New poll, same No. 1: Musketeers

January, 4, 2011

1. Xavier (10-2)

What to do with Xavier? Would any team on this list have fared better against Stanford than the Musketeers did in a 89-52 loss? Well, the game wasn't at Maples, but Gonzaga, for one, had the Cardinal tied late in the second half, so maybe. But based on Stanford's subsequent work against Connecticut, it's pretty clear the Cardinal are on top of their game at the moment. And while nothing went right for Xavier in California, it's still worth noting that Kevin McGuff's team came out of back-to-back road games at Duke and Stanford with a net rebounding margin in the black (11 rebounds). As long as Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips are in the lineup, it's going to take a conference loss to dislodge the Musketeers from this spot.

2. Marist (10-2)

Weather denied the Red Foxes a final nonconference showdown, when a game at Arizona State was canceled because of a winter storm that trapped them in the wrong time zone. As a result, an 81-65 win against Rider to open MAAC play is the team's lone result since the last rankings. Erica Allenspach scored 21 in the Rider game, meaning she has totaled 75 points, nine assists and a turnover in her past three games.

3. Bowling Green (12-1)

The Falcons have played once since the last rankings, registering a 73-64 win at Butler in a game that wasn't really as competitive as the single-digit margin might indicate. The Falcons beat the Bulldogs on the boards, the third game in a row in which the Falcons had the edge in rebounding. They aren't big time in the post and they definitely revolve around the perimeter trio of Lauren Prochaska, Tracy Pontius and Chrissy Steffen, but their ability to rebound as well as they have this season speaks to the effort by players like Maggie Hennegan and Jen Uhl and the attention to detail in the program.

4. Green Bay (13-1)

Green Bay's move back into the national rankings this season is all the more notable because preseason Horizon League player of the year Kayla Tetschlag wasn't producing quite the numbers fans at the Kress Center have grown accustomed to seeing out of her. The bad news for opponents is Tetschlag might be back. She put up back-to-back double-doubles when the Phoenix opened conference play with victories against Detroit and Wright State. She even made her 1,000th career point count, reaching the milestone on a key late basket against Detroit.

5. Gonzaga (12-4)

It was an opportunity missed in a 70-61 loss against Notre Dame in Seattle, much as it was an opportunity missed against Stanford earlier in the season. But the emergence of Kayla Standish (20 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over the past seven games) alongside Courtney Vandersloot and Katelan Redmon means the Bulldogs remain on track to make some noise in March. Conference play isn't going to present a plethora of challenges, but it's valuable time for Kelly Bowen and Janelle Bekkering (who hit 7 of 11 shots in a win against Southern Utah on Jan. 3) to find their stride. Coach Kelly Graves admits he's still not sure which buttons to push to get the two talented 6-foot wings to play to their potential.

6. Duquesne (12-2)

A big game looms against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but the holiday season was good to the Dukes, capped by a 71-67 win at Ohio State on Dec. 28. Freshman Wumi Agunbiade fouled out late in the game against the Buckeyes but hung around long enough to put up 17 points and 10 rebounds against Jantel Lavender and OSU. Agunbiade is showing no signs of struggling to adjust from the Canadian high school ranks, averaging 12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Sophomore starter Jocelyn Ford might only average 2.4 points per game, but she put up one of the lines of the early season with 12 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and nine steals against Ball State on Jan. 2.

7. Florida Gulf Coast (10-0)

A 13-day holiday break between games didn't seem to leave Florida Gulf Coast showing much rust in a 79-39 win against Belmont on Jan. 3 to open conference play in the Atlantic Sun. The Eagles have one of the more pronounced turnover differentials in the nation (they have 23 more assists than turnovers; their opponents have 126 more turnovers than assists). Along those lines, Tom Brady has nothing on Kelsey Jacobson when it comes to taking care of the ball. In 325 minutes in which the sharpshooter has launched 97 shots and assisted on 24 field goals, she has turned the ball over just six times.

8. Middle Tennessee State (10-4)

It has been a season of close calls as much as of upsets for some of the best mid-major teams, and Middle Tennessee added its voice to that chorus with an 81-72 loss at Kentucky on Dec. 29, in which the Blue Raiders led by 10 points with fewer than eight minutes to play. Turnovers proved a big part of their undoing that night (27 in all), as did losing senior Anne Marie Lanning to fouls just as Kentucky turned on the afterburners against Rick Insell's otherwise young team. But spilt milk aside, Middle Tennessee bounced back to open Sun Belt play with a road win at South Alabama, getting 26 points from Lanning and 26 points and 16 rebounds from Ebony Rowe. Perhaps as important, the Blue Raiders got a season debut from Emily Queen, who started 24 games in 2008-09 but battled injuries last season and much of the first half of this season.

9. Princeton (10-3)

From the correction file: Princeton wasn't supposed to fall completely out of the most recent edition of these rankings, merely down a few spots after a double-overtime loss at Saint Joseph's. So consider this reclaiming the spot they were cheated out of last time. The Tigers bounced back from the loss (and the slight) with wins at Davidson and Wake Forest. They have two more games, including the Ivy opener against Penn this weekend, before a nearly three week break from games during finals. The win at Wake Forest came without leading scorer Niveen Rasheed, who suffered a knee injury against Davidson and is to be evaluated this week.

10. Dayton (9-5)

Things are starting to come together for the Flyers, who earned their third victory in a row by beating No. 25 Boston College 89-77 on the ACC team's court on Monday. Point guard Patrice Lalor scored 22 points to lead Dayton in the win, the second time this season a player who last season averaged 5.6 points per game in 32 starts topped 20 points against a BCS opponent (Lalor scored 25 in a win against Minnesota). With a team that returned all but one rotation player from a group that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, coach Jim Jabir made a bold decision, dramatically altering his offensive approach to incorporate elements of the style Mike D'Antoni ran with the Phoenix Suns and Paul Westhead has run at various stops and continues to run at Oregon. One obvious result? Dayton has gone from an average 3-point shooting team to an elite one, led by Kristin Daugherty (27-of-45) and Justine Raterman (33-of-64) making the most of all the open looks that come from transition penetration and tired defenders too slow to close out.

Next five: Nevada, Tulane, Charlotte, Houston, TCU

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


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