The 2021-22 women’s college basketball season has held many surprises and hasn’t played out as expected. UConn, the No. 2 team in the preseason AP Top 25, is no longer in the top 10, but Texas, which started out No. 25, is ranked No. 9 in the nation. The remaining undefeated teams are Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina. Nebraska is a top-10 team, according to the NET.
Upsets have been far more frequent, though defining what qualifies as an upset hasn’t been particularly easy. The whirlwind of transfers this past offseason has contributed to much of that uncertainty. Teams have taken on completely different identities because of the transfer portal. Figuring out which players will have the most impact in their new environments, especially among COVID-19 cancellations and postponements, has been difficult.
In our updated transfer rankings, nine of the 25 players who made the preseason list in early November are not included among the midseason candidates. A player’s impact on their new team’s success was a dominating factor in the rankings. Which good teams are now elite because of one veteran addition? Which players have changed the fortunes of their new programs? We rank the 25 best.
Diamond Johnson shakes the defense and hits the jumper to increase NC State’s lead.
Previous school: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2021-22 stats: 12.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 45.8% 3PT
Despite coming off the bench in all but one game all season, Johnson is sometimes the Wolfpack’s best player. She has given coach Wes Moore a dynamic ball handler and shooter to focus the offense around on nights when the defense is ultra-focused on center Elissa Cunane and has paired perfectly in the backcourt with veteran Raina Perez.
Previous school: Oregon Ducks
2021-22 stats: 13.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.6 APG
When Moe, Australia, met Lincoln, Nebraska, it turned out to be the perfect match. Shelley, a member of the Australian national team, has helped transform the Cornhuskers in two months. Last year, they were 13-13. This season, they are 13-1 after a convincing win over top-10 Michigan on Tuesday night, a game in which Shelley, who leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals, recorded her fourth double-double.
Previous school: Syracuse Orange
2021-22 stats: 6.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG
It isn’t easy putting up big numbers playing either behind or next to Aliyah Boston, but Cardoso has been a vital part of the Gamecocks’ early-season dominance. Her skills around the basket have allowed Boston more freedom to shine offensively, and Cardoso has become the interior anchor for HerHoopStats.com’s highest-rated defense in the nation.
Previous school: Mississippi State Bulldogs
2021-22 stats: 15.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48.5% FG
Perhaps getting back to Vic Schaefer’s coaching was the secret formula for Matharu. The smooth-shooting junior has gone from a 10.3 points-per-game scorer in her one season at Mississippi State after Schaefer left for Austin to the leading scorer on a top-10 team after reuniting with the coach who recruited her.
Texas’ Aliyah Matharu picks Erica Martinsen’s pocket and takes it home herself for the bucket.
Previous school: Princeton Tigers
2021-22 stats: 9.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.1 APG
Another coach-player reunion has paid big dividends in Chapel Hill. Littlefield had one of her two all-Ivy League seasons playing for current Tar Heels’ coach Courtney Banghart at Princeton. Now she’s the leader on a young North Carolina team that remains unbeaten and looks like a true contender in the ACC.
After beginning her career playing for Kim Mulkey at Baylor, Morris’ career has come full circle. Following brief stops at Rutgers and Texas A&M, Morris is back playing for Mulkey and is thriving. Morris and fellow fifth-year senior Khayla Pointer have helped the Tigers go from being picked to finish eighth in the SEC preseason poll to possibly being South Carolina’s biggest threat.
Previous school: Syracuse Orange
2021-22 stats: 10.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.5 SPG
Engstler is one transfer who hasn’t surprised anyone. She is having an eerily similar statistical season to the one she had last year at Syracuse (10.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG). Never a big-time scorer, versatility is Engstler’s greatest strength. She can rebound, bring up the ball, shoot the 3-pointer and pass like a point guard. Coach Jeff Walz has used all those skills as the Cardinals have reached the top five in the rankings.
Previous school: Alabama Crimson Tide
2021-22 stats: 12.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.9 APG
With losses to Maryland, Michigan and Kansas State, it hasn’t all been smooth in coach Nicki Collen’s first season in Waco, but Lewis has been right there, riding shotgun with All-American NaLyssa Smith as the Bears’ two best players. Her shooting hasn’t been as good as a year ago in Tuscaloosa, but assists (third in the Big 12) are up and turnovers are down as she quarterbacks a team looking for a 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
Previous school: Stanford Cardinal
2021-22 stats: 12.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG
After two seasons as a role player at Stanford and another battling injury, and opting out last season due to COVID-19 concerns, Dodson is starting to thrive at Notre Dame. A true post presence who also runs the floor well, Dodson is coming off consecutive games of 28 and 26 points just as the Irish hit a key portion of their season.
Previous school: LSU Tigers/Baylor Bears
2021-22 stats: 15.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.8 APG
After four years as primarily a role player specializing in defense, smarts and toughness, Ursin is enjoying showing off the skills at Tulane that once made her a high school star in Louisiana. Ursin is third in the AAC in scoring and rebounding and second in field goal and free throw percentage. She has put up six double-doubles already, including a triple-double.
Previous school: Oregon Ducks/Maryland Terrapins
2021-22 stats: 17.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 51.1% 3PT
Shooting is the foundation of Mikesell’s game, but it has never been this good. Perhaps returning to her home state to finish her career after struggling in her one season in Eugene was the right medicine. Mikesell is making over half of her 3-point attempts and is second in the country in makes per game. With Madison Greene out for the season, Mikesell arrived in Columbus just in time to help the Buckeyes survive in the Big Ten.
Previous school: Baylor Bears/Texas Tech Lady Raiders
2021-22 stats: 15.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 41.5% 3PT
Carr, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year at Texas Tech in 2019, never actually played a game in Waco and instead landed at Syracuse where more opportunity awaited. She has taken full advantage as the Orange’s leader in minutes, scoring and 3-point field goal percentage. Carr’s streak of four straight 20-point games helped Syracuse break out of a 2-4 start with six consecutive wins that might have saved the season.
Dorka Juhasz drops in an and-1 to extend the Huskies’ early lead. (edited)
Previous school: Ohio State Buckeyes
2021-22 stats: 5.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 44.4% FG
After a first few tough weeks in Storrs, Juhasz finally began to find her groove before COVID-19 shut down the Huskies schedule. They haven’t played a game since Dec. 19, but in the final two contests UConn played before the pause, Juhasz saved the injury-riddled Huskies against UCLA with 16 points and 16 rebounds, and then had 15 points and eight rebounds in the loss to Louisville.
Previous school: Texas Longhorns
2021-22 stats: 12.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.3 SPG
Duke coach Kara Lawson has done a great job pulling together nine transfers and two freshmen into a 10-2 start. But she needed leadership from some of the new players, and Taylor has been the best of the bunch. She leads the Blue Devils in minutes, scoring, rebounding and steals, and is their most reliable perimeter defender.
Previous school: Cincinnati Bearcats
2021-22 stats: 18.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 59.3% FG
Coach Cori Close brought in four transfers to bolster a roster thin on depth a year ago. Thomas has been the best of those additions. Unfortunately, injuries and now six COVID-19 cancellations/postponements have wreaked havoc with the Bruins’ season. Thomas’ low-post scoring has helped keep them afloat as a complement to Charisma Osborne‘s perimeter play.
Previous school: Washington Huskies
2021-22 stats: 12.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 64.0% FG
Highly efficient, Miller is sixth in the country in field goal percentage and is putting up all-conference-type numbers while playing less than 20 minutes per game. The 6-foot-3 Miller has paired nicely with 6-3 senior Mya Hollingshed to help the Buffalos go undefeated in the nonconference season for the second time in three years.
Alexus Dye navigates through the paint to put up a nice reverse and-1 layup around the Stanford defense.
Previous school: Troy Trojans
2021-22 stats: 10.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 42.5% FG
Tennessee has survived, and flourished, all season without star Rae Burrell. Dye is a big reason why. As an elite rebounder, the 6-0 Dye fit right into the Lady Vols’ style. Dye has teamed with Jordan Horston and Tamari Key to form the best rebounding trio in the country.
Balogun might not have been as high on the list without the past two weeks. She has scored 14, 22 and 27 points in Duke’s past three games. Her dominance, which included scoring the Blue Devils’ final six points Sunday against Notre Dame, helped give Duke its most important win of the season.
Previous school: Wright State Raiders
2021-22 stats: 9.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 37.5% 3PT
Baker’s introduction to the SEC was in last season’s NCAA tournament, when she spearheaded a first-round upset of Arkansas. Her numbers are down from her ball-dominant days at Wright State (18.1 PPG last season), but Baker has been a key component to the Rebels’ continued resurgence under coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, and was just named SEC Player of the Week.
Previous school: Oregon State Beavers
2021-22 stats: 11.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.7 APG
Goforth’s numbers are nearly identical to the ones she put up as a Pac-12 all-freshmen team member a year ago at Oregon State, and she has proven to be one of the most consistent members in Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors’ deep rotation. Now playing in her hometown, Goforth has already become one of the more versatile wings in the SEC.
Previous school: Mississippi State Bulldogs
2021-22 stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.9 APG
After losing two transfers in the offseason, the addition of Mingo-Young was perhaps even more key for Alabama than the Crimson Tide realized. They are off to a solid 10-3 start, and the 5-6 guard has more than doubled her scoring average from a year ago, improving her shooting, playmaking and rebounding.
Previous school: Kansas State Wildcats
2021-22 stats: 13.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 39.5% 3PT
Carr left Kansas State for Syracuse primarily because she wanted to play for former Orange coach Quentin Hillsman. Despite Hillsman’s August dismissal, Carr stayed in Upstate New York and has become a key part of Syracuse’s remade roster. Her outside shooting is a good fit for coach Vonn Read and the revamped Orange approach, which favors more 3-pointers and quick defense-to-offense transition.
Previous school: Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders/Tennessee Lady Volunteers
2020-21 stats: 15.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.8 APG
Four years ago, Hayes was the SEC’s Sixth Woman of the Year. She has settled back into the conference as the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer, one year after finishing second nationally in scoring while at Middle Tennessee (26.5 PPG). An eye injury kept her out of four games, but Hayes has scored in double figures in eight of her nine games.
Previous school: Purdue Boilermakers
2021-22 stats: 13.1 PPG, 3.3 APG, 44.3% 3PT
For four years at Purdue, McLaughlin hunted 3-point shots — she holds the program record for career 3-pointers (244) — and averaged in double figures in three of those seasons. She has become even better at it with the Golden Eagles. She’s the third-most-accurate deep shooter in the Big East and is Marquette’s second-leading scorer.
Previous school: Mississippi State Bulldogs/Michigan State Spartans
2021-22 stats: 14.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 46.5% FG
At just 6-6, this hasn’t been the season Seton Hall was hoping for, but it has been a nice resurgence for Cooks. After two years at Michigan State following a decorated high school career, Cooks made a disappointing stop at Mississippi State but is now having her best season with career highs in points and rebounds for the Pirates.