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South Carolina chosen over UConn at No. 1 in preseason

Even though Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd are teaming up in Storrs, the South Carolina Gamecocks are ranked ahead of the UConn Huskies in the preseason AP poll. That’s because the Gamecocks are even more loaded.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Georgia at South Carolina
Aliyah Boston (left) and Zia Cooke (right) have a lot of help this year.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks are the No. 1 team in the preseason NCAAW Top 25 poll released by The Associated Press on Tuesday. The Gamecocks’ fellow 2021 Final Four participant, the UConn Huskies, bring in No. 1 Hoop Gurlz recruit Azzi Fudd to play alongside 2021 AP player of the year Paige Bueckers, but South Carolina brings in recruits No. 2 through 4 to play with the superstar tandem of Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke and Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso, who was the 2021 ACC Rookie of the Year and whose addition may have been what put the Gamecocks over the Huskies.

UConn is No. 2 in the poll, followed by No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Maryland. The Cardinal are the defending NCAAW champions and return Final Four Most Outstanding Player Haley Jones, now a junior, along with senior Lexie Hull, sophomore Cameron Brink and several other players from the title-winning squad. However, they did lose leading scorer Kiana Williams to graduation and the WNBA draft. The Terps, on the other hand, bring back their top-eight scorers from a team that led the nation with 90.8 points per game. An extra year of eligibility for three of last year’s seniors, Katie Benzan, Chloe Bibby and Channise Lewis, has put Maryland in a good position.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Womens - Penn State at Maryland
The return of Katie Benzan (center) and Chloe Bibby (right) takes Maryland to another level.
Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The list of teams returning a lot of talent continues at No. 5 with the NC State Wolfpack, who bring back Second Team All-American Elissa Cunane for her senior year. After the Wolfpack, it’s their ACC rival Louisville filling in at No. 6 without Dana Evans (WNBA champion Chicago Sky) but with highly-ranked Hoop Gurlz recruit Hailey Van Lith returning as a sophomore.

Baylor, under new head coach Nicki Collen, comes in at No. 7 in the poll. The Lady Bears return First Team All-American NaLyssa Smith. No. 8 Indiana will look to build off the unprecedented success of its program in 2021 with its big three of Mackenzie Holmes, Grace Berger and Ali Patberg back. No. 9 Iowa will look to make a big leap with superstar Caitlin Clark in her second season. Clark was the second-best freshman in the country last year after Bueckers. Oregon rounds out the Top 10 and will look to build off a Sweet 16 run that came after a disappointing regular season. The Ducks brought in the best freshman class in the nation last year.

You can view the entire Top 25 here.

Connecticut v Baylor
NaLyssa Smith is one of the best returning players in the nation.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images