women's college basketball predictions today

The 2023–24 women's collegiate basketball season is soon coming, which means underappreciated teams and players are preparing to shine. There are no certainties in this sport, but that is part of what makes it exciting.

Many narratives have arisen around LSU, UConn, and Iowa, but there will be many shocks between now and March. Keeping this in mind, here are five audacious predictions for the forthcoming season.

USC advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994.

The Trojans haven't made the Sweet 16 since 1994, but coach Lindsay Gottlieb is changing that. Last season, USC surpassed expectations by entering the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014, and it seems the squad has all the tools to build on that success.

Last season, USC's defense was strong, allowing just 55.1 points per game against opponents. The Trojans have lost their two top scorers, Kadi Sissoko and Destiny Littleton, but they return Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist Rayah Marshall, who established a single-season club record with 98 blocks last season. Marshall has also shown her ability to contribute on both ends of the floor, averaging a double-double of 12.7 points and 11.5 rebounds in 2022–23.

Gottlieb bolstered her roster with graduate transfers like Kaitlyn Davis, McKenzie Forbes, Roxane Makolo, and Kayla Padilla. But it was the Trojans' signing of No. 1 prospect JuJu Watkins in 2023 that made the most people take notice. During her final year at Sierra Canyon (Calif.), Watkins averaged 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game.

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Paige Bueckers of UConn is named national player of the year.

women's college basketball predictions today

Will UConn standout Paige Bueckers be rusty after missing the whole season due to an ACL tear? Sure, but Bueckers has shown in the past that she can recover quickly from injuries.

Bueckers had surgery on her left leg during her sophomore season in 2021–22 for an anterior tibial plateau fracture and a lateral meniscus rupture. She missed 19 games while healing, and it took a few weeks for her rhythm to return, but there was no question that the team was stronger with her on the court, and the Huskies even made it to the national championship game. Despite missing substantial time that season, the Bueckers averaged 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.5 steals in 17 games while shooting 54.4% from the field.

While Caitlin Clark of Iowa and Angel Reese of LSU were the best players to watch last season, Bueckers is eager to reclaim her spot. After all, she is the same athlete who won the Wooden Award, the Naismith Trophy, the AP athlete of the year, and the USBWA player of the year in her rookie year.

Lindy La Rocque has re-ranked UNLV.

In just Lindy La Rocque's third season as head coach, the Lady Rebels concluded the 2022–23 season with a program-best 31-3 overall record. The squad also received its first AP Top 25 rating (No. 22) since 1994 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. La Rocque will seek to lead her team to a third straight Mountain West championship, and she has all the tools in place to do it.

The Mountain West is not the most powerful women's collegiate basketball league, but UNLV trounced its opponents last season with a +14 scoring advantage, one of the top 20 in the country. Three starters from that group return for the Lady Rebels, including top scorer Desi-Rae Young, who averaged 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 59.2% from the field. Kiara Jackson, the Mountain West's Sixth Player of the Year, will also return.

The Lady Rebels did lose several significant players, including starter Essence Booker. However, Jackson showed her ability to fill that position when La Rocque shuffled the squad in December. Jackson scored 21 points against Northern Arizona that month and 20 points against Wyoming the next week. Amarachi Kimpson, who shared Mountain West Preseason Freshman of the Year honors with Trinity Zamora of San Diego State, joins the squad as well.

Also read: How does the NBA In-Season Tournament work rules in 2023?

South Carolina advances to the Elite Eight for the fourth time in a row.

Life in Columbia will be different without Aliyah Boston, but South Carolina coach Dawn Staley always has a game plan in place; after all, she's been named Naismith Women's Coach of the Year three of the previous four years. The Gamecocks aren't receiving the same kind of attention they received last year after winning the 2022 national championship, which is mostly due to the loss of many important players in the WNBA draft. However, Raven Johnson, Bree Hall, and Kamilla Cardoso, the 2023 SEC Sixth Woman of the Year, return to the squad.

Johnson was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team as a freshman and will be ready to take on a larger role as a sophomore. She will most likely split time at point guard with senior Te-Hina Paopao, a transfer from Oregon who hit 81 3-pointers at a 42% rate and scored 13.1 points per game last season.

South Carolina's roster will include both veterans and some extremely promising young players. The Gamecocks have four top-50 recruits from the 2023 class, the most of any team: Milaysia Fulwiley, Chloe Kitts, Tessa Johnson, and Sahnya Jah.

Kansas rides its experience into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Jayhawks missed The Big Dance last season, but they won the 2023 WNIT and can continue on that momentum this season. They return four double-digit scorers from their WNIT championship team, including Zakiyah Franklin and Taiyanna Jackson, who each scored more than 15 points per game.

Jackson also led her squad in rebounding (12.7 boards per game) and was sixth in the country in blocks per game in 2022–23. She was instrumental in Kansas' victory last season, earning the WNIT MVP award. Jackson's expectations will continue to rise as she enters 2023–24 as a unanimous preseason All-Big 12 team selection. Holly Kersgieter, a super senior guard, and Wyvette Mayberry, a senior guard, are the two returning starters for Kansas.

S'Mya Nichols, a four-star wing who was a part of the 2022 USA U18 National Team and earned a gold medal at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship, joins the squad as well.

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