@KallinaScouting 2Early NCAA Top 25

Photo by Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

South Carolina looks poised to be the favorite to win the National Title in 2016-2017.

  1. South CarolinaAja Wilson and Alaina Coates return – Alisha Gray (UNC) and Kaela Davis (Ga Tech) both become eligible in what should be South Carolina’s best chance at National Championship. Is Bianca Cuevas ready to be the facilitator this for a national championship team? Time will tell.
  2. Ohio State – Returning the best player in college basketball (men or women) in Kelsey Mitchell the Buckeyes get Stephanie Mavunga (UNC) and Sierra Calhoun (Duke) eligible after sitting a year after transfer – Linnae Harper (Kentucky) can play at Christmas. Alexa Hart, Asia Doss, & Shayla Cooper are all upper class-men with tons of experience .
  3. Louisville – No one had a better second half of the season last year than Louisville after brushing off some early injuries and youth the Cardinals rolled through ACC play. There is no reason to believe they wont be able to start 2016-2017 with the same type of dominance. Despite playing all season Asia Durr didnt seem to be fully healthy after returning from surgery from the previous summer and is poised to have a breakout year for Louisville and Brihanna Jackson is one of the best guards in the country which people just got a glimpse of last year. Look for Jackson now in year 2 with the Cardinals pair with Durr to be one of the most dynamic back-courts in the country. Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines Allen will both threaten again to be ACC Player of the Year in just their junior season.
  4. Baylor – Baylor has one of the most talented rosters in the country and add 2016’s Top Recruit in Lauren Cox. Alexis Jones is one of the top guards in the country and back for her senior year. I think everyone was a little surprised the Bears did not make it to the Final Four last year, look for them to have a chip on their shoulder all season. Without a doubt there is no better front court in the country the Bears will have to deal with the loss of Niya Johnson who had run the show for the last 3 years for Baylor. If the point guard position isnt an issue neither will be getting to the Final Four.
  5. UConn – Losing one of the greatest groups of all time including possibly one of the best college basketball players ever in Breanna Stewart is a set back for any program. For UConn who will the next star be? In 2016 they had a good recruiting class but not star studded with Top 20 talent. Look for a lot to be expected out of Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, and Katie Lou Samuelson and their growth from last year to this year will determine which direction this season goes for the Huskies. Dancing at the Final Four for this group will be one of Geno’s greater accomplishments as a coach.
  6. Notre DameLindsay Allen has turned into one of the better point guards in the country and is the leader for a talented Notre Dame team. While no one but Miami has handed Notre Dame an ACC loss since they entered the conference in most peoples eyes they still stand behind Louisville as far as perception to start the season. Brianna Turner is a star in a league without great front court players this season and it will be interesting to see what highly heralded freshmen Jackie Young and Erin Boley bring to this team right away.
  7. Texas – As talented as any team on this list but yet to make that jump to the Final Four Level of women’s basketball programs yet. Could this be the year? Possibly – Joyner Holmes joins an already rebuilt and established Texas program which is powered behind Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins – Despite being loaded with talent Texas lost their primary interior presence in Imani Boyette to the WNBA and only has two seniors on the roster.
  8. Maryland – Another very talented roster which will give Ohio State all they can handle in Big 10 play. Maryland who sported the top recruiting class in the country and is looking to make a big splash in 2017 has to wonder to a degree in their freshmen class who is ready to step up now? Brionna Jones has turned into one of the top post players in the country and Shatori Kimbrough-Walker is the best wing in the Big 10 but who else will step up? Look for this Maryland team to be similar to last years Louisville squad and they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country come March.
  9. UCLA – Nirra Fields UCLA’s leading scorer is gone but despite missing a lot of points the balance Fields’s absence will give the Bruins is a step in the right direction for the full development of posts Monique Billings and Lajahna Dummer who this season could turn into two of the best post players nationally. Jordin Canada is the definition of a true point guard and if Drummer and Billings are ready to take the next step she will get them the ball. Look for a bigger role from sophomore Kennedy Burke as UCLA looks again to contend for the Final Four.
  10. Mississippi StateVictoria Vivians has become one of the best players in the SEC and Mississippi State is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Scoring again will be a defining factor when trying to take the next step towards being a Final Four type team. Mississippi State has plenty of size and talent to be considered among the elite teams nationally.
  11. Washington – Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor return to UW after leading the Huskies to their first ever final four while there is no Talia Walton this season it is hard to imagine the Huskies are not one of the top teams out West this up coming season.
  12. Florida State – While Florida State graduates a lot and brings in a bunch of new players the reality is they are very battle tested in the back court with Leticia Romero who currently is playing in the Olympics for Spain and Brittany Brown. Florida State is loaded with young talent which like many programs brings the question – Who will impact right away? They have plenty of talented options and have been a staple at the top of the ACC.
  13. Missouri – Sophie Cunningham is the real deal and last year was a turning of the corner for a Missouri team which has a very different style than most SEC teams. Playing at Missouri in the winter in the SEC is tough and the Tigers boasted a 5-3 league record at home last year and advanced to the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament. While you might say this is high this is a down year in the SEC and dont let the Tigers sneak up and bite you.
  14. Oregon State – Coming off a Final Four appearance people will say they lost several of their top players but what you fail to realize Oregon State is winning a lot with culture and coaching, neither of which has graduated. Few people realized the talent the Beavers had until it was playing last year on Final Four weekend, look for the Beavers still to be one of the elite programs in the PAC 12.
  15. Miami – Adrienne Motley is a scoring machine for the Hurricanes who boast a very balanced team with domestic and international players. Miami is the only team to ever beat Notre Dame in the ACC and have a very veteran group for the 2016-2017 season.
  16. Arizona State – One of the most balanced teams in the country last year with 7 players who averaged more than 5 points per game. Look for Arizona State to be strong again in 2016-2017 behind Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder.
  17. North Carolina – An expected down year 15-16 for North Carolina losing every member of one of the top signing classes in womens college basketball history but this roster still has tons of talent and year separated from the shock and awe of losing such a talented group. Paris Kea becomes eligible and the Tarheels have one of the top scoring back courts in the country with Destinee Walker and Stephanie Watts all three of which enter their sophomore year.
  18. Seton Hall – As impressive of a run as anyone who’s turned a team around in the country the last few years Tony Bozzella has made Seton Hall one of the premier programs in the Northeast. Seton Hall is coming off back to back NCAA Tournament appearances and expectations are high again for the Pirates.
  19. Florida – Florida’s biggest question is at point where they lost an expirience combo of Carly Needles and Cassie Peoples. Simone Westbrook, Dee Anderson, and an international freshman will all see time at point for the Gators. If any can swim and move the ball up the floor the Gators showed they were one of the top scoring teams in the country last year and have one of the top freshman nationally in Delicia Washington. Despite losing a lot in the back court to graduation, the SEC is way down and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see Florida exceed last years results.
  20. Northwestern – Nia Cofffey is a player who doesnt get enough attention nationally and will be a Top 10 WNBA draft pick in 2017. Northwestern had a horrid start to Big 10 play but still nearly almost made the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have one of the top emerging young post players nationally in double double machine Pallas Kunaiyi Akpanah.
  21. West Virginia – Bria Holmes has moved on to the WNBA and done well so far this season but the Mountaineers style and blue collar players make them a threat once again in the Big 12. Look for Gulf Coast State Transfer Kristina King to be one of the better new comers to a Power Conference on 2016-2017.
  22. Wake Forest – Two ACC wins away from a 19 win season and NCAA Berth in 2015-2016 Wake returns their top 3 scorers from last season in Amber Campbell, Ariel Stephenson, and Milan Quinn. Add in freshman Tyra Whitehead who is one of the best freshmen in the country it wouldnt surprise me to see Wake in the Big Dance in 2016-2017
  23. Indiana – People doubted Tyra Buss right into a top 4 Big 10 finish last year and NCAA Tournament berth for the Hoosiers. Indiana returns a lot from last season and is one of the hottest programs in womens basketball.
  24. TCU – 18 wins last year and 3 rounds into the WNIT and probably a win or two in the Big 12 from the Big Dance TCU has high expectations with incoming freshman star Amber Ramirez of San Antonio and one of the best freshmen classes in the country.
  25. Duke – Lcxie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell are winners – I might have them too low but despite what the media says Duke has a lot of talent and they look to be at a point where whoever wants to be at Duke is there. Duke, their coaches and their players have a chip on their shoulder and a lot to prove this year and teams are usually best when their backs are against the wall in those types of situations.
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