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Women’s NCAA tournament 2022 – Top 25 players in the Sweet 16

The Sweet 16 of the 2022 NCAA women’s basketball tournament is upon us, and to the surprise of many, some of the biggest names in the game won’t be part of it.

Presumptive top two 2022 WNBA draft picks NaLyssa Smith of the Baylor Bears and Rhyne Howard of the Kentucky Wildcats concluded their collegiate careers when both were knocked out in the first two rounds. All-American Caitlin Clark also bowed out of the tournament when the Creighton Bluejays took down the Iowa Hawkeyes in the round of 32. Clark, Smith and Howard were three of the top five players in our top 25 rankings released before the NCAA tournament tipped off.

With the field now at 16 teams, ESPN’s Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and Mechelle Voepel revisit which players deserve a spot on the list based on their play through the first two rounds. There are some additions, including from Creighton and the South Dakota Coyotes, who both upset 2-seeds Sunday.

Clark (No. 2 on our last rankings), Smith (No. 3), Howard (No. 5), Ole Miss’ Shakira Austin (No. 7), Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley (No. 11), DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow (No. 17) and Florida Gulf Coast’s Kierstan Bell (No. 20) have since been eliminated from the tournament and thus opened up spots for new players in our rankings, which include three players from the Stanford Cardinal and Maryland Terrapins.

Follow this link for a complete look at Friday’s schedule and Saturday’s games, which are all on the ESPN family of networks. Visit this link to check your Women’s Tournament Challenge bracket.

Forward | 6-foot-5 | junior
Previous ranking: 1

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Boston hasn’t put up crazy numbers so far in the tournament, but she’s still the best player in the field until proven otherwise. Even when she had a poor shooting night against Miami (4-for-15), she outrebounded the Hurricanes’ starters by a 16-11 margin and anchors the Gamecocks’ stifling defense, which helped them pull away despite offensive woes. The national player of the year favorite has 26 consecutive double-doubles, two shy of tying the fourth-longest single-season double-double streak in women’s Division I basketball history. — Philippou

Guard | 6-foot-1 | junior
Previous ranking: 4

Jones coming in at No. 2 on this list is, frankly, a bit more of a reflection of her larger body of work than what she has done so far in the tournament. Though she has managed to contribute in other ways, she has failed to hit double figures in either of Stanford’s first two games, and her foul trouble against Kansas didn’t do the Cardinal any favors. While the likes of Fran Belibi and Lexie Hull have stepped up in the meantime, Stanford will need more from Jones if it wants to get by Maryland and, eventually, reach Minneapolis. — Philippou

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Diamond Miller denies Florida Gulf Coast Eagles with block

Guard | 6-foot-3 | junior
Previous ranking: NR

Diamond Miller, welcome to the rankings, and a top-3 spot no less. It’s well deserved for the guard, who has averaged 23.5 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals per game to start the NCAA tournament. After missing time this season due to a lingering knee injury and struggling with consistency upon her return, Miller is back playing in top form, allowing the Terps to seemingly peak at the right time. With Miller and teammate Ashley Owusu (who also cracked our top 25 list) playing like this, the Terps have a legit shot at making it to Minneapolis. — Philippou

Forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
Previous ranking: 9

With the Cyclones facing upset-minded UT Arlington in the first round, Joens had a season-high 36 points plus 15 rebounds. She had 12 points and 10 rebounds in a second-round win over Georgia, which earned the Cyclones their first Sweet 16 since 2010. That was a big goal for Joens, who is Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer. — Voepel

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Naz Hillmon won’t be denied as she fights off two defenders for the basket.

Forward |6-foot-2 | senior
Previous ranking: 6

With her 27-point, 11-rebound performance on Monday against Villanova, Hillmon notched her 50th career double-double, the perfect send-off at Crisler Center for a program that she and coach Kim Barnes Arico have transformed. — Creme

Forward | 6-foot-4 | sophomore
Previous ranking: 8

Brink has started the NCAA tournament with her typical productivity, stringing together a pair of double-doubles in Stanford’s wins over Montana State and Kansas while also averaging 3.5 assists and 3.0 blocks per game. But what’s perhaps the most encouraging sign is that the often foul-prone forward has recorded just one foul in 46 minutes of action across the first two rounds — which bodes well for the Cardinal if she can keep it up. — Philippou

Center | 6-foot-5 | senior
Previous ranking: 13

The Wolfpack didn’t really need her against Kansas State. In fact, they did their best work — a 28-9 run in the first half — with Cunane on the bench in foul trouble. Nonetheless, she remains the centerpiece of the team and the most crucial piece to a national championship run. — Creme

Forward | 6-foot-3 | sophomore
Previous ranking: 12

Luckily for Reese, with the likes of Miller and Owusu thriving, there’s less pressure on her to carry the Terps. Nonetheless, the forward has continued to be the hallmark of consistency for surging Maryland. She’s a force on the boards with 18 rebounds across her first two tournament games, and Florida Gulf Coast had trouble containing her in the paint Sunday, which she capitalized on to score 11 of her 21 points from the free throw line. — Philippou

Guard | 5-foot-7 | sophomore
Previous ranking: 18

Van Lith earned her way onto the pre-NCAA tournament list because of her standout play toward the end of the regular season, and she has carried that over to help the Cardinals make the Sweet 16. The guard registered a pair of 20-plus-point performances versus Albany and Gonzaga — both team highs — on 50% shooting from 3, the sort of offensive productivity Louisville will need if it wants to make its first Final Four since 2018. — Philippou

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0:23

Rori Harmon floats in the and-1 for Texas

Guard | 5-foot-6 | freshman
Previous ranking: 23

Harmon, the Big 12 tournament MVP, continues to be the head of the Longhorns’ defense, which held NCAA tournament foes Fairfield and Utah to 52 and 56 points. She also totaled 21 points and 19 assists in those two games. — Voepel

11. Lexie Hull, Stanford Cardinal

Guard | 6-foot-1 | senior
Previous ranking: NR

Tara VanDerveer declared that at halftime of Stanford’s round-of-32 game against Kansas, with the Jayhawks within two, she wasn’t sure the Cardinal would make it to Spokane. Lexie Hull wasn’t about to let that happen. The guard rattled off 25 second-half points (for a career-high 36 overall, including 6-for-11 shooting from 3) to propel the Cardinal to their 14th consecutive Sweet 16 and remind the nation that Stanford is more than Jones and Brink. In the process, the Spokane native ensured that she and twin Lacie Hull will get to play in front of a home crowd in the regional. — Philippou

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2:24

Lexie Hull can’t be stopped as she puts together a 36-point night to help Stanford eliminate Kansas.

Guard | 5-foot-11 | sophomore
Previous ranking: 10

Still not scoring at her typical rate before the injury, Bueckers’ minutes do keep climbing, reaching 32 against UCF on Monday. She also committed just two turnovers against the Knights’ physical defense — the stingiest in the country. — Creme

Guard | 6-foot-0 | junior
Previous ranking: NR

Like teammate Miller, Owusu has started to play some of her most consistent basketball at the best time for the Terps after dealing with earlier season injury, illness and inconsistency. The guard has recorded 22 points per game on an efficient 18 of 28 shooting, to go along with an average of 3.5 assists, in the NCAA tournament. She (along with her teammates on this list) is a big reason Maryland has recorded 191 points through its first two tournaments games, the second-best total through the first two rounds in program history. — Philippou

Guard | 6-foot-0 | senior
Previous ranking: 19

No shot defines Berger’s career better than the spinning layup she hit as the winner against Princeton in the second round. She took on an entire defense and won the battle, getting her veteran Hoosier team to a second consecutive Sweet 16. — Creme

Forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
Previous ranking: 16

Her versatility is a key to Louisville’s success. Engstler’s shooting was off (3-of-13) in Sunday’s win over Gonzaga, but she still had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds), plus five steals and two blocks. — Creme

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South Dakota’s Chloe Lamb does it again with a smooth lay-in finish.

Guard | 5-foot-10 | senior
Previous ranking: NR

Lamb, the Summit League Player of the Year, has elevated her game of late, helping the Coyotes become just the second team from the Summit League to advance to the Sweet 16 behind wins over Colorado and Baylor. Lamb’s hot shooting from the arc (3-for-6 against the Bears) helped South Dakota take down second-seeded Baylor on Sunday, but even beyond that, she has averaged 21.2 points per game on 53% shooting across the last four games. If she continues to play (and shoot) at this level, the Coyotes might not be done just yet. — Philippou

Guard | 5-foot-10 | freshman
Previous ranking: NR

Miles (13.5 PPG) leads five Irish players who average in double-figures scoring, and she is also the team’s assist leader (7.4 APG). In Notre Dame’s first-round victory over UMass, Miles had a triple-double (12 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists), and in the Irish’s win over Oklahoma to go to the Sweet 16, she had nine points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. — Voepel

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Olivia Miles tallies 11 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in Notre Dame’s 73-56 win over Valparaiso.

Guard | 5-foot-10 | junior
Previous ranking: 21

Sheldon has played all 80 minutes in the tournament so far and has scored 48 points. She’s the biggest reason the Buckeyes have advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2017. — Creme

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0:19

Deja Kelly knocks down the big and-1 jumper

Guard | 5-foot-8 | sophomore
Previous ranking: NR

North Carolina is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015. Kelly is the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 PPG, and is second in assists (2.6 APG). She had 28 points in the Heels’ opening victory against Stephen F. Austin, and 15 points in No. 5 seed UNC’s 63-45 upset at No. 4 Arizona in the second round. — Voepel

Forward | 6-foot-1 | sophomore
Previous ranking: NR

On a very balanced team, we gave a slight nod to Ronsiek on her season-long body of work (team-best 14.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG), and her NCAA tournament combined totals of 23 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. We also could have gone with another Bluejays sophomore, guard Lauren Jensen, whose 3-pointer sunk No. 2 seed Iowa in the second round Sunday and who has totaled 35 points in Creighton’s two NCAA tournament wins. — Voepel

Guard | 5-foot-11 | sophomore
Previous ranking: NR

The Cyclones point guard has the ball in her hands much of the time, and coach Bill Fennelly really trusts her decision-making. She had a combined 35 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds in Iowa State’s early-round victories. — Voepel

Forward | 6-foot-0 | senior
Previous ranking: NR

Dye has been a much-needed transfer for Tennessee as a “super senior” this season after spending two years at Gulf Coast State junior college and then two at Troy. She is averaging 10.2 PPG and 7.7 RPG, and was crucial in helping the Lady Vols avoid a second-round upset loss to Belmont with 20 points and 11 rebounds. She had 18 and 11 in the first round against Buffalo. — Voepel

Forward | 6-foot-0 | freshman
Previous ranking: NR

Moore has been a revelation. Injuries slowed the start of her career and she scored in double figures just once all season until doing it in each of Texas’ last three games. She averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the Longhorns’ dominating wins in the first two rounds. — Creme

Guard | 5-foot-4 | senior
Previous ranking: NR

Small but mighty, Perez has totaled 31 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the Wolfpack’s NCAA victories against Longwood and Kansas State. For the season, she is averaging 8.9 points and 2.9 assists. — Voepel

Center | 6-foot-6 | junior
Previous ranking: NR

She is averaging 10.7 PPG and 8.1 RPG, plus has a Tennessee single-season record 118 blocks. Key is a 63.6% free throw shooter, but she made 3-of-4 from the line in the closing seconds of Monday’s win over Belmont. Key has combined for 34 points and 15 rebounds in the Lady Vols’ two tournament wins. — Voepel

Also considered: Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana; Diamond Johnson, NC State; Dara Mabrey, Notre Dame; Christyn Williams, UConn

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