Some Elite 8 Losses and Reloads
lost star center Monika Czinano
(from Minnesota) to the WNBA draft but otherwise returns the core team that includes superstar Caitlin Clark -- and may actually slightly improve if emerging Stanford center Lauren Betts signs and continues to improve. With Clark, Iowa projects to be a top team regardless. Iowa stands out for having little transfer portal churning out and in.
The Minnesota-Iowa game in Minneapolis this next season should attract a sell-out attendance.
lost five players to the WNBA draft, including superstar Aliyah Boston
, Laeticia Amihere
, Zia Cooke
and Brea Beal
. Despite that, South Carolina again projects to be one of the Elite 8 teams in the country, being elite at recruiting. Indeed, South Carolina's backups last season could field a strong team.
lost LaDazhia Williams
and Alexis Morris
in the second round of the WNBA draft, but LSU should remain one of the best teams. LSU has an incredible recruiting class coming in. LSU was able to attract many transfer players last season and an expensive elite coach. LSU outperformed expectations last season and probably projects to be a Final Four team this season.
South Carolina, Notre Dame and USC made big splashes during the early signing period to move inside the top 10.
lost Kayana Traylor
to the WNBA but the core team returns including repeat ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley
. I don't have a good read on Virginia Tech other than "the new kid on the block" and well-coached.
Like South Carolina, Maryland
was hit significantly with departures when Diamond Miller
(Lynx) and Abby Meyers
were drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft. Maryland also lost promising freshman Gia Cooke to the transfer portal. Turnover of talent appears to be a big factor with Maryland as players leave to get paid and new players are signed to reload and reload. Maryland already signed NC State forward Jakia Brown-Turner
from the portal. Maryland probably projects to be a Sweet 16 team this year and a strong team in the many years ahead.
lost Taylor Mikesell
to the WNBA draft but otherwise should be about the same or better with strong recruits bolstering the team and Cotie McMahon emerging as an elite player. Ohio State and the aggressive press defense upset UConn in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State projects to be a consistently strong team the next several years. (Michigan also appears to be emerging as a consistently strong team, including elite Minnesota prospects Olivia Olson and Taylor Woodson coming in this season and next.)
is a tough team to project because the transfer portal is a bigger dynamic for Miami than other teams. Miami lost Destiny Harden
in the 3rd round of the WNBA draft, and the high-profile Cavinder Twins have decided to forego their final year of eligibility to "start a new chapter in our lives." Otherwise, Miami for awhile is probably going to be one of the better teams. Miami outperformed expectations last season including upsetting Indiana in the NCAA Tournament.
was hit with the loss of star Hailey Van Lith to the transfer portal. Could this be the first season in years that Louisville is not an Elite 8 team? In December, Louisville also lost Payton Verhulst to Oklahoma. Louisville did pick up Cal guard Jayda Curry from the transfer portal, and Louisville is surely one of the more attractive places to play as a perpetual deep in the NCAA tournament team.
Three Top Teams Missing the Elite 8
will get star Paige Bueckers (from Minnesota) back after a knee injury. Lou Lopez Senechal
and Dorka Juhasz
(Lynx) left for the WNBA draft but UConn perpetually reloads talent. UConn was upset by Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament. UConn again projects as an elite Final Four team.
The former Hopkins star, now one of the most popular college athletes in America, led the way in opening a free grocery store in her old junior high via an NIL endorsement deal.
Minnesota Gophers fans will obviously be keen to the Minnesota-UConn game scheduled for November 19 this upcoming season -- a homecoming game for Paige Bueckers.
lost elite Grace Berger
to the WNBA draft. Depending who Indiana lands in the transfer portal, Indiana could again project to be an Elite 8 team as the rest of the team core returns. Indiana as a #1 seed suffered an upset in the NCAA Tournament by losing to Miami.
should peak next season as a Final Four contender. Alissa Pili
was a phenomenal transfer portal pickup for Utah. Minnesotans Jenna Johnson
and Gianna Kneepkens
are key contributors. Utah as the favorite fell to LSU in the NCAA Tournament.
One Team Missing the NCAA Tournament
plays in a strong conference where six teams earned at least 11 conference wins, something Minnesota hasn't achieved since 2017-18.
Every Big Ten team that made the 64 team field of the NCAA tournament won 11 or more conference games. All of the Big Ten teams making the field won in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
So remember this threshold number: 11 Big Ten conference wins
Illinois (11 conference wins) and Purdue (9 conference wins) earned NCAA action as First Four teams playing an extra game to try and make the 64 team field. Both lost.
11 -- and a minimum of 9 conference wins
Indiana won the Big Ten with 16 conference wins.
The Big Ten conference will get even tougher next season when UCLA and USC join, both projected to be top-25 teams.