The 2021–22 season is officially underway and it promises to be another competitive battle between powerhouses with a few dark horses lurking behind them. From the defending champs to an underrated veteran squad, here are five interesting teams to keep an eye on this season
Stanford (AP No. 3)
The defending champion Cardinal were voted No. 3 in the AP top 25 preseason poll and also received five first-place votes. Although Stanford lost Kiana Williams to the WNBA draft this spring, the other four regular starters are returning. Expect Haley Jones and Lexie Hull to make the leap in scoring this year, and if they were able to win as a young team last year, they pose an even greater threat this year. The Cardinal are primed to make another championship-level run and should be considered the top-ranked preseason team.
UConn (AP No. 2)
Fan-favorite UConn is expected to compete for a championship yet again this year. It doesn’t hurt to have the reigning Wooden Award, AP Player of the Year Award, and Naismith Award winner Paige Bueckers, who averaged over 20 points per game for the Huskies last season. Just a sophomore, Bueckers has been able to do some incredible things so far in her career. Not to mention her teammates Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards, who are all exceptional players in their own rights. All five starters are returning this season and are expected to challenge the defending champs, and any other team that crosses their path. Coach Geno Auriemma could have another dynasty on his hands if all goes as planned.
South Carolina (AP No. 1)
Being the AP No. 1 team comes with big responsibilities—South Carolina will be playing five of the top-10 teams this season in non-conference play, and three top-25 teams in conference play. The reigning SEC champions have all five starters returning and should pose a major threat to other teams given their success last season. Forward Aliyah Boston is a rebounding machine who will most likely be the most valuable player of this young and dangerous squad.
Iowa (AP No. 9)
Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark led the country in scoring last year with 26.6 points per game as a freshman, winning WBCA Co-Freshman of the Year, along with Bueckers. Clark also averaged seven assists per contest and shot over 40% from beyond the arc. Clark was able to carry the team to a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament last season despite falling to UConn in the Sweet 16. Iowa was unranked at the end of last year, but came out No. 9 heading into this year. All five starters return for what should be an eventful season for this up-and-coming team.
Texas A&M (AP No. 23)
The Aggies were unranked at the end of the 2020–21 campaign but start this season at No. 23—they were also ranked No. 17 in the Coaches Poll, No. 13 in NCAA Net Rankings and No. 3 in the Top 16 committee ranking. While it seems AP isn’t that high on Texas A&M, much of the rest of the country has taken notice. The Aggies lost in the Sweet 16 during the tournament last year, but probably could’ve made a much deeper run had it not been for a hot Arizona team and a superhuman performance by Aari McDonald. Kayla Wells is expected to make a big leap this year as she was added to the Cheryl Miller Award Watch List. With the top two leading scorers gone, Wells and Jordan Nixon will look to lead this well-rounded Aggies team in a season that looks promising for them. The big question is, how good will the Aggies be? Will they end up at the bottom of the ranked teams as some predict, or will they be contending for a championship?
Spencer Chism is a contributor for GoodSport, a media company dedicated to raising the visibility of women and girls in sports.
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