Women's college basketball Power Rankings: What's at stake for Power 5 teams during Championship Week?

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Howard says Kentucky is 'locked in' for SEC tournament (1:32)

Rhyne Howard sets a school record eight three-pointers in 90-62 win over Auburn and explains how Kentucky turned its season around. (1:32)

Conference tournaments have arrived for four of the Power 5 conferences in women's college basketball. The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC combine for 30 teams in Charlie Creme's current 68-team Bracketology projection through Sunday's games.

Each of those four conference tournaments tips off Wednesday and crowns a champion Sunday. The Big 12 is still finishing its regular season; its tournament runs March 10-13.

The No. 1 seeds for the NCAA tournament seem secure: South Carolina, Stanford, NC State and Louisville. But considering several teams' seeds and others' at-large bids, there is still a lot at play before the NCAA bracket is announced on March 13. Can the Wolfpack and Cardinals hold on to their top seeds? Will Arizona, last season's NCAA runner-up, remain in the top 16 and get to host early-round NCAA tournament games? Can Tennessee, which slipped to a No. 5 seed after Sunday's loss, climb back into the top 16?

With lots of Bracketology input from Creme, we look at some of the biggest things that are at stake during Championship Week in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC tournaments.

ACC

NC State, winner of the past two league tournaments, won the regular-season title this year for the first time since 1990 behind a school-record 17 ACC victories. Meanwhile, Louisville ended on a high note Sunday by blowing Notre Dame out of the gym and finishing 16-2 in the ACC.

The Wolfpack are pretty much certain as an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed. Louisville should be fine, too. According to Creme, it probably would take an ACC quarterfinal upset, and a dominating Baylor run through the Big 12 tournament, to dislodge Louisville from a No. 1 seed.

Notre Dame, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are the ACC's other NCAA tournament locks. Miami and Boston College are likely in with at least one ACC tournament win, although an early loss might not knock them out. Reaching Friday's quarterfinals in Greensboro, North Carolina, will help the Hurricanes and Eagles breathe a little easier on Selection Sunday.

Big Ten

It's weird to think that the last-place team in the league, Illinois, had such an impact on who won the league regular-season title and who will be the No. 1 seed in Indy. That's because neither Maryland nor Michigan got to face the Illini, as their postponed games were not made up. Considering Illinois' 1-13 record, those were close to guaranteed wins for the Terps and Wolverines. That would have meant a four-way tie for the title between Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio State, with the Wolverines as the Big Ten tournament's top seed.

Instead, Ohio State -- which didn't play in the NCAA tournament last season because of a self-imposed penalty for NCAA infractions -- is the surprise top seed. The Buckeyes were under the radar in the league and went 2-3 against the other top-three Big Ten seeds. Michigan went 5-1, Maryland 2-3 and Iowa 1-3. You can see why the Wolverines are aggravated. Maybe that's energy that serves them well in Indianapolis.

Right now, Michigan, Maryland and Iowa are all in ESPN's projected top 16, which means hosting the early rounds. Ohio State, Creme said, could grab a top-16 spot, too.

Indiana, which lost four of its last five, likely needs a run to the Big Ten final to climb back into the top 16. The Hoosiers were the Big Ten team that made it furthest last season in the NCAA tournament, falling to Arizona in the Elite Eight.

Pac-12

Defending national champion Stanford is the only Power 5 team to go unbeaten in conference play this season, and the Cardinal head to Las Vegas in search of their 15th league tournament championship. (The Pac-12, then Pac-10, started its tournament in 2002.)

Stanford's NCAA No. 1 seed is secure, but Arizona's and Oregon's spots in the top 16 are not. Creme puts the Ducks, the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, as closer to the edge. What's a bit scary for them is a quarterfinal matchup with either UCLA or USC, both of which have a win over ranked Arizona this season.

As for the Wildcats, last season's national runner-up and the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12, they also could be challenged in the quarterfinals by Colorado or even last-place Washington, which won two of its last three games and scared Stanford in the regular-season finale. Reaching the semifinals should let Arizona feel confident of being in the NCAA's top 16.

Creme currently projects Colorado, Utah and Washington State in the NCAA field, too, which would be a nice reward for three programs that have had their struggles. The Utes haven't made the Big Dance since 2011, and the Buffaloes haven't since 2013. The Cougars went last season for the second time in program history -- 30 years after their first trip.

SEC

South Carolina is the surest of sure things as an NCAA No. 1 seed, having gone 10-0 against ranked teams this season. The Gamecocks have won six of the last seven SEC tournament titles. LSU, which goes into Nashville as the SEC's No. 2 seed, has an NCAA top-16 spot all but wrapped up. It's been a superb first season in Baton Rouge for coach Kim Mulkey, as LSU missed the last two NCAA tournaments.

Tennessee, however, will try to find its way back into the top 16. The Lady Vols, the SEC's No. 3 seed, were dealt a terrible blow when their leader in scoring, rebounding and assists, guard Jordan Horston, went down with an elbow injury Feb. 17. Tennessee has lost three of its past four, although the Lady Vols nearly rallied to top LSU on Sunday.

In the season's first NCAA reveal on Jan. 27, Tennessee was a No. 1 seed. Now, Creme has the Lady Vols as a No. 5 seed heading into Monday's final reveal. Iowa's late-season run in the Big Ten vaulted the Hawkeyes into the top 16 in the Lady Vols' place.

The SEC always gets a lot of teams in the NCAA field, and that will be the case again, with a projected nine by Creme. The winner of the SEC 8-9 game between Arkansas and Missouri can feel safely in, but the loser might not. But both helped themselves by winning their Sunday regular-season finales. Especially the Tigers beating ranked Florida on the road without leading rebounder Aijha Blackwell, who was suspended for the last two games of the regular season.

That Florida loss propelled Ole Miss into the SEC's No. 4 seed, and the Rebels are poised to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007, as coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin has brought the program back to life.

SEC No. 5 seed Florida is headed to its first NCAA tournament since 2016. The Gators lost their last three games. But after coach Cameron Newbauer resigned over the summer and top scorer/rebounder Lavender Briggs left the team in January, few were expecting the Gators to be 20-9 overall and 10-6 in the SEC. And while Georgia lost four of its last seven, only one (Auburn) was a bad loss. The SEC No. 6 seed Bulldogs -- who made the league tournament final last season -- are safely in the NCAA field.

Kentucky's season has not been what the Wildcats were hoping for, and at one point they were out of the NCAA field. But they have played their way back in by winning their last six games and moving to 8-8 in the SEC. It would have been a real shame to see Rhyne Howard miss the NCAA tournament her senior season, but that appears to have been averted.

Still, the SEC No. 7 seed Wildcats really want to nail things down when they face No. 10 Mississippi State in their tournament opener Thursday. The Bulldogs have lost six of their last seven and likely would need to make the SEC semifinals to climb back into the NCAA field.


Player of the Week: Caitlin Clark, Iowa Hawkeyes

The sophomore guard knew the Hawkeyes needed a big finish in the final week of the regular season, and they got it with victories over Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan. Clark averaged 33 points, 7.7 rebounds and 9.3 assists in those games, making 13 of 25 3-point shots (52%). She leads Division I in scoring at 27.5 PPG and assists at 8.3 APG.

Win of the Week: Colorado Buffaloes 86, Oregon Duck 83, 2 OTs

The Buffs haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2013, which was also the last time they won at least 20 games in a season. But Colorado goes to the Pac-12 tournament at 20-7 and as the No. 5 seed, with Wednesday's win against Oregon one of biggest of the season. Mya Hollingshed had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Jaylyn Sherrod 17 points and eight assists.

After starting 13-0 overall and 2-0 in the Pac-12, Colorado lost six of its next seven. But since then, the Buffs turned things around by winning six of seven.

Coach of the Week: Wes Moore, NC State Wolfpack

With their 68-66 win at Virginia Tech on Sunday, the Wolfpack finished their winningest regular season in program history with 26 victories, 17 in the ACC. The ACC regular-season champions are near-certain to get their second consecutive NCAA tournament No. 1 seed. In his ninth season at NC State, Moore is 216-66 overall (.766) and 106-40 in the ACC (.726).

Team of the Week: Iowa Hawkeyes

Clark was the headliner for Iowa, but the Hawkeyes' supporting cast also was huge in their three victories. Forward/center Monika Czinano was 32-of-39 from the field (82%) while totaling 73 points. And guard/forward McKenna Warnock, who returned from a hand injury Feb. 19 after missing four games, was 14-of-27 (52%) while totaling 40 points.

Iowa shared the Big Ten regular-season title, the Hawkeyes' first since 2008. Iowa fans filled Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,056 capacity) on Sunday, the program's first sellout since 1988, when C. Vivian Stringer was coach there.


Power Rankings

1. South Carolina Gamecocks (27-1)
Previous ranking:
1
This week: SEC tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

Aliyah Boston broke the SEC record for consecutive double-doubles in Thursday's 89-48 win at Texas A&M, then extended it to 21 in a row as the Gamecocks finished the regular season with a 71-57 victory at Ole Miss on Sunday. South Carolina will be the No. 1 seed at the SEC tournament in Nashville this week, seeking to win its seventh title in the last eight tournaments. The Gamecocks will face the Arkansas-Missouri winner Friday.

2. Stanford Cardinal (25-3)
Previous ranking:
2
This week: Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Thursday)

After beating Washington State for the millionth time -- OK, the series record is now 71-0 for Stanford -- on Thursday, the Cardinal had to pull an escape act against last-place Washington on Sunday. But thanks largely to Anna Wilson's defense, the Cardinal made senior day a happy one and finished undefeated in league play for the eighth time in program history. However, both of those victories and the Feb. 20 win at Oregon were by single digits, so the Cardinal might have some concern about having three close games to end the regular season. Stanford faces the Oregon State-Arizona State winner Thursday.

3. NC State Wolfpack (26-3)
Previous ranking:
3
This week: ACC tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

The Wolfpack escaped Virginia Tech on Sunday with a 68-66 win, which gave them the ACC regular-season title outright. Senior center Elissa Cunane led the way with 22 points. NC State will face the Boston College-Florida State winner Friday.

4. Baylor Bears (23-5)
Previous ranking:
4
This week: at Iowa State (Monday), vs. Texas Tech (Sunday)

With wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas this past week, Baylor remains tied atop the Big 12 with Iowa State at 13-3. The Bears won their first matchup this season with the Cyclones on Jan. 23 in Waco, Texas; the rematch in Ames, Iowa, is Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith is coming off a season-high 33 points Saturday vs. the Jayhawks.

5. Louisville Cardinals (25-3)
Previous ranking:
5
This week: ACC tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

Single-digit losses to NC State and North Carolina are the only blemishes on Louisville's ACC record. The Cardinals go into Greensboro as confident as anyone, coming off an 86-64 win at Notre Dame on Sunday in which they shot 58.5% from the field. Louisville has been in the ACC final three of the last four years, winning in 2018 and losing in 2019 and 2021. Duke and Pittsburgh meet in the ACC's first round; that winner faces Miami, and then that winner meets Louisville on Friday.

6. LSU Tigers (25-4)
Previous ranking:
6
This week: SEC tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

With victories over Alabama and Tennessee, the Tigers finished second at 13-3 in the SEC. It was LSU's first top-two finish in the league since 2008, when the Tigers made the last of five consecutive trips to the Final Four. However, on Sunday they were without starting guard Alexis Morris, who suffered an MCL sprain in her left knee in the Alabama victory Thursday. Morris might not play in the SEC tournament, either, with the hope that she will be ready to go for the NCAA tournament. The Tigers face the winner of Kentucky-Mississippi State on Friday.

7. UConn Huskies (22-5)
Previous ranking:
11
This week: Big East tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Saturday)

With both Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd back for UConn, things are looking up in Storrs. The Huskies finished the regular season with victories over Marquette, St. John's and Providence, with all three held below 40 points. The Huskies might have seen their conference-game winning streak end vs. Villanova on Feb. 9, but they're favored to win their league tournament championship for the ninth year in a row.

8. Texas Longhorns (21-6)
Previous ranking:
9
This week: at Kansas (Wednesday), vs. Oklahoma State (Saturday)

Whatever was ailing the Longhorns in late January and early February -- OK, it was Oklahoma and Baylor -- Texas has righted the ship, winning its last six games. Texas got victories vs. Kansas State and TCU this past week. Kansas is trying to secure an NCAA tournament berth, so traveling to Lawrence could be a challenge for Texas this week.

9. Iowa State Cyclones (24-4)
Previous ranking:
10
This week: vs. Baylor (Monday), at West Virginia (Saturday)

The Cyclones took care of Kansas and Texas Tech this past week, making a combined 25 3-pointers in those games. They will need to fill it up from behind the arc again on Monday as they get another shot at co-Big 12 leader Baylor. The Cyclones fell 87-61 at Baylor on Jan. 23.

10. Michigan Wolverines (22-5)
Previous ranking:
7
This week: Big Ten tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

After avenging a previous loss to rival Michigan State last Thursday, Michigan ran into the best version of Iowa on Sunday and couldn't slow the Hawkeyes' offense. We've chronicled the Wolverines' disappointment in how the Big Ten standings played out, and they are probably also kicking themselves for a 71-69 double-overtime loss at Northwestern on Feb. 13. But they can use all that as motivation for the league tournament. Guard Leigha Brown returned from injury Sunday (nine points, four assists); she had not played since Jan. 31. Wisconsin faces Illinois in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament, with that winner meeting Nebraska. Then that winner meets Michigan on Friday.

11. Maryland Terrapins (21-7)
Previous ranking:
8
This week: Big Ten tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

The Terps didn't do anything wrong in the past week to cause their fall in the Power Rankings, as they beat Indiana 67-64 on Friday. They just got passed by a few other teams. Guard Ashley Owusu was out for the Hoosiers game with illness, and she also missed time before that with an ankle injury. The Terps hope to have her ready to go in Indianapolis, as they seek their sixth Big Ten tournament title since joining the league in 2014-15. Penn State and Rutgers meet in the first round, with that winner facing Indiana. Then that winner plays Maryland on Friday; if it's Terps-Hoosiers again, they split their regular-season meetings.

12. North Carolina Tar Heels (23-5)
Previous ranking:
16
This week: ACC tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

The Tar Heels won seven of their last eight games, finishing this past week with victories over Virginia and Duke. North Carolina hasn't won the ACC tournament since 2008, and the Tar Heels' last ACC final appearance was in 2013, before Notre Dame and Louisville joined the league. But they are getting closer to the top of the league, as their ACC No. 4 seed shows. Clemson and Syracuse meet in the first round, and that winner plays Virginia Tech. That winner faces North Carolina on Friday.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes (20-7)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: Big Ten tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

We asked two weeks ago if the Hawkeyes could get back into the Power Rankings after falling out in December, and they did it. Iowa lost to Maryland on Feb. 14, but has won four in a row since, none bigger than a 104-80 victory over Michigan on Sunday. That clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and No. 2 league tournament seed. Friday, the Hawkeyes face the winner of the second-round game between Northwestern and Minnesota.

14. Oklahoma Sooners (22-6)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: at Oklahoma State (Wednesday), vs. Kansas (Saturday)

The Sooners fell out of the last Power Rankings after three consecutive losses, but are back in after victories this past week against TCU and Kansas State. The latter was 72-69 and came on guard Taylor Robertson's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. It was a boost to Oklahoma to hold Wildcats center Ayoka Lee to 13 points after she scored an NCAA-record 61 against them in a 94-65 loss at K-State on Jan. 23.

15. Ohio State Buckeyes (22-5)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: Big Ten tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

The Buckeyes are the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament after closing the regular season with victories over Penn State and Michigan State. Their only league losses were to ranked teams: Indiana, Maryland and Michigan (twice). Ohio State has played in the Big Ten tournament final 10 times and won five of those, the last in 2018. Friday, the Buckeyes face the winner of the second-round game between Michigan State and Purdue.

16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-7)
Previous ranking:
15
This week: ACC tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

The Irish got knocked around in both their games against Louisville, falling 73-47 on Feb. 13 and 86-64 Sunday. But the Cardinals are the only ACC team that Notre Dame really struggled against this season; the Irish got the only league win over conference regular-season champion NC State. Notre Dame is the ACC's No. 3 seed. Wake Forest faces Virginia in the first round, with that winner meeting Georgia Tech. Then that winner than faces Notre Dame on Friday.


In the waiting room

Arizona Wildcats (20-6): Arizona falls out of the Power Rankings after losing to UCLA on Thursday, although star Cate Reese (dislocated shoulder) didn't play in that game. She was also out Saturday, but Arizona beat USC. The Wildcats head into the Pac-12 tournament as the No. 4 seed looking to win that title for the first time, but it's uncertain if Reese will be available.

Indiana Hoosiers (19-7): The Hoosiers also fall out after losing four of their last five games, two of them to Iowa. Indiana is the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament and has appeared in the league final just once, winning it in 2002.

Virginia Tech Hokies (21-8): The Hokies' five ACC losses were to ranked teams, including twice to league champion NC State by single digits. The Hokies missed two 3-point attempts in the final minute Sunday that could have won the game vs. the Wolfpack. Virginia Tech is the No. 5 seed in the ACC tournament.