AP Top 25 poll: South Carolina earns 2 big wins and how Yahoo Sports voted in women's hoops

South Carolina's Sakima Walker and MiLaysia Fulwiley celebrate after a play during the first half against Duke in Durham, North Carolina, on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
South Carolina's Sakima Walker and MiLaysia Fulwiley celebrate after a play during the first half against Duke in Durham, North Carolina, on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

There’s a changing of the guard, and at no point this season was it on brighter display than Sunday.

For the first time in nearly two decades, Connecticut, Stanford and Tennessee all lost on the same day. The last time that happened was Dec. 29, 2004, according to ESPN. It was the season after Diana Taurasi (UConn) and Nicole Powell (Stanford) finished college and Candace Parker (Tennessee) missed her freshman season with a knee injury. The powerhouse era of consistent success might be over.

The Cardinal came into the weekend ranked No. 3 and became the 12th team ranked in the Associated Press top 10 to lose this season. It’s only a month into the season and it’s been a fun ride — albeit a tumultuous one for those of us seeding teams every week.

Further down the ballot, the Nos. 19-21 teams all lost back-to-back games, opening up more room for potential entries into the rankings this week.

I am an AP voter this season and will share my ballot weekly with team results and reasonings for movement in my rankings. (The full AP poll results are below.)

1. South Carolina (7-0)

South Carolina had won every game by at least 29 points before heading to the Triangle of North Carolina. UNC and Duke each took South Carolina deep into the fourth quarters of tight games, but the Gamecocks stayed composed to earn two more big wins. Guard Te-Hina Paopao (53.1% from 3) was just the transfer Dawn Staley needed. It’s too bad the final leg of the triangle, NC State, isn’t on their regular-season schedule.

2. UCLA (7-0)

The Bruins continue to control the paint better than almost any team in the country. Sophomore center Lauren Betts, the former No. 1 recruit who transferred from Stanford, hit all nine field goals for a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in a win over Arkansas. She’s shooting 78% this season. The starters are all averaging between 13 and 16 ppg as part of a balanced offense.

3. Iowa (8-1)

Five Hawkeyes scored in double digits during a 99-65 win over Bowling Green with stars Sue Bird and Jason Sudeikis courtside in Iowa. Caitlin Clark was kept a few points below her 29 ppg average, but upped her assists to 11 as those around her took advantage at the basket. Iowa had 72 paint points.

4. NC State (9-0)

The Wolfpack kept their spotless record with their closest call of the season 70-62 against a stronger Vanderbilt team and 79-61 against Illinois State. They consistently win the boards in a team effort. The six players averaging at least 22 minutes are averaging at least four rebounds per game, led by River Baldwin (6.7 rpg), Mimi Collins (6.2 rpg) and Saniya Rivers (5.9 rpg).

5. Texas (9-0)

Best wishes to the Big 12 contending with this Texas defense. The Longhorns scored nearly half of their points off turnovers with 36 in an impressive 80-68 win against UConn. And they kept Paige Bueckers to 13 points. It was the first over the Huskies in 11 tries.

They rank in the top 10 offensively and defensively. Rori Harmon runs the offense well, scoring on her own for 27 points and finding the open teammate with 13 assists. Madison Booker (20 points) is another one to watch on the Freshman of the Year list.

6. USC (7-0)

The historic start for JuJu Watkins is still going. The freshman guard had her fifth 30-point game in a 89-58 win over San Diego. Her 11 consecutive points turned a five-point lead into a 16-point one and earned the Trojans their second win of at least 30 points last week. Her 26.8 ppg ranks second behind Clark (29 ppg).

7. Stanford (8-1)

If it wasn’t clear how crucial the frontcourt duo of Cameron Brink and Kiki Iriafen are to Stanford, it should be after the 96-78 loss to Gonzaga on Sunday. Brink played 12 minutes in the first half of the loss to Gonzaga and sat the second half due to an apparent illness. Iriafen sat the third quarter with foul trouble, allowing the Zags room to boost the lead to 20 points. Stanford lost the third quarter 32-16 and no Cardinal scored more than 13. It was the most points they had given up in regulation since 1994.

8. LSU (8-1)

LSU’s only game of the week was a big one. With Angel Reese back in the lineup after a four-game absence, the Tigers dominated then-No. 9 Virginia Tech 82-64 in a Final Four rematch. They look the part of a 2024 Final Four contender with Aneesah Morrow and Mikaylah Williams leading the charge. There are no more significant games on the LSU schedule until SEC play.

9. Colorado (8-1)

The Buffaloes bounced back with wins over Boston University 85-55 and Air Force 74-58 though they weren’t stunning. Air Force kept Aaronette Vonleh to six points on 50% shooting, her second-worst outing joining the loss to NC State. The schedule is light until starting Pac-12 play against Utah on Dec. 30.

10. Utah (7-1)

Utah swept its games over NAIA member Carroll (Montana) 100-44 and BYU 87-68. Guard Kennady McQueen had one of her best games against BYU with 18 points. The Utes are tops in Division I in scoring (98.5 ppg), shooting (52.9%) and assists (26.2).

11. Baylor (7-0)

The Bears defeated SMU 85-61 and Oregon 71-51 to keep the course. They have one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the nation (1.74 ranks ninth) with seven players averaging at least two assists.

12. Virginia Tech (5-2)

The Hokies did not look the part of a legitimate contender at this point in the season with a poor showing against LSU. Georgia Amoore could have been more aggressive taking her own shot early, but she can do only so much. Elizabeth Kitley was shut down by the LSU frontcourt, and the Hokies lacked aggression in getting to the free-throw line. There is some work to do with this new group.

13. Notre Dame (6-1)

The Fighting Irish were judged harshly for their 29-point loss to South Carolina and hadn’t faced a significant opponent until last week’s ACC/SEC Challenge. They defeated Tennessee 74-69 without most of their talented backcourt and a freshman, Hannah Hidalgo, running the offense. This is a quality, talented team now and will be even more dangerous with its guards back in play.

14. Ohio State (6-1)

The Buckeyes took care of then-No. 20 Tennessee on the road handily with their standard defensive pressure. They scored 28 points off 20 Lady Vol turnovers, doubled up Tennessee in the paint and won in transition. Cotie McMahon fouled out, but led four double-digit scorers with 19 points.

15. UConn (4-3)

There are going to be a lot of teams notching their first wins in program history (or first in X decades) over UConn this season. It’s the earliest date the Huskies have had three losses in program history, besting the previous date of Dec. 13, 1986. They again had only 10 players available and had nearly as many turnovers (21) as field goals (26) in their loss to Texas.

16. Kansas State (7-1)

Kansas State topped Jackson State 79-37 for the Wildcats’ largest margin of the season. The rout allowed players down the roster to earn playing time.

17. Indiana (7-1)

The Hoosiers defeated Maine 67-59 and Stetson 72-34 in a quiet week. The first was a homecoming contest for Mackenzie Holmes that turned into a “slugfest” and the team had to “grind it out,” head coach Teri Moren said. The second was a better defensive showing keeping the Hatters to 19.4% overall from the floor.

18. Louisville (8-1)

It was a rematch of the Sweet 16 and again, Louisville was on top in a 64-58 defensive battle against Ole Miss in the ACC/SEC Challenge. It is the best win of the Cardinals’ season and they followed it up by dominating NC A&T.

19. Marquette (8-0)

Marquette crushed Memphis by 29 and Penn by 35. The Big East slate begins in a little more than a week when the Golden Eagles host Creighton on Dec. 13 and we learn more about both teams that have been at the bottom of the poll.

20. Gonzaga (8-2)

Gonzaga upset Stanford on Sunday after taking Washington State to overtime early in the season and falling by 11 to Louisville last month. Yvonne Ejim had 27 points and 12 rebounds as she kept up with and even bested Stanford’s frontcourt.

21. Miami (7-0)

The Hurricanes took down Mississippi State by six during Thanksgiving week and deserve to be higher than the Bulldogs, who lost two games this week. Miami took down NJIT by 44 points, the largest winning margin of the season.

22. Washington State (9-1)

The Cougars crushed Texas A&M Commerce 111-50 and UC Davis 77-52. Each of the past two games were season lows in turnovers and a season high in steals (12) against UC Davis.

23. North Carolina (5-3)

I dropped the Tar Heels out of my poll last week because of their sludgy offense and dropping back-to-back games to unranked opponents. Nearly upsetting South Carolina, the best team in the country, pushes them back into the ranks even with a losing skid that extended to three. When at their best, they can be a fringe Elite Eight contender.

24. Tennessee (4-4)

Tennessee is still without Rickea Jackson and dropped another two games this week. The Lady Vols' nonconference schedule is ridiculously tough. They lost to Notre Dame by five, but couldn’t keep up with Ohio State in a 78-58 runaway. That they’re staying in games with top teams has them in the poll, but it’s tough to overlook the losses piling up.

25. Green Bay (5-2)

Green Bay’s only game was a 76-53 win over Milwaukee on Thursday. The Phoenix rarely turn the ball over and are a sharp-shooting roster.

Out: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Princeton

Also considered: Creighton, Alabama, Arkansas, Syracuse

AP Top 25 poll (as of Dec. 4)

1. South Carolina (7-0)
2. UCLA (7-0)
3. NC State (9-0)
4. Iowa (8-1)
5. Texas (9-0)
6. USC (7-0)
7. LSU (8-1)
8. Colorado (8-1)
9. Stanford (8-1)
10. Baylor (7-0)
11. Utah (7-1)
12. Ohio State (6-1)
13. Kansas State (7-1)
14. Notre Dame (6-1)
15. Virginia Tech (5-2)
16. Indiana (7-1)
17. UConn (4-3)
18. Louisville (8-1)
19. Marquette (8-0)
20. Florida State (6-2)
21. Washington State (9-1)
22. Creighton (6-1)
23. Gonzaga (8-2)
24. North Carolina (5-3)
25. Penn State (7-1)