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NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Preseason Top 25

By World Exposure News Services, 11/23/20, 1:15PM CST


Division 1 women’s basketball starts this Wednesday. Here is a look at the World Exposure Report's Preseason Top 25

25. Texas @TexasWBB
 Vic Shaefer, 1st Season
2019-20 record:  19-11
Games to Watch:  Texas A&M, Dec. 6; Tennessee, Dec. 13
Player(s) to watch:  Charli Collier, Kyra Lambert and Celeste Taylor

Texas native and two-time National Coach of the Year Vic Schaefer begins his first season at the helm of the Women's Basketball program. Over the last eight years as head coach at Mississippi State, Schaefer led the Bulldogs to a 221-62 (.781) record and five NCAA Tournament berths, including two NCAA Championship Game appearances.

The Longhorns will be lead by Charlie Collier, Celetste Taylor, and Kyra Lambert. 

Collier led the squad in rebounding (10.5 rpg) and blocked shots (39) and tied for the team lead in scoring (13.1 ppg) in 29.8 minutes per contest while starting all 30 games. She registered 16 double-doubles during her sophomore year, becoming one of just four players in UT program history to average a points-rebounds double-double over an entire season. Collier reached double figures in scoring 23 times and in rebounds 17 times, reaching the 15-rebound mark on seven occasions on the year.

Lambert, a three-year starter at Duke prior to transferring to Texas this summer, was a top-10 overall national prospect out of high school and a McDonald's All-American and Jordan Brand Classic All-American. A three-time team captain at Duke, she started the final 21 games of the 2019-20 season and averaged 5.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Lambert made her return to the court last year after missing the previous two seasons due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

Taylor was a Big 12 All-Freshman Team selection last year, she averaged 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per contest while playing in all 30 games (26 starts).

24. Missouri State
Amaka Agugua-Hamilton
2019-20 record: 26-4
Games to Watch: Florida Gulf Coast, Nov. 27; Maryland, Nov. 28
Player(s) to watch: Jasmine Franklin and Brice Calip

The Lady Bears of second-year head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton are the preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite as they return 10 players and four starters from last season's club that went 26-4 overall and 16-2 in league play as the outright regular season champions. MSU ended the year ranked 14th in the World Exposure Report Poll,  19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, 23rd by the Associated Press, and eighth in the NCAA RPI. Senior guard Brice Calip and junior forward Jasmine Franklin are preseason all-MVC selections.

Franklin was a first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection last year and preseason pick this season, Franklin averaged 10.9 points and an MVC-leading 8.7 rebounds per contest in 2019-20 while also ranking among the Valley's top 10 and leading the Lady Bears with 34 blocks, 48 steals and a .563 field goal percentage as a two-time MVC Player of the Week.

Calip collected MVC Defensive Player of the Year honors last year and averaged 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, adding 38 steals and shooting 80.4 percent from the foul line while ranking second in the league in free throw makes and attempts. She also led the MVC and ranked 22nd nationally with a 2.34 assist-to-turnover ratio, good for the second-best single-season mark in MSU history. The Sapulpa, Okla., native enters her final season with 994 career points.

23. South Dakota
Dawn Plitzuweit
2019-20 record: 30-2
Games to Watch:  South Carolina, Nov. 28; Gonzaga, Nov. 29
Player(s) to watch: Maddie Krull, Hannah Sjerven, and Chloe Lamb

Dawn Plitzuweit enters her fifth season at South Dakota in 2020-21.

The three-time Summit League Coach of the Year, Plitzuweit was named World Exposure Report Coach of the Year and a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year in 2020.  She is the fastest coach in Summit League history to reach 100 wins, doing so in 124 games. Tops the Summit League record books for winning percentage both overall (.821) and in league games (.887).  She has surpassed 20 wins in all four seasons she has been at South Dakota, the only coach in school history to surpass 20 wins in three or more consecutive seasons. 

The Coyotes were poised to make a postseason run in the NCAA Tournament before its cancellation cut the season short. Her 2019-20 squad spent 12 weeks in the AP Poll and 16 weeks in the Coaches poll. Both were Summit League records for the most weeks in the national polls in a single season. They climbed to No. 5 in the World Exposure Report Poll, No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 17  in the Associated Press Poll in the final polls of the season.

22. Florida Gulf Coast
Coach:  Karl Smesko
2019-20 record:  30-3
Games to Watch:  Arkansas, Nov. 28; North Florida, Feb. 28
Player(s) to watch: Kierstan Bell, Tishara Morehouse, and Andrea Cecil

The Green and Blue,  are on pace to become the NCAA's all-time winning percentage leader at the end of the 2020-21 season, extended their streak of seasons with at least 25 wins to 10-straight, which only Baylor and UConn can also say. That stretch also includes 30-plus wins in four of the past six seasons - something only four other NCAA Division I programs can boast, joining South Carolina, Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn.

Andrea Cecil, a 6-1 graduate transfer has been selected to the ASUN's preseason all-conference team. She is set to begin her first year with the Eagles after pouring in 874 career points over three seasons at Bowling Green State University, where she was named Third Team All-MAC in 2018-19. Despite missing last year due to injury, she will bring a scoring punch to Fort Myers as she averaged a team-best 15.8 points, along with 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists, in her all-conference season for the Falcons.

Another key newcomer will be Junior College transfer Tishara Morehouse, who averaged 21 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game with Western Nebraska Community College last year en route to NJCAA First Team All-American and World Exposure Report NJCAA Second Team All-American recognition. Morehouse was ranked No. 25 in the World Exposure Report (JUCO) player rankings. 

21. North Carolina
Coach:  Courtney Banghart
2019-20 record:  16-14
Games to Watch:  @Louisville, Dec. 13; Syracuse, Dec. 17
Player(s) to watch:  Janelle Bailey and Deja Kelly

Behind a balanced scoring attack and solid team defense, UNC opened coach Courtney Banghart’s first season in Chapel Hill with an eight-game winning streak and ultimately finished 16-14 overall, 7-11 in ACC play.

Last season, UNC ranked second in the ACC in scoring (73.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.739), assist/turnover ratio (1.14) and turnover margin (+2.87) In addition, in the final NCAA rankings, UNC was 13th in fewest total turnovers, 18th in fewest turnovers per game, 23rd in free throws made, 34th in assist/turnover ratio and 35th in scoring offense.

Bailey, a senior center from Charlotte, is a preseason candidate for the 2021 Wade Trophy. As a junior in 2019-20, Janelle Bailey earned All-ACC honors as she averaged 14.5 points and a team-best 9.3 rebounds per game, both in the conference's top 10.

20. Notre Dame @ndwbb
Coach:  Niele Ivey,, 1st Season
2019-20 record:  13-18
Games to Watch:  Georgia Tech, Dec. 13; @Syracuse; Jan. 10
Player(s) to watch: Sam Brunelle, Anaya Peoples, and Maddy Westbald

Notre Dame sophomore Sam Brunelle has been named to the Preseason All-ACC, Katrina McLain Watch list, and the Naismith Trophy Watch list. 

Brunelle became the first player to start her Irish career with seven double-digit scoring performances (previous record was four), ultimately finishing with 23 on the year. The Virginia native also tallied six games of 20+ points, including a career high of 31 points.

19. Kentucky
Coach:  Kyra Elzy, 1st season
2019-20 record: 22-8
Games to Watch: Indiana, Dec. 6; @DePaul, Dec. 16
Player(s) to watch:  Rhyne Howard and Treasure Hunt

Rhyne Howard is the leading returner after a sensational sophomore season for Kentucky, leading the Wildcats and ranking second nationally with 23.4 points per game. The guard also led UK with 6.5 rebounds per game and 62 steals, while she was second on the team with 29 blocks and third on the team with 68 assists. Howard hit 84 3-pointers this season, which was the most in program history in a single season, topping the previous record of 81 set by Sara Potts in 2004-05. Her 3.1 3-pointers per game ranked top-10 nationally while her 633 total points ranked fifth nationally.

Howard, has been named SEC Preseason Player of the year,  Naismith Trophy Preseason Watch List, 2021 WBCA Wade Trophy Watch List, and 2021 Cheryl Miller Award Preseason Watch List.  Howard became the first Kentucky women's basketball player to be named a first-team preseason All-American by the AP. She has also been named a Preseason All-American by Lindy's Sports.

18. DePaul
Coach:  Doug Bruno
2019-20 record: 28-5
Games to Watch:  @Creighton, Dec. 22
Player(s) to watch: Sonya Morris, Deja Church, Jolene Daninger, and Lexi Held

Bruno guided the Blue Demons to 17 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances---a feat matched only by the NCAA elite of Connecticut, Stanford and Tennessee. DePaul qualified for its 18th-straight NCAA Tournament after winning a three-peat BIG EAST Tournament title. The NCAA canceled the 2020 NCAA Tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Blue Demons were 28-5 in 2019-20 and on track to host the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament as a top-16 seed. They won the BIG EAST regular-season crown with a 15-3 record.

The backcourt of All-BIG EAST Second Team junior Sonya Morris, her classmate and BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player Lexi Held along with multi-talented, versatile senior Deja Church will be the focal point of a high-velocity offense that was second in the nation last year averaging 85 points a game.

17. Mississippi State
Coach:  Nikki McCray-Penson, 1st season
2019-20 record:  27-6
Games to Watch: South Florida, Dec. 5; Troy, Dec. 14
Player(s) to watch:  Rickea Jackson, Myah Taylor and Jessika Carter

A new era in Starkville begins this season, as McCray-Penson takes the helm of a program that returns three starters, including preseason All-Americans Jessika Carter and Rickea Jackson along with Nancy Lieberman Award nominee Myah Taylor.
The squad also brings back several key contributors in Aliyah Matharu, JaMya Mingo-Young, Yemiyah Morris and Xaria Wiggins. Former McDonald's All-American Sidney Cooks is eligible this season after sitting out last year. The Bulldogs also added a trio of newcomers in McDonald's All-American Madison Hayes, skilled post Charlotte Kohl and graduate transfer Caterrion Thompson.

16. Iowa State
Coach:  Bill Fennelly
2019-20 record: 18-11
Games to Watch:  South Carolina, Dec. 6; @Texas, Jan. 3 
Player(s) to watch: Lexi Donarski, Emily Ryan and Ashley Joens

Iowa State returns its four leading scorers from last season with Ashley Joens (20.5), Kristin Scott (14.2), Rae Johnson (8.9) and Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw (8.6). Joens has earned her fair share of preseason recognition, after receiving votes for the AP Preseason All-American team and was named a Lindy's Sports Preseason Second-Team All-American, along with earning a spot on the Cheryl Miller Award Watch List, Citizen Naismith Watch List and the Wade Trophy Watch List.

15. Indiana
Coach: Teri Moren
2019-20 record:  24-8
Games to Watch: Kentucky, Dec. 6; Butler, Dec. 13
Player(s) to watch: Ali Patberg and Grace Berger

Teri Moren enters her seventh season with Indiana Women’s Basketball in the 2020-21 season.

The Indiana native has taken the program to new levels in her six seasons at the helm, coming off the program’s fourth-straight 20-win season in 2019-20, when it set a new program mark for wins with a 24-8 overall record. 

This season the Hoosiers return four starters from last year's campaign highlighted by preseason All-Big Ten guards Ali Patberg (15.6 ppg.) and Grace Berger (13.1 ppg.). Guard Jaelynn Penn and forward Aleksa Gulbe are back this season as well as All-Big Ten Freshman team honoree forward Mackenzie Holmes. 

14. Syracuse @CuseWBB
Coach: Quentin Hillsman
2019-20 record:  16-15
Games to Watch: @North Carolina, Dec. 17; Notre Dame, Jan. 10
Player(s) to watch: Teisha Hyman,  Tiana Mangakahia, Kamilla Cardoso, Maud Huijbens, and Digna Strautmane

Syracuse posted a 16-15 record last season and finished 9-9 in the ACC. The Orange earned three top-25 wins defeating No. 19 Michigan State, No. 8 Florida State and No. 5 Louisville. Two of the three top-25 wins were in the friendly confines of the Dome including the 59-51 win over the Cardinals which was Head Coach Quentin Hillsman's 300th career win.
The Orange return four of five starters, add a top-5 recruiting class, and welcome the return of Mangakahia.

Mangakahia was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer before the start of the 2019-2020 season and therefore did not play any games. In her junior season, she was named Syracuse Female Athlete of the Year and became the all-time leader in career assists with 591. Mangakahia led the Orange in points (573), points per game (16.9), assists (287), assists per game (8.4), and free throw percentage (88.2%) as a junior.

13. Northwestern
Coach: Joe McKeown
2019-20 record:  26-4
Games to Watch: 
Player(s) to watch: Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton

Northwestern is returning three All-Big Ten selections and the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown from last year's Big Ten Championship-winning squad. Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton were both selected to the preseason All-Big Ten team while Pulliam was named the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year by the media.

Pulliam is coming off a season in which she earned AP All-American Honorable Mention honors and a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection, after averaging 18.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game last season, finishing third in the Big Ten in scoring.

12. Arizona @ArizonaWBB
Coach: Adia Barnes
2019-20 record:  24-7
Games to Watch: UCLA, Dec. 4; Stanford, Jan. 1
Player(s) to watch: Aari McDonald, Sam Thomas and Cate Reese

Arizona returns nine student-athletes who led the Wildcats to a 24-7 record and a fourth-place finish in the Pac-12 during the 2019-20 season, including All-American Aari McDonald and All-Pac-12 selections Sam Thomas and Cate Reese.
Head coach Adia Barnes also brought in six newcomers for the 2020-21 season, including 2020 ACC Sixth Player of the Year Trinity Baptiste (No. 7 World Exposure Report Juco Player Rankings)  and highly-ranked prospect Lauren Ware. Shaina Pellington, the 2018 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and Bendu Yeaney are also eligible to compete this season.

McDonald, who was named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List earlier this morning, was also named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Watch List and became Arizona's first preseason AP All-American last week. Last season, McDonald was the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Winner, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, WBCA All-American, AP second-team All-American, USBWA second-team All-American after leading the Pac-12 in scoring (20.6) and steals per game (2.3).

11. Texas A&M @AggieWBB
Coach:  Gary Blair
2019-20 record:  
Games to Watch:  @DePaul, Nov. 28; @Texas, Dec. 6
Player(s) to watch: N’dea Jones, Destiny Pitts, and Kayla Wells

The Aggies return four starters, including All-Southeastern Conference first teamer N'dea Jones. Jones led the SEC in rebounds per game (11.7) and total rebounds (351). Also returning are Ciera Johnson, Kayla Wells and Aaliyah Wilson who have a combined 148 starts for A&M.

N'dea Jones averaged a double-double with 11.0 points and a league-best 11.7 rebounds per game last season. She also was fourth in the country and led the SEC in total rebounds (351). The rebound machine amassed 16 double-doubles in 2019-20, bringing her within eight of becoming A&M's all-time leader.

10. Oregon State @BeaverWBB
Coach:  Scott Rueck 
2019-20 record: 23-9
Games to Watch:  Oregon, Dec. 13; UCLA, Jan. 1
Player(s) to watch:  Aleah Goodman, Kennedy Brown, andTaylor Jones

Oregon State is one of the most successful women's basketball programs of the last decade, having appeared in every WBCA Coaches Poll since the end of the 2013-14 Season. The Beavers have made the last four Sweet 16's and the last six NCAA Tournaments, including a Final Four appearance in 2016.

Goodman earned All-Pac-12 Defensive Honorable Mention last season, and is Oregon State's career leader in 3-point percentage. She currently sits fourth on the Beavers' career list in 3-pointers made. Goodman averaged 8.8 points and 3.4 assists per game last season. The guard was the Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year in 2018-19, and also earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention that season.

9. NC State
Coach:  Wes Moore
2019-20 record:  28-4
Games to Watch: @South Carolina, Dec 3
Player(s) to watch:  Elissa Cunane, Raina Perez, and Jakia Brown-Turner

In seven seasons at NC State, head coach Wes Moore's teams have exceeded or at least equaled preseason expectations every year. Despite the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the Wolfpack enters the season having competed in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 2017 through 2019 and two-straight NCAA Sweet 16s (2018, 2019).

The Pack is coming off of one of its best seasons in its 46-year history during which it capped off the year by winning the 2020 ACC Tournament title for the first time since 1991. Moore led his squad to a 28-4 (14-4 ACC) record and the program record for single-season ACC wins as the team finished second in the league during the regular season.

Coach:  Cori Close
2019-20 record:  26-5
Games to Watch:  @Arizona, Dec. 4; Stanford, Dec. 21
Player(s) to watch:  Michaela Onyenwere, Lindsey Corsaro, and Gemma Potter

2019-20 was an historic year for Close and the Bruins. UCLA won its first 13 games of the campaign, setting a new program record for the most consecutive wins to start a season. The Bruins’ win over then-No. 6 Stanford marked Close’s 100th-career Pac-12 victory. A win over the Trojans in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals won the Bruins the season series over their crosstown rival. UCLA would, ultimately, finish the year 26-5 and was set to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The national postseason schedule, however, was canceled due to COVID-19.

7. Maryland
Coach:  Brenda Frese
2019-20 record: 28-4
Games to Watch:  Missouri State, Nov. 28; Arkansas, Nov. 29
Player(s) to watch:  Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese

The Terrapins won 17 straight games to end the 2019-20 season and will be led by Ashley Owusu this season.

Owusu was second on the Maryland roster in scoring at 12.0 points per game, and second in the Big Ten with 5.4 assists per game. She was voted to the All-Big Ten Second Team at the end of the season.
Owusu led the Terps to their fourth Big Ten Tournament title in six years. She led the team in scoring in the three-game run with 15.3 points, 8.0 assists and 5.7 boards per game. She was named Big Ten Tournament MVP. In her first year in the Big Ten, she scored in double figures in 10 conference games, plus all three in the Big Ten Tournament.

6. Stanford
Coach: Tara VanDerveer
2018-19 record: 27-6
Games to Watch:  @USC, Dec.19; @UCLA, Dec. 21
Player(s) to watch:  Francesca Belibi, Haley Jones, Lexie Hull, Kiana Williams, and Cameron Brink

The Cardinal returns over 84 percent of its scoring output from a team that finished last season tied for second in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally before the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. 

Haley Jones, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019, appeared in 18 games for the Cardinal as a freshman, including 13 starts, before being sidelined with an injury in January.

She averaged 25.8 minutes, finishing the year with an average of 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and was the first freshman since Nicole Powell in 2001 to venture into double-digit scoring in each of her first four Pac-12 games. 

5. Louisville @UofLWBB
Coach:  Jeff Walz
2019-20 record: 28-4
Games to Watch:  UConn, Dec. 4; @Duke, Dec. 9
Player(s) to watch:  Ahlana Smith, Elizabeth Balogun, Dana Evans, and Hailey Van Lith

In 13 seasons, Jeff Walz has led the women's basketball program to an astounding resumé: nine trips to the NCAA Sweet 16, five trips to the Elite Eight, three trips to the final four and two trips to the national title game; four highly decorated All-Americans; 33 all-conference selections; and 11 WNBA Draft picks.

Ahlana Smith, who was named World Exposure Report Sophomore of the Year, World Exposure Report NJCAA All-American, and was ranked No. 1 juco prospect by World Exposure Report will provide the Cardinals with more firepower off the bench. 

Smith posted three 30-point performances throughout the season and put up double-digit scoring marks in all but one contest that she participated in.  Smith boasted a season-high 39-point performance in the second game of the season in a 97-89 win at Florida SouthWestern.

She led Gulf Coast State with 20.3 points and 2.7 steals per game, while also recording 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. She shot 43.9 percent from the floor.

4. Oregon
Coach:  Kelly Graves
2019-20 record: 31-2
Games to Watch:  USC, Jan 1 
Player(s) to watch: Erin Boley, Sedona Price,  and Taylor Mikesell

The Ducks aren't preseason ranked like last season, but Oregon remains a highly regarded preseason favorite to win the National Championship in 2020-21.

Erin Boley enters her third active season with the Ducks after transferring from Notre Dame following the 2016-17 season. As as Junior she ranked 13th in the nation and third in the Pac-12 with a career-best .441 3-point shooting percentage (78-177).

3. Baylor

Coach: Kim Mulkey
2019-20 record: 28-2
Games to Watch:  @Arkansas, Dec. 6; Texas Tech; Dec 14
Player(s) to watch:  DiDi Richards, DiJonai Carrington, and NaLyssa Smith

The Lady Bears are still the defending NCAA champions after their win in Tampa in 2019. The 2019-20 NCAA postseason was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Lady Bears were a projected No. 1 seed to attempt to defend their title.

Baylor returns honorable mention All-American junior post NaLyssa Smith and reigning National Defensive Player of the Year DiDi Richards to lead the squad. Richards is day-to-day with a nervous system injury, but she is improving since her collision with fellow senior Moon Ursin on Oct. 24.

2. South Carolina
Coach: Dawn Staley
2019-20 record:  32-1
Games to Watch:  @UConn, Feb. 8; Tennesse, Feb. 18
Player(s) to watch:  Laeticia Amihere, Zia Cooke, and Aliyah Boston

This season's team features three returning starters from last season's SEC Regular-Season and Tournament Champion. Nearly 70 percent of that team's scoring and more than 65 percent of its rebounding is back for 2020-21.

The three returning starters are from 2019's No. 1 signing class are back after starting every game of their inaugural college season. Forward Aliyah Boston dominated the postseason awards as the program's first National Freshman of the Year and the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year. Sophomores Brea Beal and 
Zia Cooke also impressed in their debuts, and Laeticia Amihere has impressed in the preseason in her full recovery from an injury that slowed her development last season. 

1. UConn
Coach: Geno Auriemma
2019-20 record:  29-3
Games to Watch:  Louisville, Dec. 4; Tennessee, @Jan. 21
Player(s) to watch:  Paige Beueckers, Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson- Ododa, and Aubrey Griffen

UCONN may have the youngest team in 32 years, but they will be cutting down the nets at the end of the 2020-2021 season.

Others Looking in: Ohio State, Arkansas, Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas Tech, South Florida, Nebraska, Duke, South Dakota State, and Princeton

2019-2020 World Exposure Report Preseason Top 25





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