Ranking the top 25 players in women's college basketball three months into the 2019-20 season

Ionescu has unfinished business in her senior season (3:35)

Go behind the scenes with Sabrina Ionescu and the Oregon Ducks before their big win at UConn. (3:35)

Before the start of the women's college basketball season, we ranked the top 25 players in the nation based mostly on what we saw of them from 2018-19. It's a hard list for a freshman to crack before playing a college game.

But now, nearing mid-February, we're re-ranking the 25 best players. In some ways, it's not any easier. There's fresh data to work with, but there are challenges -- such as how a player ranks when her team isn't doing as well, or when she has missed substantial time due to injuries but has not been ruled out for the season.

The end result is there are eight new players on our list now who weren't there back in November. And in less than a month, these are some of the key names who will be at the center of attention for March Madness.

Just a reminder, these rankings are based on college performance this season and not WNBA potential.

1. Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon Ducks, G, 5-foot-11, senior

Season stats: 17.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 8.5 APG
Preseason ranking: 1

Now with 24 career triple-doubles, Ionescu has been exactly as was expected of her this senior season: a must-watch player who has utilized not just all her weapons, but all of her team's. The Ducks, known more for their offense, have shown strength on both sides of the court this season, and Ionescu has been the consummate leader for them in all regards. -- Mechelle Voepel

2. Lauren Cox, Baylor Lady Bears, F, 6-foot-4, senior

Season stats: 11.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG
Preseason ranking: 2

She dealt with a stress reaction in her right foot in November and December but returned to do whatever is needed for Baylor. That doesn't necessarily mean scoring a lot, but it means facilitating everything else: with her rebounding, defense, passing and leadership. Baylor is just better in every way when Cox is on the floor. -- Mechelle Voepel

3. Rhyne Howard, Kentucky Wildcats, G, 6-foot-2, sophomore

Season stats: 23.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG
Preseason ranking: 17

A big guard with pro-level abilities to create scoring opportunities for herself or teammates, Howard has gone from the best freshman in the nation to one of the best players in the game. The Wildcats survived without Howard in the lineup while she was out with a broken finger on her non-shooting hand, but it was also obvious that they need her (see the recent loss to Florida, a team Kentucky beat by 20 points in January). With a usage rate -- which measures the percentage of a team's plays in which that player is involved -- in the top 10 nationally, and as the SEC's leading scorer, Howard is as vital to her team as any player in the country. -- Charlie Creme

4. Satou Sabally, Oregon Ducks, F, 6-foot-4, junior

Season stats: 16.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG
Preseason ranking: 8

Anyone would benefit from playing alongside Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard. What sets Sabally apart is how clearly players of that caliber benefit from playing alongside her. Rather than being overshadowed, Sabally picks and chooses her moments to take the lead. She's perfectly capable of pulling defenders away from Hebard in the post or doing the pick-and-roll dirty work for Ionescu. She can be the nation's most overqualified complementary piece. But there are also stretches when she is the best player on the court, an uptick in her rebounds and free throw attempts this season evidence of an ever more aggressive -- and unstoppable -- presence. Put it this way: No one in the country more regularly upstages Ionescu. -- Graham Hays

5. Ruthy Hebard, Oregon Ducks, F, 6-foot-4, senior

Season stats: 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG
Preseason ranking: 5

So much of the credit for Oregon's top-rated offense goes to Ionescu, and rightfully so, but Hebard's contributions cannot be diminished. The success of the pick-and-roll that is such a fundamental part of the Ducks' attack is as much about Hebard's ability to catch and finish as is it Ionescu's vision. Field goal accuracy and consistency have been Hebard's calling cards since arriving in Eugene, and with her soft hands and great footwork, she rarely takes a bad shot. Hebard has made nearly 65% of her field goal attempts over her career, and she is shooting 67% for the second straight season. -- Charlie Creme

6. Mikayla Pivec, Oregon State Beavers, G, 5-foot-10, senior

Season stats: 14.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG
Preseason ranking: 13

Is she a point guard who rebounds so relentlessly that she averages close to a double-double? Is she an undersized 3 who sits near the top of the Pac-12 in assists? Is she the ultimate ensemble piece or the most unselfish soloist? Pivec is a basketball platypus, unlike just about anyone else but perfectly suited to her environment at Oregon State. On a team that depends on a lot of experienced 3-point shooting and inexperienced post talent, Pivec offers a middle ground. She keeps the ball moving to find the shooters or the posts, wins second chances with rebounds and sniffs out angles that few others see to get her own points. -- Graham Hays

7. Dana Evans, Louisville Cardinals, G, 5-foot-6, junior

Season stats: 18.5 PPG, 4.3 APG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

No player made a bigger jump from the preseason rankings. Blame us, but it also speaks to what Evans has done with the opportunity presented by Asia Durr's departure. A prolific scorer in her own right in high school, Evans understandably fell into the role of playmaker and defensive stopper when Durr was around. She also clearly didn't forget how to be the star of the show. She has already attempted more free throws than she did all of last season (and might attempt more than her first two seasons combined). And shooting better than 90% from the free throw line, while also better than 40% from the 3-point line, is a good way for one of college basketball's quickest players to drive opposing defenses to distraction. -- Graham Hays

8. Megan Walker, UConn Huskies, F, 6-foot-1, junior

Season stats: 19.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG
Preseason ranking: 15

It took two seasons of learning and playing behind some transcendent talent, but Walker is now the All-American Geno Auriemma planned for her to be when she was the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class. The improvement has been steady from 5.8 points per game as freshman to 12.1 as sophomore to 19.0 this season. With Crystal Dangerfield and Christyn Williams by her side on the perimeter, Walker has help, but she has established herself as the Huskies' clear No. 1 scoring option and a versatile offensive player. The next step is more efficiency in UConn's biggest games. She shot just a combined 22% in games against Baylor, Tennessee and Oregon. The Huskies will need better from their best player if a 13th consecutive Final Four is to happen. -- Charlie Creme

9. Aari McDonald, Arizona Wildcats, G, 5-foot-6, junior

Season stats: 20.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG
Preseason ranking: 12

How transformative is she? In 2018, when she was sitting out her transfer year from Washington, the Wildcats won six games. Last season, McDonald was the nation's third-leading scorer (24.1 PPG) and Arizona won the WNIT. The scoring average is down a little, but the contributions and results are even better. The Wildcats are certain to make their first NCAA tournament since 2005 and also could host first- and second-round games. Few players are as fast over 94 feet as McDonald, and that speed makes her nearly unstoppable in transition and is the primary ingredient in Arizona's pick-and-roll offense. -- Charlie Creme

10. Chennedy Carter, Texas A&M Aggies, G, 5-foot-7, junior

Season stats: 20.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG
Preseason ranking: 3

There isn't a more ball-dominant player in the game today than Carter. Nor is there a more dominant player with the ball in her hands. Her deep shooting range combined the ability to turn the corner and get to the rim or pull up at full speed makes Carter the complete offensive package. Her game has been criticized for being too individualistic, but having a player who can always get her shot is a nice luxury to have. While she has been sidelined over the past seven games by an ankle injury suffered Jan. 9, Texas A&M has gone 4-3 -- and averaged just 56.3 points in the three games against ranked teams in that stretch. -- Charlie Creme

11. Elissa Cunane, NC State Wolfpack, C, 6-foot-5, sophomore

Season stats: 17.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

It's no surprise that in the only game the Wolfpack have lost this season, to North Carolina, Cunane was held to just eight points and struggled shooting. That just doesn't happen much to the sophomore who is averaging a double-double and has become one of the top low-block threats in the country. She can also step outside and hit some shots, too. -- Mechelle Voepel

12. Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA Bruins, F, 6-foot, junior

Season stats: 19.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG
Preseason ranking: 11

As Onyenwere's game continues to develop it helps that she is simply a better athlete than almost anyone she faces. She has scored more than 20 points in 11 games and remains the chief reason why UCLA is just a game behind Oregon in the Pac-12 race. -- Charlie Creme

13. Aliyah Boston, South Carolina Gamecocks, F, 6-foot-5, freshman

Season stats: 13.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

Much was expected of the freshman, and she has delivered. She's the leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker for the top-ranked team in the country, shooting better than 60% from the field and nearly 80% from the foul line. She has also shown a lot of maturity and court presence beyond her years. -- Mechelle Voepel

14. Christyn Williams, UConn Huskies, G, 5-foot-11, sophomore

Season stats: 14.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG
Preseason ranking: 10

The most physically gifted of UConn's core four players, Williams has spent much of the first half of the season trying to grow that natural talent into a more well-rounded game. Her rebounding and assists numbers are up, but it's still her natural scoring ability, even if she is in a self-described shooting slump, that sets her apart. An outstanding finisher in transition, Williams also possesses a midrange game that is rare today. Her task now is to put all of her vast tools together and play with the consistency typically demanded at UConn. -- Charlie Creme

15. Crystal Dangerfield, UConn Huskies, G, 5-foot-5, senior

Season stats: 16.0 PPG, 4.0 APG
Preseason ranking: 6

The expression on Dangerfield's face rarely changes, but her game has. With a steely-eyed glare of focus, Dangerfield is still a facilitator first, but at the behest of coach Auriemma now looks for her own shot more often. Not many higher compliments exist than getting Auriemma's full trust. While her assists are down, Dangerfield runs an offense that remains top 10 in the country in assists per game. She has become the Huskies' best and most frequent 3-point shooter and their unquestioned on-court leader. -- Charlie Creme

16. Tyasha Harris, South Carolina Gamecocks, G, 5-foot-10, senior

Season stats: 12.1 PPG, 5.5 APG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

She has quietly had one of the great careers in Gamecocks history. Harris is rarely the center of attention, but she is always a motor making things run smoothly as point guard. The senior has dealt well with three freshmen in the starting lineup and can be counted on to not get rattled or turn over the ball even in the toughest and tightest of games. -- Mechelle Voepel

17. Kathleen Doyle, Iowa Hawkeyes, G, 5-foot-9, senior

Season stats: 18.7 PPG, 6.5 APG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

Iowa was supposed to struggle this season without Megan Gustafson, but the Hawkeyes have won 11 of 12 games and are ranked 17th with a 20-4 record. That's in large part because of Doyle. She has more career assists than any active player not named Sabrina Ionescu, but she has also become one of the Big Ten's best scorers. Her ability to get inside and either finish or get to the free throw line serves as an unconventional way to replace Gustafson. -- Graham Hays

18. Rennia Davis, Tennessee Lady Vols, G/F, 6-foot-2, junior

Season stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

A good auxiliary player in her first two seasons in Knoxville, Davis is now the go-to scorer for the Lady Vols, hitting double figures in all but one game this season. Her field goal accuracy and scoring have improved from her sophomore year even though she draws the best defenders and most attention from any opponent. In a season that has been better than expected for Tennessee, Davis has been the catalyst, drawing praise from coach Kellie Harper in her willingness to take the big shot. The evidence is there. Davis' buzzer-beater against Alabama and 30-point performance against LSU marked the two biggest wins of the season for the Lady Vols, now in third place in the SEC. -- Charlie Creme

19. Destiny Slocum, Oregon State Beavers, G, 5-foot-7, junior

Season stats: 14.6 PPG, 4.9 APG
Preseason ranking: 9

She is putting up almost identical numbers to a season ago. Her team, conference struggles aside, remains in the thick of the national race. So it's probably not fair that Slocum dropped this far from her preseason position. It isn't even necessarily a negative that she hasn't improved on last season's scoring numbers -- it's at least in part a sign of how well young posts Taylor Jones and Kennedy Brown are coming along in what will always be a balanced offense. If Slocum is one of the 19 best players in the country, she's doing just fine. And just over halfway into her playing eligibility with Oregon State, there's still time for her to reach another level. -- Graham Hays

20. Kiah Gillespie, Florida State Seminoles, F, 6-foot-2, senior

Season stats: 15.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG
Preseason ranking: 21

Playing big in big games has become Gillespie's calling card. She averaged 23 points per game against Florida State's three highest-ranked opponents: Texas A&M, NC State and Louisville. The Seminoles won all but one of those games (NC State), and behind Gillespie's leadership, they are still in the hunt for a top-four NCAA tournament seed. Gillespie, with 10 double-doubles on the season, is productive from anywhere on the court, but it's her rebounding, fourth-best in the ACC, that jump starts her game. -- Charlie Creme

21. Ashley Joens, Iowa State Cyclones, G/F, 6-foot, sophomore

Season stats: 21.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

Ranked six spots ahead of Rhyne Howard among last season's top-100 recruits, she has done a better job than just about anyone else in her class of keeping pace with the Kentucky superstar. Joens gets to the free throw line more than almost anyone in the country, averages double-digit rebounds and still shows off a good 3-point touch. She dislocated a shoulder shortly after halftime of a recent game against Oklahoma and still came back to hit key free throws down the stretch while finishing with 17 points and 15 rebounds in a win. -- Graham Hays

22. NaLyssa Smith, Baylor Lady Bears, F, 6-foot-2, sophomore

Season stats: 14.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG
Preseason ranking: Not ranked

A key player as a freshman on the Lady Bears' national championship team last year, she's filling an even bigger role this season as their leading scorer. Smith is explosively quick and can get to the rim against anyone, plus she frequently hurts opponents on the offensive glass with her putback prowess. Like the team as a whole, she's strong defensively, too. -- Mechelle Voepel

23. Kiana Williams, Stanford Cardinal, G, 5-foot-8, junior

Season stats: 13.0 PPG, 3.9 APG
Preseason ranking: 14

As deep, balanced and ball-sharing conscious as the Cardinal offense is, it's Williams who makes it all go. As Stanford has incorporated youth into the lineup and navigated some injuries, Williams and her quiet confidence has been the steadying presence. She is the only Stanford player topping 30 minutes per game and is also Stanford's second-leading scorer and 3-point shooter and top free throw shooter. -- Charlie Creme

24. Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas Razorbacks, G, 5-foot-11, junior

Season stats: 18.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG
Preseason ranking: 18

Coming off a tough six-game stretch in which she averaged just 10.3 points per game, Dungee on Sunday got back to being the player who earned a place on this list with 24 points in an important win over Kentucky. She drove aggressively to the basket, expertly finished at the rim, used high ball screens to open up 3-point shooting space and excelled in transition, all attributes that got her noticed on the national scene toward the end of last season. The backbone of her game is that aggressiveness and the confidence that comes with it, something the Razorbacks will need as they hit the key portion of their SEC schedule. -- Charlie Creme

25. Beatrice Mompremier, Miami Hurricanes, F, 6-foot-4, senior

Season stats: 16.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG
Preseason ranking: 7

Sometimes value can't be truly measured until it is gone. That seems to be the case in Miami with Mompremier. The Hurricanes were ranked and primed to compete for a top-four finish in the ACC when their center went down with a foot injury on Jan. 2. Since Mompremier was sidelined, Miami has gone 3-7. A healthy Mompremier with improved post moves and the extended shooting range that was on display in November and December still projects as a first-round WNBA draft pick, but a once promising season for the Hurricanes has disappeared with the loss of their star. -- Charlie Creme

Dropped out: Kaila Charles, Maryland (No. 4); Bella Alarie, Princeton (No. 16); Tynice Martin, West Virginia (No. 19); DiJonai Carrington, Stanford (No. 20); Peyton Williams, Kansas State (No. 22); Elizabeth Balogun, Louisville (No. 23); Ae'rianna Harris, Purdue (No. 24); Shadeen Samuels, Seton Hall (No. 25)