Yes, this is November and not the throes of March Madness. Monday marks the start of the second week of the college basketball season even though the competition feels like the second week of the NCAA tournament.
The season opened with big wins for the Pac-12 as both Colorado and USC notched résumé-builders against teams projected by ESPN’s bracketology to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. It was only a week ago, but it feels like more after an action-packed week of elite matchups, competition and highlights.
Six days after No. 1 LSU fell, No. 2 UConn followed. It is the first time in at least 25 years the top two teams in the Associated Press preseason poll lost before the second poll was released, per ESPN Stats and Info. In all, six of the top 10 teams and nine of the top 15 lost a game in Week 1. The Pac-12 is 28-0 through the first week, and no other Division I conference comes close to the mark.
I am an AP voter this season and will share my ballot weekly with team results and reasonings for movements in my rankings. (The full AP poll results are below.)
1. Iowa (3-0)
Iowa defeating Virginia Tech, a Final Four finalist that retained most of its stars, is what ultimately edged the Hawkeyes over South Carolina for the No. 1 spot. It was a tough call, though, as South Carolina defeated two Top 25 teams in dominating fashion.
The concern with Iowa remains that Caitlin Clark can’t do it all. The way Clark and the Hawkeyes, who had a poor offensive day around her, gritted out a win against a strong Hokies roster ranked eighth in the preseason was impressive and pushed them up amid other teams’ chaos.
But guards need to knock down shots to open things up for Clark to be more efficient en route to those 44-point outings. Hannah Stuelke was 6-of-8 for 12 points but was in early foul trouble, and Kate Martin came on late to finish 4-of-9 with 10 points against the Hokies. Molly Davis (0-of-2) and Gabbie Marshall (0-of-6) need to give more in big games.
Clark had her first triple-double of the season in a 94-53 win against Northern Iowa with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
2. South Carolina (2-0)
Thumping two Top 25 opponents to open the season in the way South Carolina did will move you toward the top really quickly. The Gamecocks look like the best team in the country at the moment after scoring a combined 214 points across wins against then-No. 10 Notre Dame (100-71) and then-No. 14 Maryland (114-76). Both of those teams are adjusting without stars from last season.
The offense hit on every level, including going 12-of-24 from 3-point range against the Terps on Sunday. It was two more than their 2022-23 season high of 10 set against Charleston Southern, and triple the four they averaged last season. Seven players reached double figures as talent kept streaming off the bench.
3. Utah (2-0)
Utah’s offense is clicking along with two wins hitting the century mark (104-45 vs. Mississippi Valley State and 108-48 vs. South Carolina State). The first real test for the Utes will be Tuesday against Baylor. For now, they’re doing what they’re supposed to and are ranking among the best.
Through the first week, they rank first with 143.2 points per 100 possessions (106 ppg ranks second), first in assists per game (30.5), second in rebound rate (70.8%), third in 3-pointers (34) and second in effective field-goal percentage (62.3), per Her Hoop Stats.
4. UCLA (3-0)
The Bruins are also clicking early. UCLA’s schedule in the first week wasn’t stellar competition with Purdue (NET 50 to end the 2022-23 season), UC Riverside (NET 291) and Bellarmine (NET 283). But it’s a talented group that has picked up where it left off in the tournament.
Through the first week, the Bruins rank second in points per 100 possessions (134.7), fifth in effective field-goal percentage (60.6%), first in 3-pointers (37) and third in rebound rate (68.5%), per Her Hoop Stats.
5. LSU (2-1)
LSU had to drop after a loss to a very good Colorado team and the strong starts of other top-five programs. But as I wrote last week, there’s no need to panic. Losing early might be the best thing for LSU in the long run as they work out the chemistry and collective will to win. The Tigers have some work to do to be considered the best team in the country. And it’s important to remember that they got hot at tournament time to win the title.
The Tigers followed up the loss with wins against Queens (112-55) and Mississippi Valley State (109-47). Their noncon schedule moving forward makes it difficult to fully assess this team. Eyes are on its Final Four rematch with Virginia Tech later this month.
6. Colorado (3-0)
Colorado’s win against LSU bumped them up the rankings as a statement win, even if the Tigers aren’t the same team as they were from the tournament. This is a group that has played together for a long time, and we saw what comes from that when Iowa reached the championship game.
The Buffaloes followed it by crushing Le Moyne, 97-38, and coming from behind to defeat Oklahoma State, 86-75. They’ve outrebounded every team they’ve played and three players are averaging at least 13 points on 50% effective field-goal shooting.
7. Virginia Tech (1-1)
Falling by four to Iowa isn’t a bad loss to take, so I didn’t ding them as hard as teams that lost to ranked opponents by more. I also don’t think they should fall below some teams that haven’t played as strong of competition yet.
Georgia Amoore was exquisite and it became a Clark vs. Amoore battle. The Hokies will need more outside of Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley, and the transfers will take time to settle into the fold. They also have a less intense schedule until LSU on Nov. 30.
8. Stanford (2-0)
Cameron Brink made a statement against then-No. 9 Indiana on Sunday: She’ll make sure the Cardinal are going to be OK. Brink had a monster 20-point, 17-rebound double-double with four blocks, two assists and one steal in the 96-64 win. She also hit two 3-pointers when she came into the game with 32 total over a three-year career.
Stanford crushed Indiana on the glass (50-27). Kiki Iriafen had 20 points and 11 rebounds, four of five starters reached double digits and a bench player did as well. It was a strong showing against a good Indiana team that will need to find its footing without Grace Berger, their five-year guard who is now in the WNBA.
Because they went head-to-head, the two had to switch spots in the rankings. A win against a top-10 team slides them atop a team that couldn’t defeat an unranked one.
9. Connecticut (1-1)
First, a moment to celebrate how fun these UConn vs. NC State matchups have been the last few years. But UConn had to work far too hard to do anything in this one and did not look like a team worthy of a top spot, losing 92-81. The Huskies’ defense slacked (92 points is the most given up by a UConn team since 2001 against Tennessee), and they struggled on the glass, 41-29. It’s an area that Aaliyah Edwards (21 points, six rebounds) needs to dominate for UConn to succeed.
Much like Iowa, there is only so much Paige Bueckers can do to draw a win. The one-two guard punch of Bueckers, who scored 27 with three rebounds and three assists, and Azzi Fudd, who had nine points and was 1-of-7 from 3, wasn’t there. Qadence Samuels had 14 off the bench as the third UConn player to score in double digits. This one was winnable by the Huskies, and they didn’t do it.
10. Notre Dame (1-1)
Notre Dame missed point guard Olivia Miles in its season-opening loss to South Carolina. She has not been practicing and there is still no timetable for her return, which would immediately boost an already talented backcourt in South Bend. That absence factors into the blowout loss to South Carolina in Paris, though all credit to the Gamecocks for their second half.
Hannah Hidalgo is out to an impressive start in her freshman season as she runs the offense in Miles’ absence. She tied the school record for steals with 12 of the team’s total 19 against NJIT on Sunday in a 104-57 win. Hidalgo is averaging 28.5 points (ninth) and 7.5 steals (third) over two games.
11. Florida State (2-0)
Florida State edged Tennessee, 92-91, with hot shooting in a battle of Top 25 teams. Ta’Niya Latson, the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year, scored 20 on a rough 9-of-24 night as she works back to full health. It was her first game of the season after she sat out the opener.
Five players reached double figures, though the defense needs work and the Seminoles struggled on the boards, 28-16. But eking out wins is important in March.
12. Tennessee (1-1)
The Lady Vols had the size advantage and senior forward Rickea Jackson, a projected first-round WNBA Draft pick, dominated with 31 points (52 FG%) and 17 rebounds. They couldn’t take advantage of those second chances off rebounds, and couldn’t stop the Florida State offense. With tightened-up defense, particularly in those close late-game moments, the Lady Vols will be a SEC favorite.
13. Indiana (1-1)
Indiana head coach Teri Moren called the 96-64 loss to Stanford an “old-fashioned butt-kicking.” It was the third-worst loss in her tenure and leaves a lot to clean up. But much like other teams with 1-1 records in this ranking, it was a loss against another solid team that shouldn’t be dinged all that hard.
The Hoosiers couldn’t accomplish much against the length of Brink, a 6-foot-4 All-American center, and Iriafen, a 6-3 forward. Their offense sputtered after averaging 80.9 points per game last season. They shot 34.9% overall and 15.6% from 3, while Stanford was 50% overall with 11 3-pointers.
Mackenzie Holmes, an AP preseason All-America selection, didn’t have a point or rebound in the first half and finished with eight points (3-of-12), two rebounds, one block, three turnovers and four fouls. Yarden Garzon fouled out attempting to guard the larger Stanford roster.
14. USC (2-0)
The most notable thing about formerly ranked No. 21 USC’s 83-74 win over then-No. 7 Ohio State was the Trojans came back from down 19 points. They outscored the Buckeyes, 30-10, in the determining third quarter, though USC almost came back with a 27-16 fourth quarter.
JuJu Watkins scored a program-best 32 in her debut and followed it with 18 in a defensive battle with Florida Gulf Coast. Junior center Rayah Marshall averaged 10.5 rebounds and 18 points over two games, shooting 64%.
15. Ohio State (1-1)
The Buckeyes stunned UConn in last season’s NCAA tournament with their trademark press, but it wasn’t working against the Trojans in the opening-day upset loss to USC. They bounced back with a 108-58 win against IUPUI.
USC and Ohio State, because of the head-to-head results, had to switch places. But both are solid teams with pieces to keep them atop the pack.
16. Texas (2-0)
The Longhorns are rolling with a 45-point win over Southern and an 18-point win against Liberty. Neither are strong competition, but they do have Texas ranked 13th in defense and that’s where Vic Schaefer’s teams have always impressed.
In two games, they’ve outscored opponents in points off turnovers, 63-7, and their 18.9% steal rate ranks seventh in the nation, per Her Hoop Stats. The glaring problem that could cause issues in bigger games is free-throw shooting. They’re shooting 51.2%, which ranks near last in Division I.
17. North Carolina (2-0)
The Tar Heels stayed composed to come back late against Davidson and win 74-70 on Sunday night. That wasn’t exactly a reason to push them any higher in the rankings, especially after the Tar Heels struggled against teams they shouldn’t have lost to last season.
18. Louisville (2-0)
The Cardinals are adjusting without guard Hailey Van Lith and started the season with wins against Cincinnati and DePaul, two quality programs that aren’t standouts, but aren’t cupcakes. Their assists and 3-point percentage are understandably lower without Chrislyn Carr.
19. Maryland (1-1)
Maryland has to adjust without Diamond Miller, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft. Doing that against South Carolina in the second game of the season is a tall task for which it wasn’t ready.
The Terps were hot early from beyond the 3-point line, but began to lose control of the game late in the second quarter and gave up 68 points in the second half of a 114-76 drubbing. Maryland struggled rebounding, couldn’t break through a South Carolina press for good looks and continued to turn the ball over at a high rate (16.5 per game).
Junior guard Shyanne Sellers, the focal point of the 2022-23 team, was injured late with an apparent leg injury, but said after the game she was “feeling good,” would rest and “take it from there.”
20. NC State (2-0)
NC State won its first game against UConn since 1998 and earned its ranking by controlling much of the contest. Junior guard Saniya Rivers was tremendous. She carved up the UConn defense for 33 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks.
Rivers said early on the broadcast the Wolfpack were playing so hard against UConn because they had nothing to lose. But they clearly had plenty to gain.
21. Creighton (2-0)
22. Baylor (1-0)
It was a quiet week for the Bears that was neither intriguing nor troublesome. They defeated Southern, 85-53, shooting 52.5%. We’ll know more about them Tuesday when they host Utah.
23. Washington State (3-0)
The Cougars needed overtime against Gonzaga but earned the sweep of the week with wins also against Cal Poly and Idaho State. Their 7.7 blocks per game ranks ninth in D-I, but otherwise they’ve been pedestrian. The test will be Nov. 23 against Maryland.
24. Mississippi State (3-0)
Mississippi State also swept its first week and is allowing opponents 44.3 points per game, 10th best in the nation. Those wins were against Alcorn, Southeastern Louisiana and Jacksonville State. Their noncon schedule also isn’t anything to celebrate, though they’ll have the SEC slate to contend with come January.
25. Kansas State (2-0)
The Wildcats defense is allowing 37 points to opponents (ranking third) and averaging a fifth-best eight blocks per game (21.9% block rate is third). It’s all through Ayoka Lee, who is back from a knee injury and averaging 23 ppg. They defeated Presbyterian and Little Rock and will be tested against Iowa on Thursday. The Wildcats upset Iowa last season without Lee on the floor.
Also considered: Oklahoma (3-0, upset Ole Miss); Ole Miss (1-1, defeated Queens by 47); Marquette (2-0, defeated Illinois); Illinois (1-1, defeated Morehead State by 20).
1. South Carolina
9. Virginia Tech
12. Florida State
13. Ohio State
14. NC State
16. Notre Dame
17. North Carolina
23. Ole Miss
24. Washington State