What we learned in women's college hoops Week 1: South Carolina isn't rebuilding; LSU has a lot to figure out

There was no easing into the season. Women’s college basketball got off to a start that was equal parts chaotic and enthralling.

No. 1 LSU lost to No. 20 Colorado, new stars put themselves on the map and a team that was supposed to be rebuilding looks fully formed.

Here’s what we learned in Week 1.

South Carolina is not rebuilding

The Gamecocks lost five WNBA Draft picks, including one of the best players in school history in Aliyah Boston. It would be easy to assume they’d have a bit of a drop-off this season or the team would at least take a bit of time to get comfortable. Not the case. And according to Maryland head coach Brenda Frese, this South Carolina squad is “better than last season.”

That’s a scary assertion for the rest of college basketball.

South Carolina opened the season ranked No. 6, but jumped to No. 1 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. The Gamecocks put up two impressive wins over top-15 teams to start the season, topping Notre Dame 100-71 and Maryland 114-76.

In addition to dominant post players Kamilla Cardoso and Chloe Kitts, the Gamecocks have corrected the biggest weakness from last season: 3-point shooting. They’re currently shooting 43% from beyond the arc as a team.

The freshmen are taking over

College basketball will soon lose stars like Paige Bueckers, Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese to the WNBA, but the sport won’t suffer without them. Opening week proved that, as the freshman class was both effective and exciting.

South Carolina freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley turned heads in Paris and back home with her highlight-reel style of play. The guard got basketball greats like Magic Johnson talking on social media after an electric first game in garnet and black. And she’s not the only one.

Freshmen across the country have been giving college basketball fans plenty to talk about. USC’s JuJu Watkins scored 32 points in her first game, helping her team upset Ohio State while also setting a school record with the most points in a debut. Watkins is in good company, breaking Lisa Leslie’s previous record of 30 points. Watkins followed that up with 35 points, nine rebounds and six steals Monday in a 93-42 win over Le Moyne.

Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo scored 31 points against South Carolina and followed that up with 12 steals in a win against NJIT. Mikaylah Williams has been a bright spot for LSU, averaging 15.3 points per game, and Zoe Brooks had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists to help NC State upset UConn.

And the list goes on, there’s just not enough room to mention everyone. In other words: Watch out for the freshman class.

The Pac-12 is going out in style

It’s hard to imagine college basketball without the Conference of Champions, but after this season, it will be no more. The Pac-12 is certainly looking to leave its mark, though, boasting six teams in the AP Top 25.

Four of those teams are in the top six: No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Utah, No. 5 Colorado and No. 6 Stanford.

Colorado got things rolling for the Pac-12 with an impressive upset of then-No. 1 LSU to open the season, and Stanford continued its dominance Sunday, beating then-No. 9 Indiana 96-64.

LSU has a lot to figure out

After losing 92-78 to Colorado in their season opener, it was clear LSU isn’t as good as voters thought. The reigning national champions looked poised to do it again after signing top transfers Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow, and adding No. 2 recruit Williams, but so far, the Tigers aren’t meshing.

Colorado is a solid team, so there’s no shame in that loss. The concern now is, how do these players fit together?

LSU guard Hailey Van Lith shoots a free throw during the first half against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 12, 2023, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
LSU guard Hailey Van Lith shoots a free throw during the first half against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 12, 2023, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

After the Colorado loss, Kim Mulkey opted to bring Morrow off the bench, and one game later did the same to Flau’jae Johnson, who was an integral part of last season’s title run. Meanwhile, Van Lith, who averaged 19.7 points at Louisville last season, has yet to find her footing at LSU, putting up 8.5 points per game so far.

After opening the season at No. 1, the Tigers are ranked seventh. The talent is there, now it’s all about figuring out how to put it together. LSU has its next test on Nov. 30 for an SEC/ACC Challenge matchup with No. 9 Virginia Tech.

The AP poll will keep changing

From Colorado jumping up 15 spots, to LSU and UConn falling six places each, there was a lot of shake-up in the second AP poll of the season.

Don’t expect that to change. From now until the start of the NCAA tournament, there are sure to be plenty of upsets.

In the first week alone, the Nos. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14 teams were all dealt losses, with six defeats coming from teams ranked lower or not ranked at all.

College basketball is crazy, and the upsets will keep coming. Best of luck to the AP voters as they try to keep up with it all.