Women's college basketball Power Rankings: Stanford leapfrogs South Carolina for top spot

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Kentucky goes wild after stunning South Carolina with late 3 (1:10)

Dre'una Edwards hits the go-ahead 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining as Kentucky defeats South Carolina 64-62 to win the SEC championship. (1:10)

Thanks to Kentucky's magical run through the SEC tournament, we end the 2021-22 women's college basketball Power Rankings with a new No. 1.

That doesn't mean South Carolina, which had been in the top spot from the first week, has lost any ground in NCAA tournament seeding. The Gamecocks already had the overall No. 1 seed wrapped up in Charlie Creme's Bracketology projection, so Sunday's 64-62 loss to the Wildcats in the SEC final only cost South Carolina another championship trophy. The Gamecocks now will go after the biggest one with perhaps some additional motivation.

Four of the Power 5 conferences have their champions and automatic NCAA bids decided, while the Big 12 tournament is this week in Kansas City. Baylor has dominated that event, winning nine of the past 10. A title this year might even propel the Bears into the last No. 1 seed, after Louisville lost in the ACC quarterfinals.

The Big 12 currently has six teams in the NCAA field, none of which are in danger of falling out regardless of the league tournament results. Oklahoma is trying to stay among the NCAA's top 16 seeds, which host first- and second-round games. So the Sooners, who ended the regular season with a loss to Kansas (giving the Jayhawks insurance to make their first NCAA appearance since 2013), hope to get at least one win in K.C.

Here's one final edition of the Power Rankings before you fill out your NCAA bracket.


Player of the Week: NaLyssa Smith, Baylor Bears

The Bears needed two wins this past week to secure the Big 12 regular-season title for the 12th year in a row. They got them behind Smith, who went 24-of-36 from the field and 14-of-15 from the line for 63 points, with 32 rebounds, in the two games.

Team of the Week: Kentucky Wildcats

There are several Kentucky teams that seemed to have a good chance to win the SEC tournament in the past decade-plus, but they didn't do it. A few weeks ago, this year's Wildcats weren't thought to even be in the running for that title. But their 10-game winning streak turned around their season and gave them a trophy the program had not won in 40 years.

Win of the Week: UMass Minutewomen 62, Dayton Flyers 56

Dayton was the Atlantic 10 regular-season champion, but UMass won its first A-10 tournament title on Sunday. It is the program's first NCAA tournament bid since 1998, and third overall.

Coach of the Week: Kyra Elzy, Kentucky Wildcats

In her second season as the Wildcats' head coach, Elzy had to use tough love and motivational tactics to get her team out of the funk it was still dealing with in February. And it worked. She also told them that defense had to be an all-in proposition if they were going to have a chance of making the NCAA field. That worked, too, and now they don't have to wait for an at-large bid. They claimed the SEC's automatic berth with their dramatic win over South Carolina on Sunday.


Power Rankings

1. Stanford Cardinal (28-3)
Previous ranking:
2
This week: No games

The defending national champions had some close calls at the end of the regular season but cruised through the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas with wins over Oregon State, Colorado and Utah. Haley Jones was the tournament's most outstanding player, and -- along with the rest of the Cardinal -- is looking strong going into the NCAA tournament.

2. NC State Wolfpack (29-3)
Previous ranking:
3
This week: No games

The Wolfpack have turned into the boss of the ACC tournament, having won it three years in a row now. Miami had a terrific run to reach the final, but there was no stopping NC State, which won its three tournament games by an average of 19.3 points. Senior center Elissa Cunane, who grew up near Greensboro, has made the most of her hometown tournament, winning her second MVP Sunday.

3. South Carolina Gamecocks (29-2)
Previous ranking:
1
This week: No games

They drop in the Power Rankings, but as we said, nothing really changes for the Gamecocks going into the NCAA tournament. Except they might have a renewed sense of urgency in practice. Some defensive lapses and missed free throws cost South Carolina in its SEC final loss, but this is still the same powerhouse team that has Minneapolis in its sights.

4. Baylor Bears (25-5)
Previous ranking:
4
This week: Big 12 tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

The Bears finished strong with blowout victories over Iowa State and Texas Tech to win the Big 12 regular-season title for the 12th year in a row. NaLyssa Smith combined for 63 points and 32 rebounds in those two games as Baylor heads into Kansas City with a full head of steam.

5. UConn Huskies (24-5)
Previous ranking:
7
This week: Big East tournament final vs. Villanova (Monday)

Villanova ended UConn's nine-year conference-game winning streak on Feb. 9, but Paige Bueckers, Caroline Ducharme and Olivia Nelson-Ododa didn't play for the Huskies in that 72-69 loss. The current version of UConn is the particularly scary version for opponents.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes (23-7)
Previous ranking:
13
This week: No games

The Hawkeyes continue to soar, moving up seven spots in the Power Rankings after winning the Big Ten tournament. No, they didn't have to beat Ohio State, Maryland or Michigan to do it, and they lost to all of those teams in the regular season (and also beat the Wolverines once). But they held Big Ten tournament foes Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana all below 38% shooting and showed some defensive prowess to go along with their offense.

7. Texas Longhorns (23-6)
Previous ranking:
8
This week: Big 12 quarterfinals vs. Kansas State (Friday)

Texas finished the regular season with victories over Kansas and Oklahoma State and has now won eight in a row. The No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament, the Longhorns will face a Wildcats team they have beaten twice already by double digits. Texas has won the Big 12 tournament title just once: in 2003, when the Longhorns last went to the Final Four.

8. Kentucky Wildcats (19-11)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: No games

It's rare that a team could vault from unranked to the top 10, but the Wildcats did something rare. Unprecedented, in fact: They beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds to win the SEC tournament. While "body of work" will keep them out of the top 16 in the NCAA tournament, they're playing like a top-16 seed.

9. Louisville Cardinals (25-4)
Previous ranking:
5
This week: No games

Louisville won the 2018 ACC title and lost in the final in 2019 and 2021. This year, the Cardinals let a big lead slip away and were stunned by Miami on a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinals. Considering their past ACC tournament success and the fact that they came into Greensboro looking good, getting outscored by the Hurricanes 23-7 in the fourth quarter was a big disappointment. But as with South Carolina, Louisville should be motivated for the NCAA tournament.

10. LSU Tigers (25-5)
Previous ranking:
6
This week: No games)

Coach Kim Mulkey said going in that the SEC tournament wasn't a priority for the Tigers, since little would change with their NCAA seed and they wanted to rest guard Alexis Morris. She suffered an MCL sprain on Feb. 24 but is expected to play in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers fell in the SEC quarterfinals to Kentucky; considering the Wildcats went on to win the title, the loss doesn't hurt LSU at all.

11. Iowa State Cyclones (25-5)
Previous ranking:
9
This week: Big 12 tournament quarterfinals vs. TBD (Friday)

After a disappointing 25-point loss to Baylor last Monday, the Cyclones finished the regular season on a high note Saturday with a 74-57 win at West Virginia in which guard Emily Ryan had a career-high 29 points. The Cyclones got a program-record 14 Big 12 wins and have the No. 2 seed in the league tournament, which they last won in 2001.

12. Indiana Hoosiers (19-7)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: No games

The Hoosiers fell out of the Power Rankings last week after losing four of their last five games in the regular season. But their run to the Big Ten final -- beating Rutgers, Maryland and Ohio State -- before falling 74-67 to Iowa showed that Indiana looks ready for the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers reached the Elite Eight last season.

13. Virginia Tech Hokies (21-8)
Previous ranking:
NR
This week: No games

The Hokies lost by just two points to league champion NC State in their regular-season finale on Feb. 27, and then made the semifinals of the ACC tournament before falling to the Wolfpack again. ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley, who suffered a shoulder injury in the quarterfinal win over North Carolina, didn't play in the semis. Coach Kenny Brooks said that was precautionary, so she should be ready for the NCAA tournament. Same for guard Cayla King, who sprained her ankle in the Hokies' ACC opener against Clemson.

14. Michigan Wolverines (22-6)
Previous ranking:
10
This week: No games

It has been a difficult past week for Michigan: missing out on sharing the Big Ten regular-season title and then being upset 76-73 by Nebraska in the league tournament quarterfinals. The Wolverines started the season 20-2, but have now lost four of their last six. They look for a confidence reset going into the NCAA tournament.

15. Ohio State Buckeyes (23-6)
Previous ranking:
15
This week: No games

The Buckeyes were the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament and seeking their sixth title, but suffered their second loss of the season to Indiana in the semifinals. Still, they head into the NCAA tournament having won eight of their last 10.

16. Maryland Terrapins (21-8)
Previous ranking:
11
This week: No games

The Terps entered Indianapolis seeking their sixth Big Ten tournament title since joining the league in 2014-15. But they left after a 62-51 quarterfinal loss to Indiana, and it's hard to be sure which version of Maryland we will see in the NCAA tournament. For a team with so many weapons, the Terps have had some surprisingly bad offensive performances, including scoring below 60 points in two of their last three games, both losses.

In the waiting room

Oklahoma Sooners (23-7): The Sooners fell to Kansas to close the regular season but have a chance to avenge that loss quickly as the teams meet again Friday in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.

North Carolina Tar Heels (23-6): The Tar Heels had won seven of their last eight games going into the ACC tournament but lost 87-80 in overtime to Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals.

BYU Cougars (25-2): The top seed in the West Coast Conference tournament, they face No. 4 seed Portland in Monday's semifinals.