Friday January 29th, 2010

You want bold? Fine. We'll be bold: UConn is not going to lose a game this season and will extend its consecutive games streak to 78 when they cut down the nets April 6 at The Alamodome in San Antonio. (Well, seeing as UConn's beating their opponents by an average of 39.2 points per game, I guess it's really not that bold.) The Huskies are also going to win the title in 2011 and Maya Moore will graduate with as many championships as Diana Taurasi. But that's a story for a later time. For now, offers its first women's basketball power rankings for 2010.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: --
Same as it ever was. The Huskies have won 59 consecutive games -- the second-longest winning streak in NCAA women's basketball Division I history -- and destroyed once-dangerous Rutgers on Jan. 26 to further solidify that no one is close to them in the Big East. The upcoming schedule shouldn't present many challenges, outside of possibly Louisville keeping it close for a half. If you're looking down the road, UConn travels to Oklahoma (Feb. 15) and Notre Dame (March 1), but it's unlikely those foes will present much of a problem for the Big Four (Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Kalana Greene, and Tiffany Hayes). The prediction here is that UConn's next tough game will come at the Final Four.

Quotable: "This is the best Connecticut team in my opinion. They are a well-oiled machine."
-- Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Next up: at Pittsburgh (Jan. 30), West Virginia (Feb. 2), at Louisville (Feb. 7), at DePaul (Feb. 10), St. John's (Feb. 13)
2Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: --
Stanford Cardinal (18-1, 8-0)
Sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike -- rated by most as the nation top prep player two years ago -- had a breakout game against Oregon, finishing with a career-high 30 points and 23 rebounds in a 100-80 win on Jan. 23. Ogwumike is averaging a team-best 19.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds, a huge jump from last year's 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. Stanford remains the only frontcourt in the nation that can play with Connecticut -- at least in stretches -- but the Cardinal must cut down on turnovers, especially in the perimeter.

Quotable: "There's not many teams that have the size they have and the experience they have. You look at their team and you say, 'How many kids have played in two straight Final Fours? How many kids have played in a national championship game?' That list is very short and they have a bunch of those kids. I know this: They won't get any worse than they've been, and they'll only get better. Stanford will be one of the teams somebody has to beat to win a national championship."
-- UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Next up: Arizona (Jan. 30), UCLA (Feb. 4), USC (Feb. 7), at Washington (Feb. 12)
3Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: --
We know the Lady Vols can score but what was particularly impressive was holding LSU to 26 percent shooting (14-for-53) from the field by going zone (impressive, given Pat Summitt's love of woman-to-woman defense) in a 55-43 win on Jan. 24. Junior forward Angie Bjorklund (14.8 points) broke out of a scoring slump on Thursday with 20 points in a rout of Auburn.

Quotable: "I've been watching Tennessee play 19 years, 10 years in the WNBA and three years here. That's the first time I've ever seen Pat Summitt only play one possession of man. That was a heck of a zone defense they played today. They got [Shekinna] Stricklen out high and wide and Glory Johnson on the other side. You could hardly move the ball. They were just so big, and then, when you got it inside, [Kelley] Cain was just such a force inside."
-- LSU coach Van Chancellor.

Next up: at South Carolina (Jan. 31), Arkansas (Feb. 4), at Vanderbilt (Feb. 8), at Mississippi (Feb. 11), Florida (Feb. 14)
4Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: --
Weird team. Skilled. Deep. Smart. But they rarely look good early in games, and it's a trend that will come back to haunt them against the nation's best. The good news? Not many teams can compete with a loaded squad led by fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader (11.6 points) and freshman sensation Skylar Diggins (13.6 points).

Quotable: "I don't know if its nerves. I don't know what it is. The beginning of games, we [don't start well]. Then at halftime, boom. It's like a click. We go. But we need that click at the beginning of the game. We seniors have to work on that, because we definitely have to start the game the way we finish the game."
-- Schrader, to the South Bend Tribune, on why the Irish have had trouble getting started lately.

Next up: at Syracuse (Jan. 30), at Rutgers (Feb. 1), Pittsburgh (Feb. 6), at Cincinnati (Feb. 9)
5Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last Week: --
Nebraska senior forward Kelsey Griffin was added this week to the State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List because of her huge season thus far: 19.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 33 steals. She leads the Big 12 in rebounding and ranks third in scoring. The Huskers pulled off the program's biggest win of the season Wednesday with a 89-47 win over Texas Tech after entering the game with an 0-7 all-time record against the Lady Raiders in Lubbock. The team has been crushing opponents this season, ranking second in the country in scoring margin.

Quotable: "It's kind of fun being 18-0. Winning is contagious and when you win, you expect to win."
-- Cornhuskers coach Connie Yori to The Statesman.

Next up: at Colorado (Jan. 30), Oklahoma State (Feb. 3), Texas A&M (Feb. 6), at Kansas (Feb. 10), at Missouri (Feb. 13)
6Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: --
The Buckeyes were stunned by Purdue earlier in the week, a sloppy game that saw them shoot 36 percent from the fielding including missed layups and point-blank shots. Ohio State is at its best when sophomore point guard and national Player of the Year candidate Samantha Prahalis -- the Big Ten leader in assists (180) -- can drive and create for All-American junior center Jantel Lavender (21.6 points). This is a team that will get better as the season gets deeper.

Quotable: "Prahalis is probably the best point guard in the country. She's seasoned. Jantel Lavender is constantly getting better and better, and they have some additions on the outside as well."
-- Illinois coach Jolette Law to the Journal & Courier.

Next up: at Indiana (Jan. 31), Iowa (Feb. 4), at Penn State (Feb. 7), Purdue (Feb. 11)
7Baylor Bears
Last Week: --
Baylor Bears (15-4, 2-3)
Freshman center Brittney Griner has been terrific this month, raising her season average to 18.7 points and second nationally in blocks with 112. The 6-foot-8 freshman needs just eight more blocks to overtake Courtney Paris for the most single-season blocks in Big 12 history. Griner is the reason Baylor ranks second in the nation in field goal percentage defense (32.0) but questions remain whether there's enough depth here for a deep NCAA run.

Quotable: "Until we as coaches continue to drill them and drill them every day, I want Griner to have as many touches as she can but (we) are going to have to hit perimeter shots. We've got kids that can hit them but we are just herky-jerky wild right now and that is to be expected. What you have to have is upperclassmen lead you and let those young ones follow their lead."
-- Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

Next up: at Texas (Jan. 31), at Kansas State (Feb. 3), Colorado (Feb. 6), at Oklahoma (Feb. 10), at Iowa State (Feb. 13)
8Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: --
Duke Blue Devils (17-3, 5-0)
The Blue Devils are the only team in the ACC to have beaten a ranked nonconference opponent this season and remain the only undefeated ACC team in league play. Junior guard Jasmine Thomas (15.8 ppg) is the player to watch here: She's had five 20-point games this season.

Quotable: "A lot of teams don't play Connecticut. We did. Then we had a great game against Virginia Tech and you've got to travel. I think we really blossomed as a team in the sense of our toughness."
-- Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie.

Next up: at Boston College (Feb. 4), North Carolina (Feb. 8), N.C. State (Feb. 11), at Virginia Tech (Feb. 14)
9Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: --
Georgia Bulldogs (18-5, 5-3)
After opening the season 16-0 and breaking an eight-game losing streak to Tennessee with a 53-50 win on Jan. 21, the Lady Bulldogs lost at home to Mississippi on Jan. 24, and followed that up with a loss Thursday to Mississippi State. Georgia has steady guard play and balanced scoring with Ashley Houts (12.6 points) and Jasmine James (11.9), but they've had an awful week and a big test coming against LSU.

Quotable: "This win is a step in the right direction. I guess by some measures it is a big step, but it is a single game.
-- Georgia coach Andy Landers, after his team's win over Tennessee.

Next up: at Auburn (Jan. 31), LSU (Feb. 4), South Carolina (Feb. 7), at Kentucky (Feb. 11), Alabama (Feb. 14)
10Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: --
Oklahoma Sooners (14-5, 4-2)
The Sooners have played exceptionally well after losing sophomore guard Whitney Hand to a season-ending knee injury, thanks to duo of junior guard Danielle Robinson (15.9 ppg) and senior forward/guard Nyeshia Stevenson (14.8). The resume includes three quality losses to Baylor, Tennessee and Notre Dame, but now comes a Big 12 stretch which will reveal what kind of tournament team they'll be. We still have faith after a 63-56 loss at Iowa State on Wednesday.

Quotable: "I think coaches get way too much credit, that's honestly how I feel. We've had a lot of great players through the years. There are a lot of guys who put in a lot of effort and fine performances to get that number. And I said on the television broadcast following that they should have made another ball and given it to [assistant coach] Jan [Ross]. She's been here for every single one of them."
-- Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale on her 300th win (which came Jan. 23 against Kansas)

Next up: at Texas Tech (Jan. 30), Texas (Feb. 3), at Oklahoma State (Feb. 6), Baylor (Feb. 10), Colorado (Feb. 13)

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