience for an opponent than watching Durr hit a couple of shots in a row and knowing they are the first stray pebbles of an avalanche. Healthy last season after an injury-plagued freshman campaign, she proved to be among the most difficult players to defend. With her range, quick release and ability off the dribble, she already has a professional offensive game. -- Graham Hays


8. Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon, G, 5-foot-10, sophomore

2016-17: 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.5 APG

Make no mistake, it's substance more than style that makes Ionescu valuable on a basketball court. Like former Oklahoma star Stacey Dales for a new generation, Ionescu runs a game like a point guard, rebounds like a small forward and, when called upon, scores like a superstar. She does all of it efficiently, posting a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting better than 40 percent from the 3-point line and 80 percent from the free throw line. All substance. But for a program still establishing itself, Ionescu's style and flair -- her willingness to find the spotlight -- are invaluable. -- Graham Hays


9. Azur√° Stevens, UConn, F, 6-foot-6, junior

2015-16 (at Duke): 18.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 53.5 field goal percentage

She possesses the ballhandling and shooting skills some players 6 inches shorter don't have. Stevens is also smooth and strong in the paint, can block shots and rebound. On a team with four All-Americans she might have been the best player in practice last season while she sat out after transferring from Duke. How her vast individual skills mesh with UConn's existing talent will be one of the most interesting storylines in November and December. -- Charlie Creme


10. Kalani Brown, Baylor, C, 6-foot-7, junior

2016-17: 15.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 67.9 field goal percentage

Her field goal percentage is the best for any returning Division I player. That's important for a Baylor team that again needs her to be the focus of the offense but has less-experienced help than last year. Baylor lost three starters, so defenses will be keying on Brown as other players look to step into bigger roles. Her strength and finishing touch are top notch. -- Mechelle Voepel


11. Lexie Brown, Duke, G, 5-foot-9, senior

2016-17: 18.3 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.7 RPG

Two players accounted for nearly 50 percent of Duke's field goal attempts a season ago, which made it all the more impressive that Brown was among the nation's most efficient scorers. She came within five missed field goals, over the course of 34 games, of shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the free throw line, the holy trinity of offensive efficiency. That she did it while also leading the team in assists speaks volumes about one of the nation's smoothest guards. -- Graham Hays


12. Kristine Anigwe, California, C/F, 6-foot-4, junior

2016-17: 21.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 56.6 field goal percentage

In a day when so many players want to stalk the perimeter, shoot 3-pointers and lead the break, Anigwe is a throwback. She wants to post up, demand the ball on the low block and get to the rim, the closer the better. That's exactly how she put up a 50-point game last season, nearly averaged a double-double, led the nation in 20-point, 10-rebound games, and was sixth in the country in free throw attempts despite seeing regular double-teams. -- Charlie Creme


13. Sophie Cunningham, Missouri, G, 6-foot-1, junior

2016-17: 17.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.4 APG

She was fourth in the SEC in scoring last season as the Tigers finished tied for third in the league. Cunningham endured a lot of back pain throughout last season, but still played in all but two games. She spent the summer focusing on getting healthier and starts this season feeling better. She's capable of becoming an even more effective offensive force, perhaps with a bit more finesse. -- Mechelle Voepel


14. Kia Nurse, UConn, G, 6-foot-0, senior

2016-17: 12.7 PPG, 3.9 APG, 46.2 3-point field goal percentage

On teams with less talent, Nurse would be a star, a big-time scorer who gets to dominate. At UConn she has become a better basketball player. Shooter and defender are her primary skill sets, but finding a distinct weakness in Nurse's game is difficult. She is the undisputed leader of a Huskies team poised to dominate again this season, and Nurse's value was highlighted when UConn nearly lost at Tulane in February without her. -- Charlie Creme


15. Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame, G, 5-foot-8, junior

2016-17: 15.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 45.4 3-point field goal percentage

Never lacking in confidence with the ball in her hands, Ogunbowale has become one of the most creative and exciting players in the game. She is equal parts deep shooter, innovative slasher and skilled post-up player, making her a difficult matchup for any defender. Ogunbowale was Notre Dame's most accurate 3-point shooter and also got to the free throw line more than anyone on the team last season except forward Brianna Turner. With Turner out for the season as she continues to rehab a torn ACL, expect coach Muffet McGraw to employ a four-guard lineup and use Ogunbowale in a variety of roles, trying to attack each opponent's biggest weakness. -- Charlie Creme

16. Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State, F, 6-foot-1, senior

2016-17: 16.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 APG

Scoring always has been her identity as a player, but the Bulldogs need her to stay engaged in the action even when her shot is not working. And it often didn't work from behind the arc (64-of-228, 28.1 percent) last season. Mississippi State's personnel losses also mean coach Vic Schaefer needs more on the boards from Vivians. She's capable of having a big final season for the Bulldogs. -- Mechelle Voepel


17. Tynice Martin, West Virginia, G, 5-foot-11, junior

2016-17: 18.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG

Playing with a fearlessness not often seen in a sophomore on the big stage, Martin put West Virginia on her back last spring and carried the Mountaineers to the Big 12 tournament championship. She averaged 27.3 PPG as West Virginia upset top-10 opponents Texas and Baylor. However, a foot injury suffered during tryouts for the U23 national team in July halted that momentum. Martin likely will have to wait until late December or early January to continue that electrifying play that made her a first-team All-Big 12 selection. -- Charlie Creme


18. Rebecca Greenwell, Duke, G, 6-foot-1, senior

2016-17: 16.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.4 APG

Greenwell arrived at Duke as an almost folkloric shooter, and after sitting out her freshman year with an injury, she became one of the most consistent long-range shooters in ACC history. But through some trying seasons, Duke has needed her to be more than merely a markswoman. She led the Blue Devils in rebounding a season ago, one of only two ACC players to lead a team in boards and 3-point shooting. She also set a career high in assists to help free up guard Lexie Brown. -- Graham Hays


19. Shakayla Thomas, Florida State, F, 5-foot-11, senior

2016-17: 14.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 49.4 field goal percentage

The reigning ACC player of the year, Thomas has anchored the most successful three-year period in the history of Florida State's program. She combines a scorer's mentality with superior physical strength and an explosive leaping ability that belies her size. Thomas always seems to find cracks in defenses that don't appear to have any. She has one of the most reliable and dynamic midrange games in the country. -- Charlie Creme


20. Brooke McCarty, Texas, G, 5-foot-4, senior

2016-17: 14.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 43.0 3-point field goal percentage

Officially, McCarty is the reigning Big 12 player of the year and the first Longhorn ever to win that award. Unofficially, the shortest player in our rankings might well be the best inch-for-inch player in the land. There is an intangible quality to what makes her special, an ease of manner at full speed that catches the eye. But she also brings ample tangible statistical evidence of maturing into one of the most efficient lead guards in the country. -- Graham Hays


21. Mercedes Russell, Tennessee, C, 6-foot-6, senior

2016-17: 16.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 56.2 field goal percentage

She greatly improved scoring consistency as a junior, including progressing at the free throw line (67.1 percent, up from 54.5 as sophomore). Some thought she might jump to the WNBA. (She was eligible, as she has been in school four years, having sat out 2014-15 with injury.) But Russell stayed to help guide a Tennessee team that has promise but really needs her to lead. -- Mechelle Voepel


22. Monique Billings, UCLA, F, 6-foot-4, senior

2016-17: 16.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.9 BPG

Any post player benefits from the proximity of a point guard such as UCLA's Jordin Canada, but make no mistake: Canada also finds life made easier by having Billings around. Those two spent part of their summer together on a loaded United States Under-23 national team, which should only help their chemistry this season. Billings had more defensive rebounds than any two teammates combined a season ago and very nearly did the same with offensive rebounds. -- Graham Hays


23. Morgan William, Mississippi State, G, 5-foot-5, senior

2016-17: 10.9 PPG, 4.6 APG, 1.5 SPG

She'll always be remembered for the shot that beat UConn in the national semifinals and her school-record 41 points in the Elite Eight overtime win against Baylor. This year, William and the Bulldogs hope to challenge South Carolina for the SEC title and follow up on their Final Four breakthrough. She has started every game for Mississippi State the past two seasons and is fearless about taking charges against much bigger players. -- Mechelle Voepel


24. Myisha Hines-Allen, Louisville, F, 6-foot-2, senior

2016-17: 13.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 49.3 field goal percentage

Almost since her arrival in Louisville, Hines-Allen has established herself as one of the best multidimensional, offensive power forwards in the game. As good as her post-up game is with an uncanny ability to push around her defender, she might be even more dangerous now facing the basket from 15 feet and in, as her jump shot has improved. The ACC player of the year as a sophomore, Hines-Allen took a small step backward a year ago, averaging four fewer points, but she became an even better rebounder. Her 17 double-doubles ranked 12th in the country. -- Charlie Creme


25. Ruthy Hebard, Oregon, F, 6-foot-4, sophomore

2016-17: 14.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 58.8 field goal percentage

Like fellow sophomore Sabrina Ionescu, Hebard had a great debut season last year for Oregon. The Alaska native hit the game-winning shot against Temple in the NCAA tournament's first round and had a double-double against Duke in the second round, as the Ducks ultimately advanced to the Elite Eight. Coach Kelly Graves said Hebard has gotten physically stronger and benefited from USA Basketball play over the summer. -- Mechelle Voepel

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