Thursday January 20th, 2022 2:45AM

No. 5 NC State, No. 6 Louisville again headline ACC race

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

The Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball race has settled into a familiar pattern the past two seasons: Louisville claims the regular-season crown, North Carolina State wins the ACC Tournament.

They're set up for another battle at the top of the league in 2021-22.

The top eight scorers return for the fifth-ranked Wolfpack, picked as the ACC favorite ahead of the sixth-ranked Cardinals in a year featuring top teams filled with veteran talent. Louisville has multiple returning starters while bringing in two proven power-conference transfers to offset the loss of two-time league player of the year Dana Evans.

“I think we definitely both have our eyes on each other,” Louisville sophomore guard Hailey Van Lith said. “All respect, obviously. But we’re both competitive teams and we want to win. … I really do enjoy playing them.”

N.C. State (22-3, 12-2 ACC) won both of last year’s meetings with Louisville (26-4, 14-2), including 58-56 in the ACC Tournament championship game on Raina Perez’s final-seconds jumper. That helped the Wolfpack earn the program’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling in the Sweet 16.

Preseason ACC player of the year Elissa Cunane (16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds) is the headliner among the returnees, while N.C. State added sophomore transfers Diamond Johnson (who averaged 17.6 points at Rutgers) and Madison Hayes (Mississippi State).

“I think nobody believes in us more than we do and nobody wants to go further than we do ourselves,” Cunane said.

The Cardinals claimed the regular-season title last year based on win percentage since teams played an unequal number of games amid COVID-19 postponements and cancellations. That marked the third time in four seasons that Louisville took the top seed for the tournament, and the Cardinals have won at least a share of the regular-season title in all four years.

Guard Kianna Smith (11.4) and Van Lith (11.2) are the top returning scorers from an Elite Eight team, while Louisville has added Vanderbilt graduate transfer Chelsie Hall (15.4) and Syracuse senior transfer Emily Engstler (10.5 points, 9.1 rebounds).

Here are things to know about the ACC this season:


No. 17 Georgia Tech was picked third after reaching the program's first NCAA Sweet 16 since 2012. The Yellow Jackets (17-9, 12-6) brought back nearly their entire roster from that group, led by senior guard Lotta-Maj Lahtinen (15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds).

“I think the real challenge for us is going to be that we are no longer the hunter, that we are going to be hunted — and I think that's a totally different feel once you get on the court to play,” coach Nell Fortner said.


Sixth-year coach Kenny Brooks has made No. 24 Virginia Tech an NCAA Tournament team again.

The Hokies hadn't reached the NCAAs since 2006 before last year's trip to the second round. Junior center Elizabeth Kitley (18.2 points, 10.4 rebounds) is the league's top returning scorer after finishing second to Louisville's Evans last year, while guard Aisha Sheppard (17.7 points) was third in the ACC in scoring.


Longtime Florida State coach Sue Semrau returns to the sideline for the 16th-ranked Seminoles after she took a leave of absence last season to be with her mother as she recovered from ovarian cancer.

“It's funny because they're intact from when I left ... except they got a year of experience and they're a lot better," Semrau said with a chuckle.


The league will look to top its national-best haul of eight NCAA bids from each of the past three tournaments. The list included North Carolina earning a bid in its second season under Courtney Banghart, Wake Forest reaching the tournament for the first time since 1988 under Jen Hoover and Syracuse.

As for the Orange, Vonn Read took over in August as acting coach after longtime head coach Quentin Hillsman resigned amid an external review of his program over alleged threats and bullying of players.


Duke and Virginia are returning after canceling their seasons last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Devils played just four games in their debut season under Kara Lawson, while the Cavaliers lost all five games under Tina Thompson.

Lawson said the time off was “more normal than you'd think” with the Blue Devils having workouts and practices, while Thompson said her team focused on individual skill development.

“I admire our players a lot because it's really hard to practice every day and not have that reward of the game coming at the end of the week,” Lawson said. “But they were mature and they focused on improvement.”


More AP women’s basketball: and


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - Women's College Basketball
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
No. 5 NC State, No. 6 Louisville again headline ACC race
No. 5 North Carolina State and No. 6 Louisville headline the Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball race heading into the season
1:00PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Concert halls, dining rooms open doors; Coke sales rebound
Coca-Cola Co. is getting its fizz back
12:59PM ( 14 minutes ago )
After the scandals, Anthopoulos, Click lead teams to Series
Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Houston GM James Click both took over teams in turmoil and led them to the World Series
12:59PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
No. 1 Georgia's title hopes boosted by down year in SEC East
Playing in the top-heavy SEC East could work out well for No. 1 Georgia’s championship hopes
12:37PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Blackhawks GM resigns, team fined after sexual assault probe
An independent review has found that the Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010
10:24AM ( 2 hours ago )
Loaded UConn women push for program's 12th national title
UConn comes into this season ranked No. 2,  having added the nation’s top recruit, guard Azzi Fudd, to a team that returns last year’s collegiate national player of the year, Paige Bueckers, and every other starter from a squad that went to it’s 13th straight Final Four
9:14AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Sports
Walker scores 19, Knicks romp to end 15-game skid vs 76ers
Kemba Walker scored 19 points in his best game with his hometown team and the New York Knicks snapped a 15-game losing streak against the Philadelphia 76ers with a 112-99 victory
10:55PM ( 14 hours ago )
Second NCAA gender equity report shows spending disparities
The NCAA has fallen short of upholding its commitment to gender equity, spending more on male athletes on average than female ones
10:48PM ( 14 hours ago )
2-time WNBA executive of year Padover named Atlanta Dream GM
The Atlanta Dream have announced the hiring of Dan Padover as general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations
2:34PM ( 22 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
No. 9 Iowa rested, still in control of its Big Ten West fate
Iowa was glad to get some time off last weekend after its home loss to Purdue on Oct. 16
4:59PM ( 20 hours ago )
QB changes possible for Georgia, Florida in Cocktail Party
No. 1 Georgia and unranked Florida have unsettled quarterbacks situations heading into their annual rivalry football game known as “The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" in Jacksonville
2:49PM ( 22 hours ago )
Texas Tech fires Matt Wells after demoralizing loss
Texas Tech has fired coach Matt Wells
3:48PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
Concerts halls, dining rooms open doors; Coke sales rebound
Coca-Cola Co. is getting its fizz back
8:15AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Braves take 1-0 Series advantage over Astros
Jorge Soler became the first player to begin a World Series with a home run and the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros 6-2 in Tuesday night’s opener despite the loss of pitcher Charlie Morton to a broken leg
12:19AM ( 12 hours ago )
The Latest: Braves up 6-2, one inning away from Game 1 win
The Braves are three outs away from a 1-0 World Series advantage, leading 6-2 after eight innings in Game 1
12:02AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
Cunane, No. 5 NC State headline preseason ACC picks
Fifth-ranked North Carolina State is the Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball favorite
11:32AM ( 1 week ago )
South Carolina, UConn, Stanford women top preseason Top 25
South Carolina is ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason women’s basketball poll for the second consecutive season
2:40PM ( 1 week ago )
South Carolina awards Staley 7-year, $22.4 million contract
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has received a seven-year contract worth $22.4 million
2:43PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Sports - Women's College Basketball
Concert halls, dining rooms open doors; Coke sales rebound
Coca-Cola Co. is getting its fizz back
12:59PM ( 14 minutes ago )
After the scandals, Anthopoulos, Click lead teams to Series
Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Houston GM James Click both took over teams in turmoil and led them to the World Series
12:59PM ( 14 minutes ago )
SEC: Expectations sky high for No. 1 South Carolina, Staley
Expectations are sky high in the Southeastern Conference for Dawn Staley and top-ranked South Carolina
12:56PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Mine's a light beer: UK to overhaul alcohol taxes
Taxes on alcoholic drinks in the U.K. are being radically simplified in the biggest overhaul in more than 140 years
12:55PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Sheriff: Movie set showed 'some complacency' with weapons
Investigators say there was “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on a movie set where Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer and wounded another person
12:54PM ( 20 minutes ago )