Fresh off signing a massive seven-year contract extension, Dawn Staley has South Carolina back in a familiar spot atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
The Gamecocks received 14 first-place votes to narrowly come out ahead of No. 2 UConn, with Stanford, Maryland and North Carolina State rounding out the Top Five.
Here is how the entire rankings played out:
1. South Carolina
5. North Carolina State
12. Iowa State
14. Oregon State
16. Florida State
17. Ohio State
17. Georgia Tech
19. West Virginia
21. South Florida
23. Texas A&M
24. Virginia Tech
South Carolina is coming off a 26-5 season that saw the Gamecocks lose in the Final Four. This is the second straight year they have been atop the preseason rankings.
"With who we brought back and who we added for this season, we knew we would start out among the hunted, and it's something that our program is getting used to," Staley told reporters. "Watching practice every day, I can see that we have the pieces and the competitive fire to reach all of our goals. We have a few more weeks to put those pieces together into a cohesive, successful team that can live up to this preseason ranking."
Arizona (22nd) is the only semifinalist from 2020-21 not ranked in the Top Five this season. UConn remains in a familiar perch at No. 2 after a shocking loss to Arizona in the Final Four, while defending national champion Stanford slots in at No. 3.
No team has repeated since UConn won four straight from 2013-16.