Previewing the college women’s basketball season.1. Connecticut2014-15: 38-1, 18-0Three-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart is back, and only two seniors from last season’s championship team have graduated, so there’s no reason the Huskies can’t win a fourth consecutive title and send Stewart out with a perfect college career. A 2016 title would be coach Geno Auriemma’s 11th, moving him past John Wooden’s NCAA record of 10 championships with UCLA. TOP 25: Women’s preseason poll2. South Carolina2014-15: 34-3, 15-1Before graduating from Virginia in May, Sarah Imovbioh, last season’s leading rebounder in the ACC, signed to play her final season of eligibility for coach Dawn Staley, who led South Carolina to its first Final Four in 2015. Imovbioh will team with Tiffany Mitchell, one of the Southeastern Conference’s best scorers and a two-time SEC player of the year.3. Notre Dame2014-15: 36-3, 15-1Jewell Loyd, the second-best scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference, left for the WNBA after her junior season, but the Irish have plenty of players left from last year’s run to the tournament final. Sophomore Brianna Turner and juniors Lindsay Allen and Taya Reimer lead a relatively young team, which will play Connecticut on Dec. 5 in a rematch of the title game.4. Tennessee2014-15: 30-6, 15-1The Lady Vols graduated their three top scorers, but that’s no reason to worry. Coach Holly Warlick has an experienced roster loaded with players who expect to take on leadership roles. Former North Carolina guard Diamond DeShields is eligible to play after sitting out the mandatory season.5. Baylor2014-15: 33-4, 16-2Baylor might have more talent than it had last season, even with second-leading scorer Imani Wright transferring to Florida State. Baylor returns the remainder of its top five scorers and adds two McDonald’s All-Americans in 6-5 Kalani Brown and 6-4 Beatrice Mompremier. Plus, Duke transfer Alexis Jones is eligible to play this season. Senior Niya Johnson, the nation’s assists leader, returns.6. Maryland2014-15: 34-3, 18-0The good news for Maryland is junior center Brionna Jones is still around to help the Big Ten champion Terrapins on the boards and try to lead the team to a third consecutive Final Four appearance. But getting that far in the tournament appears to be more difficult than it has in years. Starting point guard and No. 2 scorer Lexie Brown transferred and coach Brenda Frese’s top two assistants left the program. Plus team leader Laurin Mincy won’t be around to score 13.5 points a game. Now Maryland’s hopes rest on redshirt senior guard Brene Moseley and junior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.7. Florida State2014-15: 32-5, 14-2Florida State had perhaps the most impressive breakthrough story of 2014-15. After going 16-0 at home and ending the ACC tournament second to Notre Dame, the team earned a No. 2 NCAA tournament seed — highest in program history. The team lost only two seniors, so a group of ex-McDonald’s All-Americans and ACC-leading players remains.8. Louisville2014-15: 27-7, 12-4Louisville finished a respectable third in the ACC after switching from the American Athletic Conference at the end of the 2013-14 season, mainly because of excellent team play and a solid offense managed by guard Jude Schimmel. This year, coach Jeff Walz has to get five true freshmen to buy into his ball-sharing strategy, ideally by the time the Cardinals host Florida State on New Year’s Day.9. Oregon State2014-15: 27-5, 16-2Team leaders Jamie Weisner, Sydney Wiese and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Ruth Hamblin are back to take the Beavers through what should be a routine non-conference schedule (the biggest challenge is Tennessee in December). Wiese helped TeamUSA take home the gold medal this summer in the World University Games while Hamblin won silver with Canada.10. Ohio State2014-15: 24-11, 13-5Ohio State made it to the BigTen tournament final and was a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament despite a slim roster after a slew of early season injuries. Now, the Buckeyes are back in full form and return seven of the eight healthy players from that tournament team, including the nation’s leading scorer, Kelsey Mitchell. A few dynamic freshmen flesh out the roster, and Ohio State should have no problem challenging for the Big Ten title.11. Texas2014-15: 24-11, 9-9Texas didn’t find its rhythm until late last season. The largely underperforming team got it together to finish the regular season in second place in the Big12. In the Longhorns’ first trip to the regional semifinal since 2004, they lost to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. 6-7 center Imani Boyette (formerly McGee-Stafford) returns along with Big12 All-Freshman Ariel Atkins and second-leading scorer and team engine Kelsey Lang.12. Duke2014-15: 23-11, 11-5Sophomores Rebecca Greenwell and Azura Stevens will help facilitate another season of efficient offense at Duke, which bowed out of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Maryland in the regional semifinals. Maryland transfer Lexie Brown lends the team credibility, but she won’t be eligible to play this year.13. Mississippi State2014-15: 27-7, 11-5Mississippi State has the tools to back up a historic season in which the team broke school records with 27 overall and 11 in the SEC. Leading scorer Victoria Vivians returns for her sophomore season, as does Morgan William, the leader in forced turnovers. Junior forward and leading rebounder Breanna Richardson also is back, and the Bulldogs beefed up their non-conference schedule in hopes of impressing the tournament selection committee.14. Stanford2014-15: 26-10, 13-5The Cardinal will have to do a lot better than 26-10 to hold their own. The team suffered its most losses since 2000-01 and had worlds of trouble against top-10 teams, despite handing Connecticut its only loss. But Stanford is still Stanford, meaning it’s coming in with a strong recruiting class to balance out the team’s lone senior, guard Alex Green. Coach Tara VanDerveer could have a good bit of molding to do before she sees success.15. Arizona State2014-15: 29-6, 15-3The Sun Devils lost a heartbreaker last year to Florida State by one point in the NCAA Sweet 16, the team’s best result since a 2009 appearance in the Elite Eight. This season, they’ll have the chance to build on that success with four starters returning and four good athletes signed from the 2015 recruiting class. With 52 victories since their freshman year, juniors Sophie Brunner, Kelsey Moos and Quinn Dornstauder are a dependable winning trio.16. Texas A&M2015-15: 23-10, 10-6Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said at SEC media days his team trails South Carolina and Tennessee when it comes to sheer talent, but come conference play he might be pleasantly surprised. Standout seniors Courtney Walker, Courtney Williams and Jordan Jones (who tore her right ACL and meniscus last February) return to lead the guard-heavy team; the trio combined for 40.1 points per game last season. The seniors and Blair’s veteran know-how will combine to contend admirably in a loaded conference.17. Kentucky2014-15: 24-10, 10-6Kentucky retains most of its guard-oriented offense from last season and gets back a healthy Janee Thompson, who generated the bulk of the team’s ball movement before breaking a leg in January. Junior guards Makayla Epps, who averaged 14.9 points per game last season, and Linnae Harper (11.4 ppg) will be back to help the Wildcats through a fairly treacherous schedule.18. Oklahoma2014-15: 21-12, 13-5Another NCAA Tournament regular, Oklahoma will be in good shape this year after graduating only two seniors and retaining their two top scorers. Four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year Sherri Coale was inducted into the women’s basketball Hall of Fame this year, and with three Final Four appearances during her tenure at Oklahoma, she’ll have no trouble getting the Sooners at least a few rounds into the Big 12 Tournament.19. South Florida(25-8, 14-4 AAC)2014-15: 27-8, 15-3The Bulls graduated two seniors, meaning top scorers Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins are around to run the offense. Connecticut will always be in the way come championship time, but South Florida should have few AAC roadblocks this season.20. North Carolina2014-15: 26-9, 10-6Coach Sylvia Hatchell is feeling the ramifications of the NCAA’s investigation of the school before any penalties have been handed down. This summer, the remaining three members of Hatchell’s 2013 recruiting class transferred, including leading scorer Allisha Gray and all-ACC center Stephanie Mavunga. North Carolina also graduated four seniors. It’s left with No. 3 scorer Xylina McDaniel and a few solid rebounders. Because of Hatchell’s experience, the Tar Heels might hang around for a while, but it will be an uphill climb for the next few years.21. George Washington2014-15: 29-4, 15-1George Washington had a school-record 29 wins and finished atop the Atlantic 10 for the first time in seven years. This season could be better. The team’s two incoming freshmen make up the strongest recruiting class in the conference, and Jonquel Jones, one of the nation’s best rebounders, returns to the Colonials for her senior year. Only one active senior, Chakecia Miller, graduated.22. DePaul2014-15: 27-8, 15-3This year’s Blue Demon team likely won’t break the program’s 13-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances, but they will have plenty of tests to pass in a tough non-conference schedule. Preseason All-Big East Team members Megan Podkowa and Chanise Jenkins, both seniors, are tasked with leading the two-time reining Big East champs against Connecticut, Texas A&M and in-state rival Northwestern in December before conference play starts.23. Iowa2014-15: 26-8, 14-4After making it to the Sweet 16 and nabbing second place in the Big Ten, Iowa graduated All-America point guard Samantha Logic, assists leader Melissa Dixon and center Bethany Doolittle. That means coach Lisa Bluder likely will look to junior guard Ally Disterhoft to help run the offense.No. 24 Northwestern2014-15: 23-9, 12-6Northwestern is in a good place to build on their impressive 2014-2015 campaign, which they finished with the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 19 years and the most wins (23) in the program since the 1995-1996 season. The Wildcats return the core five of their seven-woman rotation, including leading scorer Nia Coffey, who averaged 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds and earned a spot on the Coaches Preseason All-Big Ten Team. Maryland is obviously still their biggest challenge in the Big Ten, but experience with playing through late March will serve the team well.25. Princeton2014-15: 31-1, 14-0Princeton returns four of the five starters who helped the Tigers go undefeated in the regular season. They met an early demise against Maryland in the NCAA tournament’s second round, but Princeton has been leading the Ivy League pretty much since coach Courtney Banghart started in 2007. This season should be no different. The Tigers will have to replace point guard Blake Dietrick, the team’s scoring and assists leader, who graduated.GALLERY: PRESEASON TOP 25
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jonathan Williams wasn’t quite ready to end his time at Arkansas.The standout running back said Wednesday that he’s returning for his senior season. He leads Arkansas (6-6) with 1,085 yards rushing this season.Williams helped the Razorbacks rebound from a 3-9 record last year to reach their first bowl game in three seasons. He had said leading into Texas Bowl against Texas that he would wait until hearing back from the NFL on his draft prospects before deciding whether to leave school, and he wasted little time in making that decision.”My faith, family and education are very important to me and all three played a major role in my decision,” Williams said. “I have many goals that I want to pursue, on and off the field. Graduating from the University of Arkansas is very important to me, and I look forward to running through the ‘A’ again in 2015.”Williams and Arkansas’ Alex Collins each topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season, the only teammates in major college football to do so during the regular season. The Texas native has 2,216 yards rushing in three seasons for the Razorbacks and was fourth in the Southeastern Conference in rushing this season.Williams has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, including four in a 145-yard rushing effort in a blowout win over Texas Tech. He later added a career-best 153 yards rushing against Alabama-Birmingham.Williams was a backup to current Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis as a freshman in 2012. He had 900 yards rushing on 150 carries, a 6.0-yard average, last season while splitting time with Collins — a mark he topped this season in Arkansas coach Bret Bielema’s second season.”I’m always excited for players to chase NFL dreams,” Bielema said. “For Jonathan, that meant another year of growth on and off the field and a degree to carry him through life. I’m excited to have him here for another year that will help take him to new heights.”The Texas Bowl is Monday night.
Photo -TippFM @DenisVaheyPhoto Throw in at the camogie grounds in the Ragg for that one is also 12 noon. The replay of the Intermediate county final between Cashel and Thurles Sarsfields takes place in The Ragg at noon today.A late equaliser by county star Karen Kennedy for the cathedral town side saw the sides finish at 1-8 a piece last weekend.There’s more action tomorrow when Knockavilla and Lorrha clash in the junior B club camogie championship final replay.