(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Women’s Basketball Title Favorites 2019-20

Rob Joyce
October 28, 2019 - 4:34 pm

First Night is in the books at UConn, meaning basketball season is around the corner. For Geno Auriemma’s Huskies, this could be a different year, at least by Connecticut standards. Gone are staples Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier, the highest-scoring duo in program history. While there are some exciting new additions (namely Anna Makurat and Evina Westbrook, assuming she gets cleared by the NCAA) for the first time in a long time UConn isn’t among the first names mentioned as title favorites. Which begs the question: who is?

In preparation for the regular season opener on Nov. 10 against Cal, here are the five likeliest teams to cut down the nets in New Orleans in April:

5) UConn:

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

If Westbrook is cleared to play by the NCAA, the Huskies belong on this list. If she isn’t, then it could be a rough season in Storrs (by UConn’s standards, that is…) and Maryland or Oregon State would take over this spot. Tennessee’s leading scorer a year ago, Westbrook would add an additional offensive weapon beyond Crystal Dangerfield and Christyn Williams. With our without Westbrook, Olivia Nelson-Ododo and Megan Walker need to take massive steps forward, otherwise the Final Four streak will end at a dozen.

4) Stanford:

(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The reigning Pac-12 Tournament champions were 20 minutes from the Final Four a year ago, leading Notre Dame by seven at halftime before the Irish ran them off the floor in the second half. Leading scorer Alanna Smith is gone, but the backcourt duo of Kiana Williams and DiJonai Carrington (28.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG combined) will increase that scoring load, Lexie and Lacie Hull are three-point threats and there is experience inside with Nadia Fingall back from an ACL injury. Not to mention, the Cardinal nabbed the nation’s top recruit in Haley Jones.

3) Texas A&M:

(Photo by David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

Stalwart Mississippi State will take a step back this year, South Carolina and its top-rated recruiting class might be a year away. It seems like the perfect time for the Aggies to take control of the SEC and return to its first Final Four since cutting down the nets in 2011. A&M brings back 97 percent of its scoring from last year, led by junior Chennedy Carter (23.2 PPG) and 99 percent of its rebounding.

After giving Notre Dame all it could handle in the Sweet 16, this core will now compete for a title.

2) Baylor:

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The defending champs lose championship game hero Chloe Jackson and All-American forward Kalani Brown, but Kim Mulkey’s bunch is ready to re-load. Lauren Cox suffered a knee injury in the national title game, but if she can come back healthy she’s one of the best bigs in the country. DiDi Richards and Juicy Landrum are a formidable backcourt duo, and Te’a Cooper transfers in from South Carolina as an All-SEC performer under Dawn Staley.

1) Oregon:

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Ducks broke through last year and made it to the program’s first-ever Final Four, and they’ll be back for more. Oregon boasts the nation’s best player in senior Sabrina Ionescu, a point guard with forward size who has shattered the NCAA’s career triple-double list (man or woman). She also has a phenomenal supporting cast, led by sophomore Satou Sabally (16.6 PPG), who could be an All-American. Erin Boley is a three-point threat, and Ruthy Hebard nearly averages a double-double in the paint.

Kelly Graves’ bunch has gone from unexpected Elite 8, to disappointing Elite 8 loss, to the national semifinal. Now they’re ready to take the next step and win it all.