Ranking the top 25 players in women’s college basketball

Hail to the newcomers! There are nine players in ESPN’s updated ranking of the top 25 players in women’s college basketball for the 2023-24 season who weren’t included in the preseason rankings in November.

One thing didn’t change: Iowa

What did change? Freshmen weren’t part of our preseason list, but the class quickly made its presence felt. Three freshmen broke into this ranking, including two in the top 10. Other freshmen made a strong push for consideration, and could jump into the next rankings.

Injuries also affected the updated list. Those who have played less than half of their team’s games thus far are not eligible for this top 25. Since the preseason, UConn’s Azzi Fudd has been lost for the rest of 2023-24 with a knee injury. Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles has yet to play, and Irish teammate Sonia Citron has been limited to three games. Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson

Other players dropped from the list less because of anything they did or didn’t do, but rather due to the fierce competition to make the cut. After conference play is in full swing, we’ll see how that impacts the rankings.

Determining the top 25 was enormously difficult. A team like No. 8 Colorado

ESPN’s women’s basketball broadcasters, producers and digital reporters were invited to vote. Ballots were submitted by ESPN’s Debbie Antonelli, Nikki Fargas, Sam Gore, Kelly Gramlich, Dan Hughes, Andrea Lloyd, Rebecca Lobo, Muffet McGraw, Roy Philpott, Steffi Sorensen, Mike Thibault, Christy Thomaskutty, Kaitlin Urka, Brenda VanLengen, Brooke Weisbrod, Stephanie White and Helen Williams; ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and Michael Voepel and Andscape’s Sean Hurd.

1. Caitlin Clark, Iowa

Guard | 6-foot-0 | senior
 30.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.5 SPG
Preseason ranking: 1

The reigning national player of the year was No. 1 on every ballot, as she has led the Hawkeyes to an 11-1 start. With graduation losses, Clark’s load was certain to be even heavier this season, and she’s carrying it well. She has already passed big milestones of 3,000 points and 400 3-pointers as she chases NCAA career records in both. Her current turnover average (3.7) and shooting percentage (48.1) are both the best of her career. Clark’s games are events not just in Iowa City, but in every city she plays. — Voepel

1. Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Guard | 6-foot-0 | senior
Stats: 30.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.5 SPG
Preseason ranking: 1

The reigning national player of the year was No. 1 on every ballot, as she has led the Hawkeyes to an 11-1 start. With graduation losses, Clark’s load was certain to be even heavier this season, and she’s carrying it well. She has already passed big milestones of 3,000 points and 400 3-pointers as she chases NCAA career records in both. Her current turnover average (3.7) and shooting percentage (48.1) are both the best of her career. Clark’s games are events not just in Iowa City, but in every city she plays. — Voe

2. Cameron Brink, Stanford
Forward | 6-foot-4 | senior
Stats: 19.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 60.4 FG%
Preseason ranking: 4

Coming into the season, Brink seemed eager to take on a more significant leadership role as a senior — and she has delivered. Stanford has exceeded preseason predictions, and she leads the Cardinal in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and field goal and free throw percentage. Brink is already a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and is a front-runner to win the award nationally this season. Her 3.5 blocks per game rank fourth in the country, but the evolution of her offensive game is what separates Brink. Now dominant from both posts, her scoring average has steadily improved from 9.9 PPG as a freshman to today’s 19.0 PPG, and she’s now a 94.0% free throw shooter who at one point made 73 straight from the foul line, the second-longest streak in Division I history. — Creme

pen Nika Muhl for a 3-pointer.

3. Paige Bueckers, UConn
Guard | 6-foot-0 | junior
Stats: 18.8 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 BPG
Preseason ranking: 3

Fans have had to remind themselves many times this season already that Bueckers is only just barely back from her August 2022 ACL tear. The former national player of the year, who missed all of last season, has largely looked like the player she was pre-injury, all while having to adjust to a larger role than expected following the season-ending injury to Fudd (ACL) and indefinite absence of Caroline Ducharme (neck spasms). Bueckers’ efficiency from the 3-point arc (47.9% on 4.0 attempts per game) stands out and would be a career best, but defense is the area where she has shined most recently. While playing power forward on that end of the floor in UConn’s four-guard lineup, she compiled nine blocks and five steals against ranked opponents North Carolina and Louisville. — Philippou

Utah’s Alissa Pili drops 20 in win vs. Southern UtahAlissa Pili scores a team-high 20 points as Utah routs Southern Utah on the road.

4. Alissa Pili, Utah
Forward | 6-foot-2 | senior
Stats: 24.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG
Preseason ranking: 9

Pili put the country on notice with her career-high 37-point outburst in 29 minutes against top-ranked South Carolina earlier this month, after which Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley called her “impossible to stop.” The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year’s efficiency is remarkable: She’s shooting 70.6% overall, which ranks third best in the nation, but her combination of strength, expert footwork down low and ability to step out to the 3-point arc (where she’s hitting 57.1% of her shots) makes her unlike any other player in the nation. The Utes will lean even more heavily on Pili heading into their Pac-12 slate following the season-ending foot injury to Gianna Kneepkens. — Philippou

r a USC layup

5. JuJu Watkins, USC
Guard | 6-foot-2 | freshman
Stats: 26.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 46.9% 3FG
Preseason ranking: NR

No newcomer has made a bigger impact more quickly than Watkins, who has been even better than expected. From her career-opening 32-point game in an upset of Ohio State, she has been one of the game’s most exciting talents. Her scoring average is second nationally only to Iowa’s Clark. Names of Trojan greats like Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson are being evoked, rekindling interest in USC’s past with the promise of its future. — Voepel

6. Rori Harmon, Texas
Guard | 5-foot-6 | junior
Stats: 14.1 PPG, 7.8 APG, 3.1 SPG
Preseason ranking: 14

Harmon has been considered one of the best two-way guards in the nation in recent years. But after spending this offseason working on her shot and on reducing turnovers, she has elevated her game to a whole new level, in turn catapulting the Longhorns into the top five of the rankings. Her efficiency sits at a career-high 52.3%, while her assist-to-turnover ratio leads the country at 6.64. Harmon’s 27-point, 13-assist game versus UConn made a statement on a national stage, while her more recent near-triple double last week against Arizona, when she finished with 19 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds, also impressed. — Philippou

7. Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
Center | 6-foot-7 | senior
Stats: 14.1 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 62.0 FG%
Preseason ranking: 12

The Gamecocks haven’t missed a beat with Cardoso taking the reins from Aliyah Boston. In fact, Cardoso’s numbers are slightly better than Boston’s were at this time last year, and South Carolina is right where it was 12 months ago: unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the country. Cardoso dominates with her size and is nearly unstoppable when she catches the ball on the low block. But her ability and willingness to run the floor both to finish a fast break and stop one put her in our top 10. She leads the Gamecocks in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage, and ranks third in the country with 3.5 blocks per game. — Creme

row with the nice step-back jump shot for LSU

8. Aneesah Morrow, LSU
Guard | 6-foot-1 | junior
Stats: 18.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 49.5 FG%
Preseason ranking: 16

Expectations were high after Morrow arrived in Baton Rouge from DePaul, but she has already exceeded them. On a team loaded with talent, Morrow has been the Tigers’ best player over the first two months. Things got off to a bumpy start with a six-point effort in the opener against Colorado and subsequent removal from the starting lineup. But Morrow was back as a starter four games later and immediately put up the eye-popping numbers that had become customary for her as a Blue Demon. She has averaged a double-double since, and Morrow’s 37-point, 16-rebound effort in a key win over Virginia on Nov. 25 was one of the nation’s best individual performances of the first half of the season. — Creme

9. Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech
Guard | 5-foot-6 | senior
Stats: 17.0 PPG, 7.8 APG, 2.8 RPG
Preseason ranking: 13

The emergence of Amoore largely fueled Virginia Tech’s run across the latter part of last season, culminating in the national semifinal. Ever since, the Australian point guard has continued to prove herself as one of the premier players in the country behind her playmaking and scoring dynamism — and, of course, that filthy step-back. While Virginia Tech is still searching for a signature win for its résumé, Amoore’s dominance (31 points, 7-for-14 shooting from 3) was a bright spot against Iowa, while LSU couldn’t stop her from getting to the rim much of their matchup, where she finished with a team-high 25 points. — Philippou

10. Hannah Hidalgo, Notre Dame
Guard | 5-foot-6 | freshman
Stats: 23.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.8 APG, 6.1 SPG
Preseason ranking: NR

Imagine telling someone in the preseason that by late December, Miles hadn’t yet played and Citron had been limited to three games … but Notre Dame was 8-1 and ranked No. 14. They would say, “How?” “Hidalgo” is the answer. Like USC’s Watkins, she wasn’t in our preseason rankings as a freshman, but has vaulted into the top 10. Hidalgo is making a huge impact on both ends of the court: She leads Division I in steals and ranks fourth in scoring average. — Voepel

11. Angel Reese, LSU
Forward | 6-foot-3 | junior
Stats: 19.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 53.9% FG
Preseason ranking: 2

It’s impossible to ignore Reese’s unexplained benching and four-game absence early in the season, but she and the Tigers appear to have rebounded well from the issues of November. Her 19-point, nine-rebound performance in her return game against Virginia Tech reinforced the talent that propelled LSU to last season’s national title. Reese has scored at least 20 points in each game since, with her trademark relentlessness on the offensive glass on full display. It has helped her get to the free throw line 10 times per game, which leads the nation. — Creme

12. Lauren Betts, UCLA
Center | 6-foot-7 | sophomore
Stats: 17.0 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Preseason ranking: NR

Betts was a somewhat unknown quantity when she transferred to UCLA this offseason. Though she was a former No. 1 recruit, she saw limited time as a freshman at Stanford due to the Cardinal’s loaded frontcourt. But at UCLA, she has emerged as the missing piece that was needed to propel the Bruins into the Final Four and national title conversation, making them an inside-out threat and helping anchor their defense. Most recently, Ohio State didn’t have much of an answer for her 17-point, 11-rebound and five-block that helped the Bruins earn another ranked win, while her 76.8% shooting percentage leads the nation, reflecting her mastery of operating in the paint. — Philippou

13. Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
Forward | 6-foot-3 | senior
Stats: 16.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG
Preseason ranking: 8

Edwards has had to step up even more than planned for the Huskies due to the team’s injury situation. But unlike Bueckers, Edwards is holding down a frontcourt that has been particularly depleted with Jana El Alfy and Ayanna Patterson both sidelined for the season and freshman Ice Brady still learning the ropes. The Canadian Olympian has only gotten into a better groove as the season has progressed, tallying four double-doubles (her first of the season) across the past five games. And she did her part in their loss to Texas with 22 points. — Philippou

14. Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech
Center | 6-foot-6 | graduate
Stats: 20.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.2 BPG
Preseason ranking: 6

There was much debate among the voters about Kitley, the two-time ACC Player of the Year back for her fifth season. Some felt she wasn’t playing quite as well as past seasons even though her scoring and rebounding averages are the highest of her career. Others felt her career-long consistency is being taken too much for granted. Let’s see where a veteran this dependable ends up in the next rankings after conference play kicks in. — Voepel

15. Ta’Niya Latson, Florida State

Guard | 5-foot-8 | sophomore
Stats: 18.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.4 APG
Preseason ranking: 19

Latson had to carry the Seminoles nearly every game as a freshman last season. And she delivered. Latson became the first freshman to lead the ACC in scoring, and the Seminoles reached the NCAA tournament after being picked to finished ninth in the conference. She remains Florida State’s top scorer, but with more help now, Latson’s assists, rebounds and steals are up, and turnovers are down. She still plays with an attack mentality. Getting to the rim is mission No. 1 for Latson, who packs plenty of strength in her 5-8 frame and is an above average finisher. — Creme

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16. Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State
Guard | 5-foot-10 | graduate
Stats: 18.3 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 SPG
Preseason ranking: 15

Typically recognized first for her defense, Sheldon has exploded as a scorer, totaling 61 points in Ohio State’s past two games against Penn State and UCLA. Fully recovered from the leg injury that cost her the majority of last season, Sheldon has reclaimed her status as the Buckeyes’ leader and one of the best two-way guards in the country. With her speed, range and instincts, Sheldon is the catalyst for Ohio State’s signature full-court press. She’s fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and is having the best shooting season of her five-year career in Columbus at 52.4%. — Creme

17. Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana
Forward | 6-foot-3 | graduate
Stats: 19.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 66.4 FG%
Preseason ranking: 5

See what we said about Virginia Tech’s Kitley: Is the same thing happening to Holmes? Is the fifth-year player being taken for granted by voters despite consistent production? The Hoosiers have lost just one game — but that 96-64 defeat at Stanford in which Holmes was 3-of-12 for eight points Nov. 12 seemed to weigh heavily for some voters. However, for her career, Holmes is shooting 63.8% from the field. Again, we’ll see how conference play impacts evaluation. — Voepel

18. Cotie McMahon, Ohio State
Forward | 6-foot-0 | sophomore
Stats: 15.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG
Preseason ranking: 10

McMahon had one of the best rookie seasons in the country in 2022-23: Big Ten Freshman of the Year, all-conference second team, 23 points in the Buckeyes’ Sweet 16 upset of UConn. So far in her second year, she has had some ups and downs scoring-wise. She had a season-high 27 points in an overtime win against Penn State, but was limited to seven points apiece in losses to USC and UCLA. — Voepel

19. Ayoka Lee, Kansas State
Center | 6-foot-6 | senior
Stats: 20.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 68.5 FG%
Preseason ranking: NR

Lee missed last season with a knee injury, which kept her out of our preseason rankings. But she quickly re-established herself by leading the Wildcats back into the Associated Press poll with a Nov. 16 victory at Iowa. Lee broke the school record with her 53rd career double-double Monday, tallying 24 points and 21 rebounds in a victory over Oral Roberts. — V

20. Mikaylah Williams, LSU
Guard | 6-foot-0 | freshman
Stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.7 APG
Preseason ranking: NR

The third freshman to make our top 25 list, Williams might have slipped under the radar for some entering the 2023-24 campaign, with so much attention on Reese, Morrow and Hailey Van Lith. But anyone paying attention to LSU so far knows her now, and for good reason: She joins Morrow and Reese to form the Tigers’ three-pronged attack of players averaging at least 17 points per game, doing it on an astounding 51.3% from the field, 45.2% from 3 and 93.9% from the free throw line. Williams’ ability to hit from deep — a weakness of this Tigers team outside of her — could be the X factor that helps the LSU dream realize its full potential come March. — Philippou

South Carolina trounces Presbyterian by 70South Carolina cruises to home win over Presbyterian with a 99-29 victory.

21. Te-Hina Paopao, South Carolina
Guard | 5-foot-9 | senior
Stats: 12.3 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.2 SPG
Preseason ranking: 25

Paopao’s numbers might not be eye-popping, but they don’t encapsulate how critical she has been to South Carolina’s undefeated run so far. The former Oregon standout has been the embodiment of poise and veteran leadership for the relatively young Gamecocks, stepping up multiple times in close games to hit massive baskets or make momentum-shifting plays to help South Carolina come out with the win. She’s second on the squad in assists (behind Raven Johnson) while coming in as their best regular 3-point shooter, connecting on 52.8% of her 53 attempts, and Staley has been pleased with her progress on the defensive end. — Philippou

22. Saniya Rivers, NC State
Guard | 6-foot-1 | junior
Stats: 13.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG
Preseason ranking: NR

No team has exceeded expectations this season like NC State, and Rivers is a major reason why. She scored a career-high 33 points in the Wolfpack’s breakthrough game, an 11-point win over UConn. After a disappointing freshman season at South Carolina, Rivers moved on to Raleigh, where last season she showed flashes of the potential now being realized. One of the best pure athletes in the country, who dunked during an NC State preseason event, Rivers has assumed some point guard responsibilities this season and has thrived with a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. — Creme

23. Kiki Rice, UCLA
Guard | 5-foot-11 | sophomore
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 6.6 APG, 2.3 SPG
Preseason ranking: NR

Rice was an exciting freshman to watch last season, but her sophomore year jump is another reason why the Bruins have stood out as a title contender. Her efficiency is up across the board (54.9%/36.0%/89.7% vs. 41.1%/21.7%/79.1%), and the former No. 2 recruit showed off how many ways she can hurt an opposing team when she dropped a season-high 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting (2-for-4 from 3) while dishing out eight assists and corralling 11 rebounds against UConn. Her command of UCLA’s offense — on display against Ohio State — sticks out, but she can also make an impact defensively, and leads the Bruins in steals. — Philippou

24. Aziaha James, NC State
Guard | 5-foot-9 | junior
Stats: 16.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 38.8% 3FG
Preseason ranking: NR

Few players in the country have seen their profile rise as much as James, a key part of the Wolfpack’s 11-0 team. NC State has gone from unranked in the preseason AP poll to No. 3 with James as its leading scorer. She was mostly a reliable reserve playing behind more experienced guards her first two seasons, starting just six games before her breakout year this season as a full-time starter. —

25. Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga

Forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
2022-23 stats: 19.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 63.8% FG
Preseason ranking: NR

The best mid-major player in the country over the first two months, Ejim has been equal parts efficient and consistent. Playing against the nation’s fifth most difficult schedule, Ejim has scored in double figures in each of the Zags’ 13 games, including a 27-point, 12-rebound performance in an upset of Stanford. She was equally impressive against Alabama and Louisville. Her elite footwork and quick moves, using either hand, allow her to regularly outmaneuver taller defenders in the post, where she does her best work. Ejim’s 111 2-point field goals are the most in the country. — Creme

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