Malina Howard, Maryland. A 6-foot-3 post player who is a really strong rebounder on both the offensive and defensive ends. Will make an immediate impact for the Terps. Said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, ‘‘I started recruiting Malina when she was in ninth grade. Four years later, it took Malina about five seconds to be on our campus and make her presence felt as an incredibly special person. She’s a perfectionist at everything she does.’’
Alexis Prince, Baylor. A 6-1 guard/forward who combines size with athleticism. She has a fluid style of play that makes her a strong contributor on both offense and defense. ‘‘Alexis will be the biggest perimeter player that I have coached at Baylor,’’ coach Kim Mulkey said. ‘‘Alexis has lateral quickness on the defensive end that is deceptive. You don't’ really know how quick she is until you have her on that floor.’’
Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame. A 5-10 guard who can hit the 3 as well as create shots for others. Loyd will benefit from playing with Skylar Diggins this season and is the next talented guard to play for coach Muffet McGraw. ‘‘I expect her to contribute in a big way immediately,’’ McGraw said. ‘‘I think she will be a candidate for rookie of the year in the Big East.’’
Breanna Stewart, Connecticut. A 6-4 versatile player who can score from anywhere on the court. She has the skills of a guard but the body of a forward. Stewart gained a lot of experience on the international scene this summer playing for USA basketball. Said coach Geno Auriemma. ‘‘She’s really confident, knows it and plays like it. She’s been good at every level and there’s nothing that’s going to shake that.’’
Once conference plays gets started nationwide, in most cases in the first few days of January, there will be plenty of standout games.
No. 3 Duke and No. 5 Maryland get to play at least twice in the ACC. No. 12 Oklahoma gets a couple of chances against Baylor in the Big 12, and as Sooners senior guard Whitney Hand said, ‘‘The more familiar with them you are, the less that jersey beats you.’’
Connecticut and Notre Dame play in a Big East opener Jan. 5, then again in the regular-season finale two months later — the same for Notre Dame vs. Connecticut. Pac-12 teams Stanford and California play consecutive games against each other in a six-day span in January.
There will be some big nonconference matchups long before the NCAA tournament, including a couple to open the season:
Friday — No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 19 Ohio State on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C.
Friday — No. 9 Louisville vs. SEC newcomer No. 15 Texas A&M, the 2011 national champ.
Nov. 13 — No. 6 Kentucky at No. 1 Baylor. Quick early test for SEC favorite Wildcats, with their highest ranking ever.
Nov. 16 — Rematch of last year’s NCAA semifinal game when No. 1 Baylor plays No. 4 Stanford in Hawaii. The Lady Bears won 59-47 in Denver.
Nov. 18 — No. 2 Connecticut at Texas A&M, which won its national title without having to face UConn, which lost to Notre Dame in a national semifinal game that season.
Dec. 2 — Instate battle to rival the men’s matchup: Kentucky at Louisville.
Dec. 3 — No. 5 Maryland at Connecticut. These two teams didn’t meet for years, and now play consecutive seasons in support of the Jimmy V fund.
Dec. 5 — Rematch of last season’s NCAA title game, Baylor at No. 7 Notre Dame, which lost 80-61 at Denver.
Dec. 6 — No. 8 Penn State at Connecticut. The Huskies’ second game against preseason Top 10 team in four days.
Dec 9 — No. 3 Duke and No. 14 St. John's. A rematch providing chance for the Red Storm to make up for 74-47 loss in the NCAA round of 16 last March.
Dec. 20 — Maryland at No. 11 Delaware. The only regular season loss for Delaware last year was at Maryland’s tournament. Will Delle Donne be healthy enough to carry the Blue Hens to the upset in front of their raucous fans.
Dec. 29 — Connecticut at Stanford. A post-Christmas Final Four preview of teams that were on opposite sides of the bracket last season?
Feb. 18 — Baylor at Connecticut. A mid-February matchup of undefeated teams?
BY THE NUMBERS
5_Consecutive appearances in the Final Four for Connecticut and Stanford, who will be trying to make it six in a row this season.
5_Number of teams from Big East and SEC ranked in preseason Top 25.
7_Career dunks by Baylor’s Brittney Griner, tied for the women’s record with Tennessee’s Candace Parker (2004-08).
20_Consecutive seasons UConn has been in the preseason top 10, starting at No. 2 this season.
39_Most possible wins this season for Baylor.Continued...