Updated: January 12, 2015, 2:20 AM ET

Should UConn be No. 1 in the top-25 polls?

By Graham Hays | espnW.com



During the first full week of January one year ago, teams ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll went 16-2. One of those losses was at the hands of another top-10 team (Kentucky losing to South Carolina, which might sound familiar), and the other teams that won did so by an average of 24.6 points per game. Not until the final day of that week did any challenger come within double digits of a top-10 team, capped by Vanderbilt's upset of Tennessee.

The first full week of 2015 was a little different in a season that has itself been a little different than the norm.

Half of the top 10 lost a game this week. Eight of those teams trailed in the final 10 minutes of a game, with Baylor, Louisville and Tennessee needing weekend comebacks on the road to avoid making it eight losers.

So where do things stand in a top 10 that needs some revision? Here's one attempt at putting them in some semblance of order.

1. Connecticut (14-1): With apologies to the program in Dallas, making too much of a win over SMU when the conversation is about the national elite is foolish. South Carolina, after all, put up 101 points this week at Alabama and ran Clemson and San Diego State off the court earlier this season by 58 and 51 points, respectively. A team good enough to win a title can produce cringe-worthy scores against lesser competition. In the Jerry Tarkanian portion of their schedule, playing teams that are in the same conference but not the same league in the same way Tarkanian's teams did at UNLV, the Huskies are going to have a lot of those games. Still, Connecticut's 74-9 lead with eight minutes to play at SMU on Sunday was, well, staggering.

Connecticut lost at Stanford against what might be, by Palo Alto standards, less than a vintage Cardinal team. But it also won at Notre Dame when the margin was closer to 20 points than 10 points for most of the second half and blitzed Duke at home. It has a better scoring margin than South Carolina, better field goal defense, a better field goal offense and a better assist-to-turnover ratio (albeit by a margin too small to really matter in the last case). It has, by a slim margin, the best résumé … for now.

2. South Carolina (16-0): By the standards to which No. 1 teams are held in women's basketball, South Carolina was not entirely convincing in Sunday's 68-60 victory over No. 10 Kentucky. That will seem harsh after a conference win against a top-10 team that already beat both Baylor and Louisville, but it's the territory. It's not as if Kentucky just buried a bunch of 3-pointers or benefitted from the whistle putting South Carolina's key players in foul trouble. The Wildcats went into Columbia and went at the Gamecocks. The visitors got in the paint and got rebounds against a team that should have controlled those facets of the game. That said, as we saw all week, a lot of teams -- even very good teams -- can lose games when they play at less than their peak against peers. South Carolina, by contrast, doubled up Kentucky on the boards in the second half and avoided the truly late drama that befell other top-10 teams this past week.

There is also nobody on Connecticut's roster with as much untapped potential as A'ja Wilson, who mixed in more than a few "wow" moments amid a 3-of-13 shooting day against Kentucky. Like Breanna Stewart as a freshman in the NCAA tournament, Wilson could find the greatness that awaits her in the blink of an eye.

3. Tennessee (14-2): It wasn't aesthetically pleasing, particularly in the first half, but Tennessee's comeback against Arkansas in a 60-51 victory completed another successful week in an increasingly impressive body of work. Tennessee's offense, or lack thereof, might have helped the home cause early Sunday, but Arkansas has wins against Iowa, Oklahoma and Middle Tennessee State and scared Texas A&M a week ago. It is no pushover. So while the Lady Vols were close to perfect Thursday against the Aggies, in shooting 53 percent and assisting on 24-of-33 field goals, Ariel Massengale's ability to take over in a tough spot Sunday was equally notable. Tennessee has limitations. Every team has limitations this season. Over the past month, the Lady Vols have played to their strengths.

4. Oregon State (14-1): No, this isn't where AP voters will have the Beavers, who barely broke a sweat to roll to home-and-home wins against Oregon this past weekend. Although victories against Butler and BYU earlier this season look slightly better as those teams keep winning in the Big East and WCC, respectively, we're still talking about a résumé that rests heavily on a decisive win at North Carolina and a near-miss at Tennessee. For now, that's enough. There are three teams in the nation that entered the weekend ranked in the top 10 in rebound margin and assist-to-turnover ratio, two things that don't always go together: Baylor, South Carolina and Oregon State. Only one of those teams also ranked in the top 10 nationally in 3-point accuracy, and you don't need a spoiler alert to hear it's Oregon State.

5. Texas (13-1): Texas is far from the first team to stumble against Iowa State in Ames, and it has some capital built up from the victories at Stanford and against Tennessee earlier the season and a balanced, if unspectacular, win in a physical game against West Virginia this past Wednesday. More concerning than the loss is the continued absence of Ariel Atkins with an ankle injury and Kelsey Lang's quiet numbers since she missed a game Dec. 30 due to a knee injury. Some surprising 3-point production from Nekia Jones and Brady Sanders kept the Longhorns in the game at Iowa State, but it's balance that allows this offense to complement a championship-caliber defense.

6. Notre Dame (15-2): Win or lose, though it has admittedly been mostly the former in recent seasons, Notre Dame has been a pillar of stability for a long time. That was shaken to at least a small degree this week, both as a result of an abysmal first half at Miami in a 78-63 loss and uncertainty over the status of starting center Taya Reimer. The sophomore didn't play in either game, with some reports suggesting she was mulling a transfer. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said after Sunday's rout of Boston College that Reimer was staying put in South Bend. Her status matters much more in the long run than the poor showing in Florida, though freshmen Brianna Turner and Kathryn Westbeld (a combined 13-of-18 from the field for 36 points) offered some measure of reassurance on both counts against Boston College.

7. Baylor (14-1): It took until Jan. 11, but Baylor finally got its first significant true road win (winning at Ole Miss is all but required of a top-10 team). But just barely. The Lady Bears rallied late to beat West Virginia on Saturday in Morgantown. Khadijiah Cave, who totaled 20 points and eight rebounds against the Mountaineers, is averaging 27.9 points and 12.7 rebounds per 40 minutes, which, given she's only averaging 19.7 actual minutes per game, makes her one of the more intriguing players on this list.

8. Louisville (15-1): Is any top-tier program getting more out of a freshman class than Louisville? It isn't necessarily happening with a lot of fanfare, but former McDonald's All-Americans Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen combined for 36 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in Sunday's win at Wake Forest, a game in which Louisville trailed late. Even freshman reserve Arica Carter, whose free throws and box-outs saved a win at Pitt a week earlier, chipped in 16 effective minutes.

9. Maryland (13-2): One of the best games of the weekend saw Maryland hold off Minnesota in its first trip to Minneapolis as a member of the Big Ten. It was interesting and perhaps revealing of Maryland's rebounding balance that it struggled to contain two individual forces this past week -- giving up 19 points and 12 rebounds to Purdue's Whitney Bays and 26 points and 15 rebounds to Minnesota's sensational Amanda Zahui B. -- but not only won both games but also finished with commanding advantages on the boards in both games (albeit with a 17-rebound effort in there from Brionna Jones against the Boilermakers).

10. Kentucky (14-3): Janee Thompson's injury, a dislocated left ankle and broken fibula, obviously casts an enormous shadow over everything else that happened in the game against South Carolina, including coach Matthew Mitchell earning two technical fouls after a later sequence. The team leader in assists and its fourth-leading scorer, Thompson will be difficult to replace, even as Bria Goss nears a return. Kentucky has generally done a good job of accruing free throws against quality opponents, not just overmatched ones, but it got to the line just 14 times Sunday, half its season average.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

Weekend headlines



• 1. As mentioned a week ago, surprise eligibility for Leticia Romero makes Florida State a team capable of competing with just about any opponent in the country on a given night and maybe most nights. Romero was at it again in Sunday's win against Duke, contributing 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes in her now customary role off the bench. Adut Bulgak also played a strong game, totaling 18 points and 18 rebounds and getting every bit the better of a foul-plagued Elizabeth Williams.

But one question for the Seminoles after Romero's return was how her place on the court would affect other guards used to more shots and more time with the ball in their hands. So far, Maegan Conwright is providing a rather emphatic answer. In two games this week, victories against Duke and Clemson, Conwright scored 33 points and hit eight 3-pointers. Both represent improvements on her overall season production. Like Ariel Massengale at Tennessee, the ability to spend time off the ball might make her that much more effective.

• 2. Early though it might be in conference play, there were only three games Sunday in which both teams entered without a conference loss. Two were high-profile games already mentioned: South Carolina against Kentucky and Minnesota against Maryland. The third didn't involve a ranked team, but the winner has a decent case for consideration. South Florida's 70-58 win against Temple left the Bulls perfect through four games in the American Athletic Conference and 13-3 overall. There is a giant roadblock looming with next week's visit to Connecticut, but Jose Fernandez is cruising toward yet another 20-win season, potentially with an out-of-conference résumé (victories at Chattanooga and against Oklahoma and Illinois) that could help NCAA tournament at-large consideration.

• 3. A wrap favorite for the uniqueness of its free-shooting ways, Sacramento State sadly struggled through the early portion of the season against a brutal schedule (at one point playing five consecutive road games at Saint Mary's, California, Oregon State, UCLA and USC). But the Hornets are back in Big Sky play now and took a step toward mattering in that race, with victories this past week against North Dakota and Northern Colorado.

The win against North Dakota was particularly interesting in that Sacramento State attempted just 18 3-pointers in the 93-86 victory. That might not be a small number for most teams, but it marked the second time this season that Bunky Harkleroad's team attempted fewer than 35 3-pointers in a game. Then they did it again against Northern Colorado, albeit barely, in getting off 34 shots from behind the arc. Sophomore Hallie Gennett, who averages more than 10 3-point attempts per game all by herself, led the team with 31 points in the two wins.

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