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The women's game just keeps getting better. Here is SI's early line on the 2005--06 season

1. Tennessee (30--5 in 2004--05) Coach Pat Summitt should significantly add to her NCAA career victories record. A healthy Candace Parker--the school's most heralded recruit redshirted last season as a freshman after undergoing two knee surgeries--will join three returning starters.

2. LSU (33--3) Wooden Award winner Seimone Augustus and 6'5" sophomore center Sylvia (Baby Shaq) Fowles, who was second in the SEC in field goal percentage and third in rebounding, form the nation's top one-two punch.

3. Rutgers (28--7) Senior guard Cappie Pondexter, who averaged 24 points in the NCAA tournament, likely would be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft were she not returning for a fifth year. Next year she'll get inside help from Kia Vaughn, a high school All-America center.

4. North Carolina (30--4) Even if Rashad McCants leaves the Tar Heels for the NBA, there will be a McCants in Chapel Hill. His younger sister Rashanda, a high school All-America, joins a team that won 16 of its last 17 games.

5. Duke (31--5) With Monique Currie (17.5 ppg) coming back for a fifth season, the Blue Devils will have all five starters returning from an Elite Eight team.

6. Baylor (33--3) The national champs will welcome back Final Four Most Outstanding Player Sophia Young and sharpshooter Emily Niemann (46.7% on three-pointers), but can they find a low post scorer to replace Steffanie Blackmon?

7. Georgia (24--0) These will be big Dawgs. SEC Freshman of the Year Tasha Humphrey, a 6'3" post player, will be joined by Reicina Russell, a 6'6" transfer from Penn State.

8. Ohio State (30--5) Junior center Jessica Davenport, the Big Ten player of the year, averaged 19.3 points per game--but only one other returning player averaged more than 5.2.

9. Connecticut (25--8) Seniors Barbara Turner and Ann Strother provide a solid foundation. The x factor is Duke transfer Brittany Hunter, who is trying to come back from knee surgery.

10. USC (20--11) This precocious group (three freshmen and six sophomores) gave Michigan State a scare. --Richard Deitsch




Augustus (above) will be chasing Summitt and Parker (top).




  [see caption above]