Opening day takeaways – Is South Carolina even better and is there a new favorite in the ACC?

South Carolina earned its NCAA title rings, and the Gamecocks and 16 other top 25 teams got their feet wet as the 2022-23 women’s basketball season opened Monday.

Only one top-25 team lost: No. 21 Creighton, the 2022 NCAA Women’s Tournament Cinderella, defeated No. 23 of South Dakota State.

From freshmen getting their first taste of the college game and transfers introducing themselves to new fans, and super seniors making their final laps, it’s been a lively day. Expect surprises and surprises soon, because we’ve only just begun.

ESPN’s Alexa Philippou, Charlie Creme and MA Voepel take a look at some of the things that stood out the most on opening day – and what they could mean for the rest of the season.

Are gamecocks even better?

Defending champions South Carolina lost a starter, Destanni Henderson, from last season but returned for national player of the year with Aliyah Boston. As good as the Gamecocks were last season at 35-2, could they be an improved team this season?

Sure, a 101-31 opening win over East Tennessee State was nothing more than a test. But it showed that the Gamecocks veterans will have plenty of reinforcements. Think freshmen like Ashlyn Watkins, a 6-foot-3 forward who had 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in her collegiate debut. Their performance was part of the 47 points South Carolina got from their bench.

Coach Dawn Staley spoke afterwards about how she felt each individual who returned was better off. Considering the Gamecocks didn’t have an obvious weakness last year, a big question this season was how exactly point guard duties would be covered with Henderson gone. Monday’s game suggests it could be a shared effort, at least for a while, with redshirt newcomer Raven Johnson taking the lead with four assists. So opponents might not want to hear it, but yes, this could be an even tougher South Carolina team to beat. — MA Voepel

New favorite in the ACC?

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Cayla King hits the trey against the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

No. 13 Virginia Tech has some high expectations this season, mostly based on Elizabeth Kitley, Ashley Owusu and Taylor Soule. The Hokies dominated Mount St. Mary’s 101-45, but the story was that it was Cayla King — not Kitley, Owusu, or Soule — who led the way. King, a 6-0 senior, made nine 3-pointers and scored 33 points, both career highs. This type of long-distance shooting can be applied to any game, against any opponent.

A game might not be big enough, but King’s outburst could be an important sign: If Virginia Tech really does have a legitimate fourth-scorer in King playing alongside Owusu and point guard Georgia Amoore in backcourt, the Hokies might have to be considered a favorite in the ACC. — Charlie Cream

The most important win on Monday?

Defense was the most overlooked aspect of Creighton’s Elite Eight run in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Bluejays kept Iowa and Iowa State, two of the nation’s top scoring teams, under 70 points last March and put South Dakota State in Monday’s 78-69 win, the only game of the opening day involving ranked teams, the shortest . South Dakota State, the nation’s most accurate 3-point shooting team a season ago, made just 5 of 21 from the deep against the swarming Bluejays. Junior Lauren Jensen dominated the stretch with seven of Creighton’s points in a crucial 9-0 run late in the fourth quarter. She scored 16 in the last 10 minutes and finished with 30.

The win will be worth an entire seed line in Tuesday’s bracketology and gives Creighton a road win that the committee will love during its March deliberations. With the upcoming games against South Dakota and Nebraska, the Bluejays now have a chance for a start that could propel them into the top 15 in the standings. — Cream

Van Lith, Louisville start fast

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Hailey Van Lith drills the jumper against the Cincinnati Bearcats

The Louisville Cardinals’ 87-68 win over Cincinnati was a little close at times — the Bearcats moved up to eight in third despite trailing by 23 — but junior Hailey Van Lith had the kind of big performance that many have come to expect from her high school. Her 28 points — the second-highest tally of her career — led the Cardinals, and she was pretty efficient at shooting 12-for-20 (60%). Van Lith only got to that clip twice last year as a sophomore, not attempting as many shots either time (15, 16).

If the rising star can maintain that efficiency, plus sinkshots beyond the arc (she was 2-for-7 on Monday), and Florida State Seminoles transfer Morgan Jones (14 points and 13 trips to the free-throw line against Cincinnati) continued to find their groove , Jeff Walz’s team was able to make the completion of three starters a quickly forgotten affair. — Philip

Two stories for the terps

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Diamond Miller stretches through the paint for upand-under buckets

The bad: Maryland senior guard Diamond Miller — who looked very good early on — went into the dressing room with a shine in the second quarter of the Terps’ 88-51 win over George Mason Knee injury and didn’t come back down for “endearment,” according to Washington Post reporter Kareem Copeland.

The Good: Princeton signing Abby Meyers can play even as she adjusts to a new team, and takes over the goalscoring role for the No. 17 Terps after Miller’s injury, finishing with a team-high 19 points (and winning the game on May 5). -for 5 shoots of 3). Meyers’ shooting skills are much needed for Maryland after losing Katie Benzan, Owusu and Chloe Bibby.

If the rest of the parts around her continue to level out, Maryland could surprise some people in the Big Ten, despite a string of departures behind Miller (assuming she’s doing well) and Meyers. — Philip

Is Soares what Cyclones have been missing?

Ashley Joens did it in Iowa State’s 87-54 win over Cleveland State with 28 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and had 24 points in 18 minutes of the first half. But what might be more important to the Cyclones’ long-term development is how two-time NAIA Player of the Year Stephanie Soares fares. The 6-6 post earned Monday’s start, making her presence known early with three blocks in the first two minutes of the game, despite only playing six minutes in the first half due to foul problems. She finished the game with a double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds) plus four blocks and four steals in 21 minutes.

If Soares manages to stay out of foul trouble, direct her conditioning in the right direction, and continue to operate against higher-quality contributions, she will offer the state of Iowa an inside presence on both ends that it hasn’t had in recent years. one that could help the program reach heights not seen in over a decade. — Philip

https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/34976630/women-ncaa-basketball-2022-23-opening-day-takeaways Opening day takeaways – Is South Carolina even better and is there a new favorite in the ACC?

Emma Bowman

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