Caitlin Clark, four freshmen among top 25 players in country

Caitlin Clark's record-breaking night lifts Iowa to 48-point win (1:12)

Iowa's Caitlin Clark records another triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over Minnesota. (1:12)

Conference play across January and February has been college basketball's great equalizer, showing what players and teams are made of before the stage gets even bigger and brighter in March. And so with Championship Week right around the corner, ESPN is back with its newest edition of the top 25 players in women's college basketball.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark remains the No. 1-ranked player, a unanimous selection by our panel of 19 women's basketball experts. But there was a shakeup at No. 2, which the USC freshman JuJu Watkins takes over after receiving 13 second-place votes. Stanford's Cameron Brink and UConn's Paige Bueckers round out the top four of our list.

Five newcomers joined the party, including Tennessee senior Rickea Jackson, who didn't qualify in our December ranking due to injury. Only players who have played in at least half of their team's contests this season are eligible. Players such as Texas' Rori Harmon (No. 6 in ESPN's December ranking) and UConn's Azzi Fudd (No. 11 in November), for example, no longer qualify after suffering season-ending injuries before the new year. But Kansas State's Ayoka Lee is eligible after returning from a four-week absence because of an ankle injury.

This season's status as The Year of the Freshmen is reflected on the list, too, with four rookies earning spots, including newbie Madison Booker of Texas. Notre Dame standout Hannah Hidalgo received a massive bump since December, coming in at No. 5 overall.

Several other notable risers and fallers included LSU's Angel Reese, Utah's Alissa Pili and Virginia Tech's Elizabeth Kitley, as performance during conference play weighed heavily on voters' minds.

ESPN women's basketball broadcasters and digital reporters who voted in December were again invited to cast ballots. Rankings were submitted by ESPN's Debbie Antonelli, Nikki Fargas, Kelly Gramlich, Dan Hughes, Andrea Lloyd, Rebecca Lobo, Muffet McGraw, Roy Philpott, Steffi Sorensen, Mike Thibault, Christy Thomaskutty, Brenda VanLengen, Brooke Weisbrod, Stephanie White and Helen Williams; ESPN.com's Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and Michael Voepel and Andscape's Sean Hurd.

1. Caitlin Clark, Iowa Hawkeyes

Guard | 6-foot-0 | senior
32.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.7 SPG
Previous ranking: 1

It's been a memorable season with Clark passing Kelsey Plum for the NCAA women's career scoring record and keeping the Hawkeyes as one of the nation's top teams. Her offensive numbers are a bit higher in Big Ten play: 33.2 PPG and 9.3 APG. She has 503 3-point field goals at Iowa, a career-high 156 of them coming this season. A second season of national player of the year honors seems solidified. -- Voepel

JuJu Watkins scores 42 as USC defeats Colorado

JuJu Watkins goes off for 42 points in USC's 87-81 win against Colorado.

2. JuJu Watkins, USC Trojans

Guard | 6-foot-2 | freshman
28.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.6 SPG
Previous ranking: 5

Watkins, who ranks second in Division I scoring behind Clark, is the front-runner for national freshman of the year. Watkins' 12 games of 30 or more points are tied with Clark for the most such games for a freshman over the last 25 seasons. It's also a USC single-season record for any class. Watkins has scored 20 or more points eight times against ranked opponents. Her recent 18-of-18 free throw performance was the most makes without a miss ever in a Pac-12 game. -- Voepel

3. Cameron Brink, Stanford Cardinal

Forward | 6-foot-4 | senior
17.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 54.4 FG%
Previous ranking: 2

As the Pac-12's fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder and the national leader in blocks per game, Brink is the best two-way big in the country. And according to Her Hoop Stats' advanced player rankings, Brink is the nation's most efficient player, regardless of position. Her evolution from part-time starter and solid-but-not-spectacular contributor on a national championship team in 2021 to Stanford's most valuable player and leader has been remarkable. It's no coincidence she missed the majority of two of the four games the Cardinal have lost this season. Thanks to Clark and Watkins, Brink might not win any national or even conference player of the year awards, but she is the best player on the best team in the best conference in the country. -- Creme

4. Paige Bueckers, UConn Huskies

Guard | 6-foot-0 | junior
20.8 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2.1 SPG
Previous ranking: 3

Bueckers is back this season after she was sidelined the entire 2022-23 campaign (and most of 2021-22) with knee injuries, and the former national player of the year largely picked up where she left off as a sophomore. Her efficiency is as good as it's ever been (61.1% effective field goal percentage) amid higher usage, and she's more than held her own essentially playing the power forward position for the Huskies. Asked to do even more since Aubrey Griffin's injury, Bueckers leads UConn in scoring and blocks while coming in second among active players in rebounds, assists and steals. -- Philippou

Hannah Hidalgo breaks record for most steals by a freshman in ACC history

With Hannah Hidalgo's sixth steal of the evening, she breaks the ACC record for most steals by a freshman in a season.

5. Hannah Hidalgo, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Guard | 5-foot-6 | freshman
23.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, 4.9 SPG
Previous ranking: 10

With fellow guard Olivia Miles out this season (knee), Hidalgo has been Notre Dame's best player and part of a great freshman class nationwide. She leads Division I in steals per game and is third in scoring. The Irish are in a four-way tie for third in the ACC. It's hard to imagine they would even be where they are without Hidalgo, who also leads the team in minutes played and has appeared in every game. -- Voepel

6. Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech Hokies

Center | 6-foot-6 | graduate
23.3 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.9 BPG
Previous ranking: 14

Kitley was sixth in our preseason rankings, dropped eight spots in the December rankings and now is back where she started. That reflects the fact that the two-time ACC player of the year was good in nonconference play but has been even better in the league. The fifth-year senior is averaging career highs in points and rebounds while leading the Hokies to at least a share of their first ACC regular-season championship. -- Voepel

What a shot by Georgia Amoore

What a shot by Georgia Amoore

7. Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech Hokies

Guard | 5-foot-6 | senior
17.9 PPG, 7.6 APG, 2.8 RPG
Previous ranking: 9

No duo has been as hot recently as Kitley and Amoore, who have catapulted Virginia Tech into a top-five ranking in the Associated Press poll. The Hokies needed time to solidify their identity with so many new pieces, and Amoore is getting it done both as a scorer and as a facilitator amid a scathing February run. The Australian has tallied five point-assist double-doubles this month, three of which came on the road against ranked ACC opponents. Three of Amoore's double-doubles involved her scoring at least 20 points. -- Philippou

8. Aaliyah Edwards, UConn Huskies

Forward | 6-foot-3 | senior
18.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG
Previous ranking: 13

Edwards has been the hallmark of consistency for the Huskies most of the season, with more weight on her shoulders than ever given UConn's dearth of frontcourt options. The Canadian Olympian has compiled double-doubles in nine of her last 11 games (including 20 points and 12 rebounds against South Carolina) and is hitting 59.5% of her shots from the field, while demonstrating her extended shooting range outside the paint. Edwards' growth has been a bright spot in Storrs, and she could be a coveted WNBA prospect come April's draft. -- Philippou

9. Lauren Betts, UCLA Bruins

Center | 6-foot-7 | sophomore
14.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Previous ranking: 12

Betts missed four games in late January/early February due to a medical issue, and it became clear during her absence how much she elevates the Bruins into a potential Final Four squad. Since she returned, UCLA has won five of its last six games, building momentum recently by knocking off Utah and Colorado in L.A. Even in a quiet scoring game for her Monday against the Buffs, Betts made her presence known with her rebounding, interior defense and a massive steal on the perimeter with 34 seconds to play that helped seal the win. -- Philippou

10. Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina Gamecocks

Center | 6-foot-7 | senior
14.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 58.6 FG%
Previous ranking: 7

The Gamecocks have been so good that their best player sat out a few games and they didn't miss a beat. That isn't to diminish Cardoso's dominance. Despite missing four of South Carolina's past six games -- while she competed for the Brazilian national team in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament and then missed some time to rest -- Cardoso remains the Gamecocks' leading scorer and rebounder. Size is her biggest asset, but Cardoso's greatest skill might be her willingness to run the floor and get to the low block before the defense. She's nearly unstoppable once she catches the ball there. As the SEC's leading shot-blocker, Cardoso anchors a defense that leads the country in opponents' field goal percentage, blocks and points allowed per play. -- Creme

LSU's Reese on hard-fought victory: 'It was personal'

After redeeming its previous loss to Auburn, Angel Reese (25 points, 20 rebounds) credits LSU's resilience in a game that had a bit more meaning to it.

11. Angel Reese, LSU Tigers

Forward | 6-foot-3 | junior
19.1 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 49.3% FG
Previous ranking: 11

Reese has emerged from a four-game absence in November to become LSU's most productive and consistent player during the most important part of the season. She leads the SEC in scoring and rebounding for a second consecutive season and tops the country in offensive rebounds (5.8) and free throw attempts (8.8) per game. Two games removed from a 25-point, 20-rebound performance against Auburn, Reese has also strung together seven straight double-doubles, something she did an NCAA-record 34 times last season for the national champs. Her unorthodox offensive game and lack of a consistent jump shot have some questioning her capabilities at the next level, but there is little doubt of the massive impact she has made in her two seasons at LSU. -- Creme

12. Alissa Pili, Utah Utes

Forward | 6-foot-2 | senior
21.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 54.9 FG%
Previous ranking: 4

Few scorers are as consistent and reliable as Pili. She's fallen short of double digits just twice in her two seasons at Utah, a program she has lifted to new heights. In the three seasons before Pili arrived in Salt Lake City from USC, the Utes were 40-45. They are 47-13 with her. Pili's footwork and intelligence allow her to find a scoring opportunity in the post where there doesn't appear to be one. She has also transformed herself into a 40% 3-point shooter, 15 percentage points higher than her three seasons as a Trojan. That helped her win the Pac-12's most improved player and player of the year awards last year. But nothing cemented her spot among this year's elite like her 37-point performance against South Carolina in December. -- Philippou

13. Rickea Jackson, Tennessee Lady Vols

Forward | 6-foot-2 | graduate
18.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.7 APG
Previous ranking: NR

Jackson was No. 7 in our preseason rankings but didn't make the second list because of her eight games missed due to injury. She returned to Tennessee's lineup on Dec. 19 and has been the Lady Vols' top player. She projects as a lottery pick in April's WNBA draft with a pro skill set that is strong both offensively and defensively. -- Voepel

14. Madison Booker, Texas Longhorns

Forward/guard | 6-foot-1 | freshman
16.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.9 APG
Previous ranking: NR

Texas lost point guard Rori Harmon -- who was No. 14 and then No. 6 in our previous rankings -- in late December to a season-ending knee injury. That put even more on Booker's shoulders, and she has responded. She's averaging 20.2 points and 5.5 assists in Big 12 play. She is yet another of the freshmen nationwide making a big impact. -- Voepel

15. Aneesah Morrow, LSU Tigers

Guard | 6-foot-1 | junior
16.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.7 SPG
Previous ranking: 8

When she transferred to Baton Rouge this offseason, some wondered how the transition to SEC play would go for Morrow, but she's largely acclimated. In fact, Morrow emerged as an X factor with 16 points and 10 rebounds for LSU when it nearly knocked off South Carolina last month, and they might have been better off getting her the ball even more down the stretch. Despite having a somewhat down month offensively, the former DePaul standout continues to make an impact defensively and on the glass. Her 16 double-doubles are second-most in the SEC, behind teammate Reese. -- Philippou

16. Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State Buckeyes

Guard | 5-foot-10 | graduate
18.0 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.1 SPG
Previous ranking: 16

Even before the Buckeyes' current 14-game winning streak, Sheldon was the one reliable player coach Kevin McGuff could turn to. She's been the bedrock of the program she has helped to 110 wins. Playing with a rare combination of intense competitiveness and sense of calm, Sheldon still spearheads Ohio State's trademark full-court defense and has been one of the best two-way guards in the country for three seasons. Her steal numbers are down but are still good for fourth in the Big Ten -- and she's never shot this well from deep (37.4% on 3-pointers). -- Creme

17. Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana Hoosiers

Forward | 6-foot-3 | graduate
21.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 66.6 FG%
Previous ranking: 17

The fifth-year senior became Indiana's all-time scoring leader this season and is currently at 2,465 career points. Her Big Ten stats are even a little higher than the season overall: 22.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 67.9% from the field. Holmes has been one of the most important players in helping build Indiana into the consistently competitive program it has become. -- Voepel

Ta'Niya Latson scores and draws the foul

Ta'Niya Latson scores and draws the foul

18. Ta'Niya Latson, Florida State Seminoles

Guard | 5-foot-8 | sophomore
21.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.3 APG
Previous ranking: 15

Latson is perhaps a bit under the radar since Florida State (20-8) fell out of the AP rankings, but she remains one of the top scorers in the ACC with 21.7 points per game, a smidge fewer than Syracuse's Dyaisha Fair but on better efficiency (43.9%). Latson recently set a record for most career 30-point games of any ACC player over the past 25 years -- and she's only a sophomore. Also of note is Latson's growth as a distributor, as she paces high-powered Florida State with 4.3 dimes per contest. -- Philippou

19. Dyaisha Fair, Syracuse Orange

Guard | 5-foot-5 | graduate
21.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.5 APG
Previous ranking: NR

Now the fifth all-time leading scorer in women's NCAA history, Fair has never averaged less than 19.9 points in a season in her five years at Buffalo and Syracuse. She has elevated the Orange, picked ninth in the ACC in the preseason, to heights few saw coming this season. Always a threat with the ball in her hand, Fair has shooting range second only to Clark on this list and constantly challenges the defense with her ballhandling ability. She's gotten even better as the competition level has increased, scoring 23.8 points in ACC play to pace Syracuse to the most conference wins in a season in program history. -- Creme

Te-Hina Paopao drills back-to-back 3s on 9-0 SC run

Te-Hina Paopao lights it up from beyond the arc to spark a 9-0 Gamecocks run.

20. Te-Hina Paopao, South Carolina Gamecocks

Guard | 5-foot-9 | senior
11.5 PPG, 3.7 APG, 48.9% 3PT
Previous ranking: 21

When Dawn Staley was reconstructing her rotation during the offseason, she didn't have all the pieces internally. It was only after Paopao arrived from Oregon that the puzzle was complete. The results have been obvious. While Paopao's scoring is down a little from last season, the rest of her game has blossomed in Columbia. Her 3-point accuracy has jumped more than 6 percentage points, which was exactly what South Carolina needed. Paopao has taken ballhandling pressure off Raven Johnson and freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley, and has her best assist numbers since her freshman season. Concerns for the Gamecocks turned into strengths once Paopao entered the fold -- and that is why they are the best team in America. -- Creme

21. Cotie McMahon, Ohio State Buckeyes

Forward | 6-foot-0 | sophomore
14.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.2 APG
Previous ranking: 18

Last season's Big Ten freshman of the year has become even more well rounded this season for one of the nation's best teams. She is second in scoring and first in rebounding for the Buckeyes, who have clinched the top seed in the Big Ten tournament and project as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. -- Voepel

22. Kiki Iriafen, Stanford Cardinal

Guard | 6-foot-3 | junior
18.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 54.9% FG
Previous ranking: NR

Not even close to consideration for this list in the preseason, Iriafen is one of the most improved players in the country. Her scoring average has jumped by 12 points and her minutes played have more than doubled. In less than a season, Iriafen has gone from a player Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer rarely trusted in key moments to a player the Cardinal need to be great on a nightly basis. It was clear from her opening game, a 23-point performance against Hawaii, that Iriafen's confidence in her role in the Stanford offense grew exponentially during the offseason. She ranks ninth nationally in efficiency and is eighth in wins shares, according to Her Hoops Stats. Her and Brink have become the best frontcourt duo in the game and have been the key to Stanford's fourth straight, and final, Pac-12 regular-season championship. -- Creme

23. Ayoka Lee, Kansas State Wildcats

Center | 6-foot-6 | senior
20.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 62.4 FG%
Previous ranking: 19

Injuries have been about the only thing to slow down the true center; she missed last season with a knee injury and was out seven games this season due to ankle issues. But when she's in the lineup, she makes all the difference for the Wildcats, who missed the NCAA tournament last season without her but are projected as a top-four seed this year.-- Voepel

24. Raegan Beers, Oregon State Beavers

Forward | 6-foot-4 | sophomore
17.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Previous ranking: NR

Beers is one of the newcomers on this list, a reflection of the surging Beavers and their impressive run through Pac-12 play that has solidified Oregon State as a top-15 team in the country. The Beavers were one of the nation's hottest teams over the past six weeks but stumbled a bit the past two weekends with Beers sidelined with a broken nose. Against Pac-12 competition, she's been the conference's sixth-best scorer with top efficiency (63.9% from the field, second best in the league), as well as one of four players averaging double-figure rebounds per contest. -- Philippou

25. Mikaylah Williams, LSU Tigers

Guard | 6-foot-0 | freshman
15.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.1 APG
Previous ranking: 20

No LSU player could be as pivotal down the stretch as Williams, whose ability to hit shots from the perimeter might be called upon when the game is on the line. The freshman -- the fourth rookie on our list -- is comfortably the Tigers' best shooter with an effective field goal percentage of 55.8%, even as her clip from 3 (38.4%) has dipped in conference play. And perhaps underrated is her ability to find open teammates -- her five assists against Tennessee on Sunday were among her season-best marks. -- Philippou

Also considered (players received at least one vote): Jessika Carter, Mississippi State Bulldogs; Sonia Citron, Notre Dame Fighting Irish; Marquesha Davis, Ole Miss Rebels; Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga Bulldogs; MiLaysia Fulwiley, South Carolina Gamecocks; Zaay Green, Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions; Lauren Gustin, BYU Cougars; McKenna Hofschild, Colorado State Rams; Abbey Hsu, Columbia Lions; Deja Kelly, North Carolina Tar Heels; Aziah James, NC State Wolfpack; Flau'jae Johnson, LSU Tigers; Alexis Markowski, Nebraska Cornhuskers; JJ Quinerly, West Virginia Mountaineers; Lucy Olsen, Villanova Wildcats; Charisma Osborne, UCLA Bruins; Kiki Rice, UCLA Bruins; Saniya Rivers, NC State Wolfpack; Shyanne Sellers, Maryland Terrapins; Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado Buffaloes; Hailey Van Lith, LSU Tigers; Desi-Rae Young, UNLV Lady Rebels