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2014-15 season covered from A to Z

Is this season just another Connecticut coronation? Is South Carolina ready to disrupt the Huskies' party in Tampa? Will the new-look ACC provide a championship contender? Or how about a deeper, more balanced Pac-12? Good questions all.

And this final question: How could we possibly begin a new season without playing our annual game of A to Z?

A: A'ja Wilson, the nation's top recruit, will begin her collegiate career at South Carolina. She joins a loaded, experienced Gamecocks squad that is hoping to ruin Connecticut's chances at a third straight title.

B: Breanna Stewart might have something to say about that. The Huskies' superstar junior is the undisputed best player in the country. Her game is rounding into one of the best on the planet. And she has the keys to the nation's best program. It's probably going to be a very good year for "Stewie."

C: Cynthia Cooper returned USC, her alma mater, to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 last season. Then she fired most of her coaching staff and faced the dismissal of last season's leading scorer for disciplinary reasons. Will Coop's second season in a competitive Pac-12 be a step forward or a sophomore slump?

D: Dawn Staley has Olympic gold medals and a spot in the basketball Hall of Fame, and now she is coaching one of the toughest, most talented basketball teams of the year in South Carolina. She has young stars, veterans such as Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch, and expectations have never been higher. Here's betting the old point guard will handle it just fine.

E: Elizabeth Williams is one of the top post players in the country and has been a linchpin player for Duke since she arrived as a highly touted freshman. But she has yet to play in a Final Four. Can Williams lift a team full of new faces to the final weekend?

F: Format changes for the postseason go into effect in the 2015 NCAA tournament, primarily the move to a Friday-Monday schedule for the first and second rounds and the regionals.

G: Gonzaga has a new head coach for the first time in 14 years after Kelly Graves left for Oregon. Can the Zags maintain their status as one of the nation's best mid-majors under new head coach Lisa Fortier?

H: Hurricanes coach Katie Meier set an intriguing precedent when she got a new contract at Miami and then donated $75,000 to support women's sports in the athletic department (and got several longtime Miami supporters to follow suit).

I: Irish reset again. Notre Dame again attempts to move forward by leaps and bounds after the departure of star players -- this time Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa. The frontcourt will be deep and junior guard Jewell Loyd will be the center of a program that always seems to find a way to stay among the elite.

J: Jude Schimmel will step out of big sister Shoni's shadow this year to lead a Louisville team that will begin its first season in the ACC.

K: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut's senior wing, is the best shooter in the game, and she's looking to put her star-crossed junior season in the rearview mirror. She's healthy and ready to re-assert herself as one of the nation's best players.

L: The Lady Vols haven't won a national title -- or been back to a Final Four -- since 2008. A core group of three seniors -- guard Ariel Massengale, center Isabelle Harrison and forward Cierra Burdick -- will try to return to the program to the top of the sport.

M: Maryland will get its first taste of life in the Big Ten this season -- and immediately gets a taste of big expectations as the Terps come in as the favorites to win the conference title.

N: Nneka Enemkpali has a first name that women's basketball fans know well, and a game that people are about to know better as the Longhorns' resurgence picks up steam. Texas was tabbed to win the Big 12 for the first time since Jody Conradt was the coach.

O: Officiating was one of the major storylines in the game with major changes last year, including stricter rules to facilitate freedom of movement by offensive players and hand-check rules. It will be interesting to see how teams have adjusted in year two.

P: The Pac-12 isn't as strong as the SEC, but no conference will be more compelling than what will happen out west this season. Stanford will be legitimately challenged by Cal, Oregon State and UCLA, and the state of the standings should be fascinating to watch. This could be the season when at least six Pac-12 teams make the NCAA field in March.

Q: Quality games will litter the landscape as the first month of the season is chock-full of big-time matchups, including Texas A&M at DePaul (Nov. 14), Connecticut at Stanford (ESPN2, Nov. 17), Tennessee at Texas (Nov. 30) and Baylor at Kentucky (ESPN2, Nov. 17).

R: Richmond will have the sympathy and good thoughts of the entire sport this season, as the program forges on following the deaths of associate head coach Ginny Doyle and operations director Natalie Lewis. Doyle and Lewis died in May in a hot-air balloon accident.

S: Seeds are back in style in women's college basketball. The top 16 seeds will host first- and second-round NCAA tournament games for the first time since 2001. It's a big reward for the nation's top teams, one that could well pave the way to the Sweet 16. And it ends the practice of forcing higher-seeded teams to play on the predetermined home court of lower seeds.

T: Tampa, Florida, hosts the Final Four again for the first time since 2008. And it was a star-studded affair that season, with the likes of Maya Moore, Candace Parker and Candice Wiggins playing for the big trophy.

U: UCLA has the nation's top recruiting class and a nowhere-to-go-but-up attitude after barely getting through the season with an intact roster after a string of injuries in 2013-14.

V: Victories are piling up in the career totals for Connecticut's Geno Auriemma. The Huskies coach needs 21 wins to reach 900 for his career. If we are doing the right math, the milestone should happen around Feb. 1 at Temple -- which happens to be UConn's 21st game of the season.

W: The WNBA is watching patiently for Stewart's arrival next year. In the meantime, who will be the league's No. 1 pick in April?

X: Xylina McDaniel is the repeat winner of the "X" on our list. The junior forward becomes the anchor of a North Carolina team that is welcoming back coach Sylvia Hatchell, who missed last season battling leukemia, and moves on without Diamond DeShields, who left after one season and transferred to Tennessee.

Y: Yet another Ogwumike has entered the ranks of women's college basketball. Olivia, a 5-foot-11 forward and the third sister of the four Ogwumike siblings, begins her career at Pepperdine this fall.

Z: We predict UConn will lose zero games this season. Again.