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Every year, the women's college basketball season starts earlier. The first week of November used to be known for coaches as they prepared for exhibitions, "We've just got to get a lot better"

The Lady Vols won their first NCAA title in 1986-87. The perfect season began in November. Their last trip to the women's Final Four was in November of 2008.

Tennessee fans were excited about going in August. The Lady Vols will play their first game against Ohio State on Tuesday.

The defending national champion South Carolina faces East Tennessee State in a game on Monday. The SEC network. Aliyah Boston is expected to win the major national awards as she did last year.

The women's Final Four will take place in Dallas from March 31 to April 2, and there are a number of questions that need to be answered. It's not clear how big a year it will be for Tennessee. As women's hoops tips off, we look at that and the other things we're watching, and are joined by two experts for their predictions.

The player of the year predictions were made.

Will Tennessee return to the Final Four in 2023?

Jordan Horston started 23 games last season and averaged 16.2 PPG and 9.4 RPG before suffering a fractured dislocation of her left elbow on Feb. 17. Icon Sportswire

Pat Summitt had just four seasons left to coach after the Lady Vols won back-to-back NCAA titles. In the last 14 years, Tennessee has gone through a lot, including the death of women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.

The Lady Vols had five Elite Eight losses and five early-round exits. They watched South Carolina move to the top of the SEC after they won two national titles in that time.

Tennessee returned to the Sweet 16 last year for the first time in two years. After missing the playoffs with an elbow injury, senior guard Jordan Horston is back. Rickea Jackson is a top transfer. The excitement is reminiscent of the old days.

Tennessee will always celebrate its past, but the program and these players need to be looked at in a different light. If the Lady Vols made the Final Four, their success was decided. Being in the running for that is a better measure. There are good reasons to believe they will be in 2023.

Will UConn's Final Four streak end?

It took a double-overtime victory against NC State in the regional final last season for the University of Connecticut to win its 14th consecutive Final Four. We won't see anything like it again once this streak ends.

The season after Maya Moore graduated was thought to be the last one. Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck won four consecutive NCAA titles for the University of Connecticut. We don't know what happened in the 2020 tournament, which was canceled by the COVID-19 epidemic, but the Huskies were 29-3 that year.

The University of Connecticut reached the Final Four in the NCAA tournament in San Antonio. In last year's Elite Eight victory, Bueckers had 27 points, and in the national semifinals, he had 27 points. The loss to South Carolina in the final was the first time that the University of Connecticut had been beaten in a title game.

Ice Brady and Bueckers are both injured. Christyn Williams, Nelson-Ododa, and Westbrook have moved on to the pros. The coach is concerned about the number of players. Freshman Azzi Fudd could have a big season, as could junior Nike Mhl. It might be more of a challenge for the 6th ranked Huskies to make it to Dallas this year.

Can a mid-major team advance to the Final Four?

The last mid-major that made it that far was Missouri State in 2001.

Huge concentrations of talent are still in the Power 5 and at the University of Connecticut, a powerhouse that is separate from the "mid-major" label despite being in the American Athletic Conference and the Big East. The mid-major players are some of the best. It's difficult to overcome low NCAA tournament seeds and difficult paths to the Final Four, and it's even harder to have enough of them.

It's important for double-digit seeds to get to the Sweet 16 because of the home sites for the top 16 seeds. Two of them did it in March, as two of the top seeds were knocked off. South Carolina defeated the Bluejays in the regional final.

6 seed Kentucky in the first round before falling to 3rd seed Indiana in the second round.

Three mid-majors are ranked in the preseason poll.

The two teams start the season against each other on Monday. It could have implications for March. The opening game is against the Temple.

How will these coaches adjust to replacing program stalwarts?

For the first time since 1995, Rutgers has a new head coach on the sidelines as Coquese Washington takes over the Scarlet Knights after C. Vivian Stringer retired. Icon Sportswire

Three coaches are taking over for Power 5 fixture who have retired. Rutgers has a new head coach in Coquese Washington. Gary Blair was going to be replaced by Joni Taylor. A new leader for Arizona State has been named.

One of the more difficult takeovers of all time was last season, when Kim Mulkey took over as leader of the women's basketball team. She won three NCAA titles and dominated the Big 12 for a decade. She left to coach the LSU tigers. It has taken time to get past Mulkey's shadow in the area.

Things aren't the same for Washington, Taylor and Adair. Rutgers, Texas A&M, and Arizona State all had losing records.

They were successful, but also ready to move on. It means new eras at their respective programs, and the coaches who follow them can feel like the fans and players will embrace the new era.

She was the SEC coach of the year in Georgia and she knows the league. Washington was a coach at Penn State for 12 years and she knows about the Big Ten.

Adair's life and career have been on the East Coast before he moved. Delaware made the NCAA tournament last season.

Dawn Plitzuweit, who takes over for retired Mike Carey with West Virginia, is one of the new faces to watch.

What will players, coaches and fans think of the new two-regional system?

The main reason for having early-round games at home sites of the top 16 seeds is to maximize attendance at the NCAA tournament. The NCAA has been experimenting with other early-round formats.

The regionals are going to be two instead of four this year. The NCAA said the reason was to try to maximize attendance and commit to a better overall experience for student athletes. The decision to move the men's and women's tournaments to Indianapolis and San Antonio was made two years before the NCAA was exposed for its unfair treatment of the men's and women's tournaments.

The NCAA made a decision to go to two regionals after being shamed for changing the women's tournament. We can't make a decision. The format is for now with two regionals. They are in three places this year.

The point of the traditional four regionals is to spread them across the country so that they can be seen. The Central and Mountain time zones are not included. Over the next four years, there will only be two regionals in the two time zones, one in Fort Worth, Texas, in the Central time zone and the other in Alabama in the South time zone.

The NCAA will have to prove that the format change is for the best for the sport and the teams. We won't know how it plays out.


The University of South Carolina's journey to become a national champion can be relived.

2022-23 Season predictions

Make one bold prediction for 2022-23

There will be a national player of the year. It's rare for a reigning player of the year to be dethroned. Clark's numbers are amazing. The mainstream media attention that Clark received last season will build if she and Iowa get off to a good start. Clark's candidacy will be hard to overcome if she has the same season as last year. This is a prediction of how other people will vote.

After going wire-to-wire as the top team in the country last season, South Carolina will fall out of the top spot at some point in the next two decades. Destanni Henderson's steadiness at the point will be missed early on as the Gamecocks face Maryland and Maryland in November before SEC play begins. The point guard roles will be filled by Kierra Fletcher and/or Raven Johnson. The pieces are in place to win the national title even if they look vulnerable during the regular season.

For the first time in six years, the women's Final Four will be missing from the University of Connecticut. Losing four players through graduation or injury will be a problem for the team. The Big East champ will lose in the Elite Eight.

Which teams reach the Final Four?

South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are included in the creme.

Philippou: UConn, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee

Voepel: Louisville, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee