College basketball: Top NCAA women's hoops teams to watch
Get your popcorn ready, folks! This season of NCAA women's basketball is set to be just as thrilling as the last.
The 2022–2023 women's college basketball season concluded with a thrilling national championship game between LSU and Iowa, drawing nearly 10 million viewers.
LSU emerged victorious under Kim Mulkey and continued to win big in the offseason by adding the top two transfer portal players, Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow, and the No. 1 high school recruiting class.
However, as a fresh season is on the horizon, all teams commence with a clean 0-0 record.
While the Tigers are widely expected to be a team to watch, other programs, like UConn, are set to make a thunderous return to the court with star Paige Bueckers coming back from injury.
As teams have undergone transformations, strengthened their rosters, and made necessary changes during the offseason, these are the top programs to keep a close eye on as the new season begins on Monday.
Louisiana State Tigers
No. 1 LSU clinched its first-ever national title in April and is now gearing up for the new season as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation for the first time in program history.
Coach Kim Mulkey strengthened the team by adding top players to complement star veterans like Angel Reese, and their goal is to defend their championship, a feat not seen in women's college basketball since UConn's four consecutive titles in 2016.
The comeback of Paige Bueckers, the 2020-21 national player of the year who missed last season due to a torn ACL, and her partnership with Azzi Fudd and Nika Muhl, who set the single-season school record for assists last season, is set to be one of the most thrilling backcourts of women's hoops this season.
UConn is poised to be LSU's biggest threat, as they are the only team that can match the Tigers' talented roster.
Caitlin Clark will undoubtedly be the center of attention for the Hawkeyes, and there's every expectation that she'll continue to dazzle.
However, Iowa's ability to replicate last season's Final Four journey hinges less on Clark and more on how they can fill the void left by Monika Czinano's production and efficiency, as well as the court smarts of McKenna Warnock.
This is a storyline to keep a close eye on.
Coach Cori Close is leading what could be her strongest UCLA team yet. With the Bruins set to join the Big 10 next year, UCLA can undoubtedly make a huge statement in their final Pac-12 competing season.
During the offseason, the Bruins have secured the top two recruits of the 2022 class, Lauren Betts and Kiki Rice, who hold the potential to become a dominant inside-outside duo over the next three seasons.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Last season, the Buckeyes danced their way to the Elite Eight of March Madness, breaking a 28-year drought.
This year, their defense, which was already swiping turnovers with ease, has upgraded with the addition of Celeste Taylor, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a Duke transfer.
Watch out, because the Buckeyes' defense just got a lot more mischievous!
The NCAA women's hoops season is set to begin on Monday, November 6.
Cover photo: MADDIE MEYER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP