AP Top 25 women's basketball poll: It's South Carolina ... then everyone else (again)

The Associated Press voters’ version of the "Sunday Scaries" is sitting down and attempting to make sense of their Top 25 poll.

The No. 2 spot changed again this week after Iowa took down Ohio State at home on senior day. Caitlin Clark scored 35 to pass Pete Maravich and push the all-time record higher. The Buckeyes were one of three teams ranked in the top five to lose, though all the losses were to ranked squads.

Conference tournaments tip off this week with automatic qualifiers for the NCAA tournament on the line. Everyone is playing for entry and positioning. Here are the top storylines heading into a new week of the AP Top 25 poll that won’t be any easier next Sunday.

Everyone chasing South Carolina again

Around this time last year, LSU head coach Kim Mulkey described the competition as "South Carolina ... and everyone else." The Gamecocks were that much better than any other team in the field and en route to a repeat national championship before Iowa ended their undefeated season in the Final Four.

Now it's LSU looking for a repeat, though it will have to do it from deep on the seed line again. And South Carolina is still above everyone else with an undefeated season, even though that gap feels much smaller this year.

There are more highly talented teams that could upset South Carolina and the SEC hasn't been as tough as other conferences, namely the ACC and Pac-12. (Of course, we said the same thing last year and then this happened.)

The Gamecocks are 5-0 against teams ranked in the top 25 of the NET. It's the best record, but the fewest games played of almost any in that ranking category. SEC opponent LSU (1-2) and mid-major Gonzaga (1-2) are two of them. Three of the five victories were before the calendar year started when teams were settling into new lineups and battling injury.

South Carolina hasn't been tested at a high level on a nightly basis as much as other teams in this poll. How, if at all, that comes into play will show in the next few weeks.

Dawn Staley's team finished the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive year. (Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Dawn Staley's team finished the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive year. (Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How will likely Pac-12 tournament upsets decide seeds?

What happens in Vegas will not stay in Vegas when it comes to the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament. It will affect where teams are in the NCAA tournament bracket later this month because upsets are highly likely whether the teams are ranked or not. And a few teams are trying to move up off the bubble.

The Pac-12 had possibly its best, most exciting season in its very last. Realignment led to the demise of the conference, which is a shame for women’s basketball on the West Coast. There has been no clear top team this season with any team able to beat any other on any given night. And it’s not hyperbole.

Stanford won the regular season title and No. 1 seed in the tournament, but did it in part because of its easier Pac-12 schedule. The Cardinal only had to play UCLA, USC, Colorado and Utah once. Those teams finished second, third, fifth and sixth, respectively. After dropping a line in the latest reveal, an early loss by Stanford could mean another drop off the top seed line.

UCLA, which slid into the final No. 1 seed spot, is also in danger of dropping off with an early upset. The Bruins played USC, Colorado and Utah twice each.

Colorado might have already dropped completely out of hosting — a shocking fall after the Buffaloes were a No. 1 seed a few weeks ago. They’re 1-5 to close the season and need to make a deep run to host after losses to UCLA and Washington State in the last week. They could also use a confidence boost.

Utah could have moved up into a hosting spot, but it lost to Washington and might be out of contention entirely for a top-four seed.

Washington State, an early season top-25 team, and Arizona, which is making a late push, have the most to gain in the tournament. Each are on the bubble with solid wins in conference play to boost their résumé.

Injuries hurt Virginia Tech, Iowa, Indiana

Injuries, which already had an outsized impact on the season, will affect at least three top programs this week. It’s never good to lose a star player, but at this point it’s win-or-go-home time and there is limited live game action to work on adjustments. It could disrupt Virginia Tech, Iowa and Indiana’s chances at a national championship. All were in the NCAA selection committee’s last top 16 reveal on Thursday, led by Virginia Tech and Iowa as No. 2 seeds.

Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley left with a knee injury four minutes into the second half of the regular season finale. The two-time ACC Player of the Year and WNBA prospect was a Naismith Player of the Year finalist in 2023 with Clark, Aliyah Boston and Maddy Siegrist.

Kitley’s loss is massive for Virginia Tech, one of the hottest teams heading into tournament time. Kitley and point guard Georgia Amoore are the main options for the Hokies and one of the best duos in the nation. They had to adjust after reaching the Final Four with nine new players on the roster. It started to come together at the end of January and another magical late-season run could have been in play.

Kitley is averaging a career-best 22.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Virginia Tech was the No. 5 overall seed in the committee’s last reveal. The Hokies lost to Notre Dame later that night, but with so many upsets it didn’t mean their shot at a No. 1 seed was done. Now it might be.

Iowa fifth-year senior Molly Davis sustained a possible knee injury in the second quarter of Iowa’s win against Ohio State on Sunday. Davis was down on the court for a few minutes before managers carried her off the court. She came out for senior day festivities in a wheelchair with her right leg wrapped.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said the team won’t know any more until Monday. Davis transferred from Central Michigan ahead of last season to come off the bench and relieve Clark of constant ball-handling duties. As a starter this year, she’s averaging 6.1 points and 3.1 assists per game. It won't be as detrimental as Tech losing Kitley, but a little more will be put back on Clark and top reserves without Davis there.

Indiana senior forward Mackenzie Holmes landed awkwardly on her left knee with one minute left in the third quarter of a win over Maryland on senior day. The All-American left for the locker room and did not return.

Holmes, who has battled knee injuries, including surgery on her left, is averaging 20.7 points while shooting 67%, sixth-best in Division I. The Hoosiers have five players averaging double-digits, but play through Holmes. It was her 24-point performance and early play that helped Indiana upset Iowa late last month.

Yahoo Sports' AP ballot

1. South Carolina (29-0)
2. Stanford (26-4)
3. Iowa (25-4)
4. Ohio State (25-3)
5. Texas (27-4)
6. UCLA (24-5)
7. USC (23-5)
8. Oregon State (23-6)
9. Virginia Tech (23-5)
10. UConn (26-5)
11. Indiana (23-4)
12. LSU (25-4)
13. NC State (24-5)
14. Notre Dame (22-6)
15. Syracuse (23-6)
16. Kansas State (24-6)
17. Oklahoma (21-8)
18. Gonzaga (29-2)
19. Utah (21-9)
20. Baylor (23-6)
21. Colorado (21-8)
22. Creighton (23-4)
23. Princeton (22-4)
24. UNLV (26-2)
25. Duke (19-9)

Week 18 AP rankings

1. South Carolina
2. Stanford
3. Iowa
4. Ohio State
5. USC
6. Texas
8. LSU
9. UConn
10. NC State
11. Virginia Tech
12. Indiana
13. Oregon State
14. Notre Dame
15. Gonzaga
16. Kansas State
17. Baylor
18. Colorado
19. Oklahoma
20. Syracuse
21. Creighton
22. Utah
23. UNLV
24. Louisville
25. Fairfield