South Carolina will open the 2020-21 women's college basketball season as the No. 1 team in the country.
The Gamecocks earned 29 of the 30 first-place votes in the Associated Press' preseason Top 25 poll. Stanford, Connecticut, Baylor and Louisville rounded out the top five.
The NCAA canceled the 2020 NCAA tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but South Carolina could lay claim to a de facto national title after having finished first in both the final AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll.
Associated Press Preseason Women's Basketball Top 25
1. South Carolina
6. Mississippi State
8. North Carolina State
13. Texas A&M
15. Iowa State
18. Oregon State
20. Ohio State
22. Notre Dame
24. Missouri State
Last season was supposed to be a retooling season for South Carolina, which had to replace Te'a Cooper and rely on four true freshmen.
Aliyah Boston nearly averaged a double-double (12.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, while Zia Cooke put up 12.0 points per game. Together, they helped put the Gamecocks ahead of schedule. That's why Dawn Staley can lose two first-round draft picks (Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Tyasha Harris) and still be widely considered the top team in the country.
Connecticut, on the other hand, did take a step backward after Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier moved on to the WNBA.
The Huskies compiled a 29-3 record, but lopsided losses to Baylor, Oregon and South Carolina showed how reaching a 13th straight Final Four would've been a challenge.
Megan Walker and Crystal Dangerfield moved on to the WNBA, but UConn is welcoming in a freshman class headlined by star guard Paige Bueckers. Bueckers has the potential to be the team's best talent since Breanna Stewart.
Iowa State was the biggest riser in the preseason poll, having failed to crack the Top 25 upon the conclusion of 2019-20. The Cyclones return their top four scorers, most notably guard Ashley Joens, who averaged 21.1 points and 10.7 rebounds in 27 appearances.
Baylor casts a large shadow in the Big 12. The Lady Bears won the conference tournament in nine of the previous 10 years before the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 installment.
Claiming a Big 12 title will be a tall order for Iowa State, but reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010 could be on the cards.