news 3 days ago

UK just outside top 10 in ESPN's 'way-too-early' women's college basketball rankings

Lexington Herald-Leader — Josh Sullivan Lexington Herald-Leader

March 25-- Mar. 25--In normal times, college basketball fans would be looking forward to an exciting slate of games in the men's and women's NCAA Tournaments later this week. If not for the coronavirus pandemic having shut down the sports world almost completely, the regional semifinals and finals would have played out, narrowing both fields to the Final Four.

In our current reality, however, we're left to speculate about what might have been. And, as a temporary escape, it never hurts to look forward to what could come to pass next season.

ESPN on Wednesday released its "Way-too-early" women's basketball top 25 rankings for the 2020-21 season. Kentucky, at No. 12, is projected to improve next year. The Wildcats ended this season ranked No. 16 after a loss to No. 9 Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals.

Though the Wildcats will lose key contributors like Jaida Roper, Amanda Paschal and Sabrina Haines to graduation, star guard Rhyne Howard will return for her junior season coming off a year in which she was voted a First Team All-American by The Associated Press and was named a finalist for national player of the year. The Wildcats should also get a big boost from incoming freshman Treasure Hunt, a five-star wing from Chattanooga, Tenn., who is close friends with Howard.

Not surprisingly, the SEC is well-represented in ESPN's rankings with five teams making the cut. South Carolina is ranked No. 1 and Mississippi State is No. 3. Also ranked are Texas A&M (18) and Arkansas (19). Louisville is ranked No. 6.

ESPN 2020-21 TOP 25

1. South Carolina

2. Stanford

3. Mississippi State

4. Connecticut

5. Baylor

6. Louisville

7. Arizona

8. N.C. State

9. UCLA

10. Maryland

11. Oregon

12. Kentucky

13. Oregon State

14. Ohio State

15. Northwestern

16. Iowa State

17. Indiana

18. Texas A&M

19. Arkansas

20. DePaul

21. Notre Dame

22. Gonzaga

23. Syracuse

24. Missouri State

25. Michigan

___

(c)2020 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

Visit the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) at www.kentucky.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.