Women's Power Rankings: Can Stanford topple Baylor in March?
Last Ranking: 2
Baylor Bears (18-1)The Lady Bears are currently riding a 15-game winning streak, and sophomore center Brittney Griner continues to lead the country in blocks (94) and complementary quotes: "Guys, there's nobody in the game like her," said Texas Tech coach Kristy Curry after Griner scored 25 points and had six blocks in Baylor's win over Tech on Jan. 22 "She's got a chance to lead her team to a national championship, Olympic gold medals, one of the greatest to ever play the game." No team has come within 10 points of Baylor since its one-point loss to UConn on Nov. 16, and the Lady Bears have become a better team with the December arrival of Illinois transfer Destiny Williams (9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 19 games.) With Griner (22.2 points and 7.8 rebounds) and freshman point guard Odyssey Sims (13.8 points) as the team's top two scorers, Baylor has the look of a team setting up for multiple championships.
Quotable: "A lot of people want to talk about Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and how they kind of revolutionized the men's game because you hadn't seen that many big guys up until that time. With Brittney, you don't see girls like that. People want to say that Brittney is going to change the game. I take that as a compliment, but I'm not sure what they mean because there's not going to be many girls like her who can play above the rim. She dominates the game on the defensive end of the floor just as much as the offensive end. There will always be the elite players and the great players, but when you look through the history of the women's game, go back and name all the great players who have played. Did they dominate the floor on the defensive end like Brittney does? It's coaches changing their offense before they play us; it's kids wanting to go inside and they don't go inside because of her. The great players through the years, not many of them have done that."
-- Baylor coach Kim Mulkey on Griner
Next Up: at Texas A&M (Jan. 30), vs. Oklahoma (Feb. 2), at Oklahoma State (Feb. 6), at Nebraska (Feb. 9), vs. Texas (Feb. 12)
Last Ranking: 3
Stanford Cardinal (17-2)The Cardinal have won 11 straight games since losing in overtime to Tennessee on Dec. 19 and they've become impossible to defeat at home, winning 56 consecutive games at Maples Pavilion. Coach Tara VanDerveer said she wants to keep her Big Three (junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, senior forward Kayla Pedersen and senior guard Jeanette Pohlen) fresh down the stretch, and that shouldn't be difficult with no team in the Pac-10 close to challenging them. Stanford has won its games this season by a margin of 25.4 points and is outrebounding opponents by 12.5 boards per game. Mark it down: The Cardinal won't lose another game before March.
Quotable: "I think you're seeing the next NCAA championship team. Last time I had my butt kicked this bad was in Boston Garden and that was as a player. That was a long time ago. This team's probably going to win it all. I will put my namesake on that one. They're a very good team and they showed it stopping UConn's 90-game winning streak."
-- USC coach Michael Cooper following a 44-point loss to Stanford on Jan. 22
Next Up: at Oregon State (Jan. 29), at Arizona State (Feb. 3), at Arizona (Feb. 5), at Washington State (Feb. 10), vs. Washington (Feb. 12)
Last Ranking: 1
Connecticut Huskies (19-1)There was big news in UConn Land last week when word came down that promising freshman forward Samarie Walker announced she was leaving school and transferring to Kentucky. Walker's abrupt decision presents a fascinating challenge for Geno Auriemma: Can he win a title with essentially seven players, including two freshmen starters? Of course, one of those players is Maya Moore (23.9 points and 8.3 rebounds), who remains the country's most impossible player to guard not named Griner. The Duke game on Jan. 31 will reveal many truths about the Huskies: Duke is deep. UConn is not.
Quotable: "We've done it before. We did it in 1995. If they are the wrong seven, you're not going to make it. But if they are the right ones, you have a chance. We will see. We'll find out more as we go along. But whatever the outcome is won't have anything to do with that we only have seven players. We could fail with 10 or accomplish with seven. ... Everything becomes a little more important now, the big guys, the guards, everyone. We'll be fine. I'm not sitting here worrying about all of this. You can't go to the free agent wire and pick someone up. You go with who you have."
-- Auriemma following the announcement that Walker had left the program
Next Up: at Cincinnati (Jan. 29), vs. Duke (Jan. 31), vs. DePaul (Feb. 5), at West Virginia (Feb. 8), at Providence (Feb. 12)
Last Ranking: 5
Duke Blue Devils (20-0)The nation's lone unbeaten nearly lost that distinction on Jan. 23. Down 20 points a minute into the second half, the Blue Devils rallied for a remarkable 65-64 win over N.C. State. The 20-0 record is Joanne P. McCallie's best start in her 20 years as a coach. Senior forward Jasmine Thomas (15.1 points) is the only player averaging double digits, but Duke plays 10 players who average more than 12.5 minutes, including four freshmen. Can't wait to see how this team reacts against UConn on the road.
Quotable: "From a modeling standpoint and from showing them how to think, how to react. You know it's amazing to have three seniors (Thomas, Karima Christmas, Krystal Thomas) with the leadership, ability and experience that these three seniors have. The willingness of the young players to absorb whatever they can and, of course, attack with their game. Philosophically, it's much stronger when your seniors are sort of spreading the philosophy."
-- McCallie on what her team learned from the N.C. State game
Next Up: at UConn (Jan. 31), vs. Miami (Feb.3), at North Carolina (Feb. 7), at Wake Forest (Feb. 11), vs. Boston College (Feb. 13)
Last Ranking: 7
Tennessee Volunteers (20-2)The Lady Vols have won 10 consecutive games after their 11-point loss to top-ranked Baylor on Dec. 14. Tennessee's depth -- eight players average at least 16.3 minutes for Pat Summitt -- is starting to pay off, especially in SEC play. The Lady Vols also got welcome news with the return of Vicki Baugh, a 6-foot-4 redshirt junior forward who is back from missing last season with a meniscus tear and a partial medial meniscectomy in her left knee. Baugh had nine points against Auburn, the most points she had scored in a game in nearly two years. Tennessee is a weird team. At times, they look like a top-three unit. Other times, they are turnover city.
Quotable: "I think Tennessee is really good. I think they're definitely one of the top five teams in the country, and they're playing a style of basketball that's really tough to guard. It wears you out, and then they keep bringing players up off the bench, that continue to put the pressure on you."
-- Auburn coach Nell Fortner
Next Up: at Arkansas (Jan. 30), at Kentucky (Feb. 7), vs. Florida (Feb. 10), at Vanderbilt (Feb. 13), vs. South Carolina (Feb. 17)
Last Ranking: 6
Texas A&M Aggies (18-1)The Aggies won a huge game over Oklahoma on Wednesday behind 31 points from senior Danielle Adams (22.9 points), who is a lock for All-America status this season. It was A&M's 12th straight win since a three-point loss at Duke on Dec. 6. The Aggies continue to press and trap opponents on defense thanks to a speedy backcourt of Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter. The game of the year for the Aggies comes next: They host Baylor on Sunday.
Quotable: "That's the best team A&M has had in my time -- well-coached, athletic, skill sets."
-- Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly
Next Up: vs. Baylor (Jan. 30), at Texas Tech (Feb.5), vs. Oklahoma (Feb. 9), vs. Kansas (Feb. 12), at Baylor (Feb. 14)
Last Ranking: 4
Xavier Musketeers (16-2)Outside of Temple, there's no team in the conference remaining on the schedule that presents much difficulty, so look for Xavier to fatten up its record in February. Senior forward Amber Harris, the expected No. 2 player in the WNBA draft, continues to put up big numbers: She's averaging 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. Fellow senior frontcourt mate Ta'Shia Phillips has been equally effective (14.7 points and 12.9 rebounds). The Musketeers have won 20 consecutive games and 34 of their last 35 Atlantic 10 regular season contests.
Quotable: "If they're shooting the ball from three -- and they haven't this year -- there's not much you can do."
-- St. Bonaventure coach Jim Crowley
Next Up: vs. Rhode Island (Jan. 29), vs. LaSalle (Feb.1), at Dayton (Feb. 5), at Richmond (Feb. 9), vs. Fordham (Feb. 12)
Last Ranking: --
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-4)Coach Muffet McGraw praised the recent play of Devereaux Peters (10.9 points), who has been more active at both ends and has been getting a lot more looks in transition. ("At one point they sat me down in film and pointed out all the times I was standing," Peters said, "so I tried not to stand as much and be more active."). Peters had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks against a St. John's team that was ranked in the Top 25 earlier in the year. She's become a reliable third scorer behind junior guard Natalie Novosel (15.0) and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins (13.7) and has helped Notre Dame outrebound opponents by 10 boards per game. Notre Dame leads the Big East in scoring offense at 82.9 points per game.
Quotable: "They really have a good team. I'm very impressed with them, and I think this is one of the best teams they've had in a long time."
-- St. John's coach Kim Barnes-Arico
Next Up: at Villanova (Jan. 29), vs. Syracuse (Feb.1), at South Florida (Feb. 5), vs. Seton Hall (Feb. 8), vs. Rutgers (Feb. 12)
Last Ranking: 8
West Virginia Mountaineers (19-2)Check out the schedule over the next 14 days: The Mountaineers travel to DePaul Saturday for a huge road game before returning home for a three-game stretch that concludes with UConn on Feb. 8. Carey has never beaten Connecticut in his 10 years at the school -- the only Big East foe to elude him -- and you can argue the UConn meeting is the biggest regular-season game in the history of West Virginia's women's basketball. As always, the question with the Mountaineers is, can they score with the big teams? They are averaging 68.8 points per game this season, which ranks sixth in the Big East.
Quotable: "We stood outside when the game was on the line and took jump shots and they attacked the rim and got fouled and made their foul shots."
-- Carey, following his team's loss last Wednesday on the road at Georgetown
Next Up: at DePaul (Jan. 30), vs. Providence (Feb.1), vs. Pittsburgh (Feb. 5), vs. UConn (Feb. 8), at Louisville (Feb. 13)
Last Ranking: --
DePaul Blue Demons (20-2)DePaul is off to its best start since the 2003-04 season and has won 17 of 18 games, including a win over Stanford during that stretch. The balanced Blue Demons have four players -- Keisha Hampton (16.0), Felicia Chester (11.8), Anna Martin (11.0) and Sam Quigley (10.3) averaging double digits. Next up is a huge game against West Virginia. We'll find out this Sunday if DePaul is a legit top-10 team.
Quotable: "Offensively, this is a group that shares the ball very, very well."
-- DePaul coach Doug Bruno to The DePaulia
Next Up: vs. West Virginia (Jan. 30), at UConn (Feb. 5), at Syracuse (Feb. 8), vs. Marquette (Feb. 12), vs. Rutgers (Feb. 15)