Five questions for the 2015-16 women's college basketball season

Leticia Romero and Florida State reached the Elite Eight last season and start at No. 8 in espnW's preseason top 25. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

A new season brings new questions, even if we start with one that sounds distinctly familiar.

How many teams can make a case as Connecticut's toughest test?

Eight. Moving on to the next question. Wait, there is supposed to be an explanation, too? Fine.

Because they are: South Carolina

This is admittedly kind of an exclusive club.

Because of what they added: Baylor, Ohio State, Tennessee

Baylor and Tennessee add stars with previous NCAA tournament experience. We'll get to them momentarily. The stars were in place at Ohio State with Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kelsey Mitchell, the first freshman to lead the nation in scoring, and Ameryst Alston. But the return of four players who missed all or most of last season with injuries fills out Final Four-caliber depth.

Because of their coaches: Louisville, Notre Dame

It's not so much that Jeff Walz and Muffet McGraw can win games on their own, but two of the best minds in the sport should be able to get the most out of talented freshmen who have the potential to turn very good teams into title contenders. If you hear a lot about Louisville's Asia Durr, Erin DeGrate and Brianna Jones (and that's just part of the class), and Notre Dame's Ali Patberg, Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, these teams could end up in Indianapolis.

Because continuity helps: Florida State, Oregon State

Unranked when Leticia Romero gained eligibility at midseason, Florida State was good enough in March to push South Carolina to the wire in the Elite Eight. Oregon State returns the key trio of Ruth Hamblin, Jamie Weisner and Sydney Wiese from a Pac-12 championship breakthrough.

Hey, remember me?

Rachel Banham, Minnesota: She is the lone player here who isn't in a new home, but it's worth remembering that while Amanda Zahui B left for the WNBA, one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball is back for a fifth season after she was limited to 10 games a season ago because of a torn ACL.

Natalie Butler, Connecticut: Last we saw Butler, she ranked fifth in the nation at 13.3 rebounds per game as a freshman for Georgetown in 2013. That was four rebounds per game better than anyone on the Connecticut team that season. In fact, it's more than two rebounds per game better than any Huskies player averaged in the Geno Auriemma era. A thumb injury means she won't make her debut until December, but the rich will get richer with a true post.

Kyndal Clark, Nebraska: How would the best player in a mid-major conference fare in a major conference? It's no longer a thought experiment. The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2013-14 at Drake, Clark suffered a season-ending injury after 37 minutes a season ago. Now she's a graduate transfer eligible immediately and brings 3-point shooting to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Diamond DeShields, Tennessee: DeShields is seemingly the most anticipated transfer since Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message (we can only assume it was his letter of intent). She brings excitement, charisma and oodles of talent to Knoxville, Tennessee. That said, the 2010-11 season was the last in which a Lady Vols player committed 100 turnovers. DeShields committed 122 in her lone season at North Carolina. Give her and them some time to grow together.

Alexis Jones, Baylor: She was one of the most complete guards in the ACC two seasons ago, so expect the same in the Big 12. Jones should be the secondary scorer that Baylor provided by committee around Nina Davis a season ago, as well as relief for Niya Johnson.

Which sequels will we have to wait a year to see?

Lexie Brown, Maryland to Duke: She was Maryland's leading scorer in three Big Ten tournament games and in the Elite Eight win against Tennessee. Prematurely losing her, in addition to Laurin Mincy exhausting her eligibility, removes nearly 50 percent of the Big Ten team's assists.

Allisha Gray, North Carolina to South Carolina: Part of the exodus from Chapel Hill, along with Stephanie Mavunga below and Jessica Washington to Kansas. Her efficiency dipped without DeShields a season ago, but she's still one of the most complete players in the college game.

Precious Hall, James Madison: She isn't going anywhere, but the Colonial Athletic Association's reigning Player of the Year and most prolific scorer will miss the season after suffering a torn ACL in the offseason. She would have been one of 17 returning 20-point-per-game scorers nationally.

Linnae Harper, Kentucky to TBD: A late transfer decision removes one of the most mesmerizing athletes. Among the fastest players, the 5-foot-8 Harper also averaged 7.1 rebounds per game. She was the leading bench scorer for Team USA in the Pan-American Games during the summer.

Stephanie Mavunga, North Carolina to Ohio State: Along with Duke transfer Sierra Calhoun, she will have Ohio State fans eagerly anticipating the 2016-17 season, even as they enjoy this one. Without her, North Carolina has Xylina McDaniel and then a whole lot of questions inside.

Who are five players we should go out of our way to watch?

Kim Demmings, Wright State: She is the Preseason Player of the Year in the Horizon League and was that league's Player of the Year at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Between the two awards, she played barely a minute before a broken foot ended her 2014-15 campaign.

Lexi Eaton, BYU: If last season wasn't an aberration, the sky is the limit. And there is a lot of sky out West. A prolific scorer who not only averaged five 3-pointers per game but seven free throw attempts a season ago, she changed the adjective about her game from reckless to fearless.

Kelsey Minato, Army: Every person in every Patriot League gym knows who Army wants to run its offense through, and still the 5-8 Minato not only scores but scores efficiently. She averaged 22.3 points per game a season ago and committed just 42 turnovers in 1,186 minutes.

Funda Nakkasoglu, Utah State: Only a sophomore and still the only returning starter for a Utah State team that has its work cut out for it, the Australian averaged 17.4 points and 4.7 assists in her debut last season. The edges need polish, but she has the style and tools to wow you.

Whitney Knight, Florida Gulf Coast: Do you know a lot of players who lead a conference in 3-point shooting and rank second in blocked shots? The 6-3 redshirt senior and reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year has a WNBA skill set.

Which big-time programs have something to prove this season?

Michigan State: The Spartans have one of the nation's most talented players in Aerial Powers, but she and preseason all-conference guard Tori Jankoska seem destined to exist on teams that are either young, bitten by bad luck or both. You can't win a national title with two players, but can we agree that the Spartans shouldn't miss the NCAA tournament again?

Texas: Expectations perhaps raced ahead of reality when Texas soared in the polls last fall, but so, too, did doubts outpace reason when a string of losses followed Nneka Enemkpali's season-ending injury. Forget the blowout loss against Connecticut; wins against Western Kentucky and Cal to reach the Sweet 16 spoke to how the Longhorns closed the season. With all sorts of size, what's the next step in reclaiming elite status?

Texas A&M: If Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams didn't share a first name, making it open season on clever wordplay, would expectations be different and perhaps more reasonable? As it is, a 23-10 season felt like a letdown from a team that was ranked fifth in the preseason. With most of that cast back this season, including the Courtneys, the Aggies will try again.

UCLA: The Bruins had five of the top-40 recruits a season ago and four top-100 recruits in the two seasons preceding that. Yet after a 26-8 record with veterans in 2012-13, the past two seasons produced a combined 32-36 record. Injuries can't be controlled. Bad luck happens. The past two seasons can be explained. But a third season of the same? Not so much.