NCAA
Graham Hays, espnW.com 297d

Colorado State, James Madison join rankings; top four remain same

Women's College Basketball, Drake Bulldogs, Green Bay Phoenix, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Harvard Crimson, South Dakota Coyotes

Of the 345 NCAA Division I teams this season, 7 percent are represented in the Associated Press Top 25. There are 259 teams eligible for the espnW mid-major rankings, which means the list below represents the top 4 percent of those eligible.

So which is really the more prestigious list to make?

Don't worry, all stats above are presented in jest. But the teams below? They play seriously good basketball.

1. Green Bay (19-2, 10-0 Horizon)

The last time Green Bay failed to win at least a share of a conference title, current freshman Karly Murphy was not yet born. (And the program still qualified for the NCAA tournament in 1998 after that second-place finish in what was then the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.) So, no, it's not a fluke to find No. 21 Green Bay in the AP Top 25. Green Bay stumbled during the stretch of weeks spanning the end of January and beginning of February in each of the past three seasons. This week brings a road trip to Detroit (ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET Thursday), which hung around in the first meeting this season, and Oakland (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET Saturday), which stunningly swept the Phoenix a season ago. (Last ranking: 1)

Top honors: Jessica Lindstrom (17.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 59.5 field goal percentage in three games). She began the week ranked 20th nationally in rebounding. But Lindstrom's scoring numbers had dipped until this recent resurgence. That's good news from a player whose inside-outside versatility is both rare at any level and much needed for this team.

2. Drake (16-4, 9-0 Missouri Valley)

The Bulldogs remain unbeaten in the MVC after surviving one of the games of the year in an 88-79 double-overtime win at second-place Northern Iowa -- previously unbeaten in the league -- on Jan. 27. After each team missed opportunities to take control of a fourth quarter that produced just 23 points, they combined for 49 points in 10 minutes of overtime. It marked the first time all season that Drake won while scoring fewer than 60 points in regulation. Next are road games at Southern Illinois (ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET Friday) and Evansville (ESPN3, 2 p.m. ET Sunday). (Last ranking: 2)

Top honors: Becca Jonas (12.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.3 APG in three games). Part of the reason Drake scored fewer than 60 points in regulation at Northern Iowa was that familiar names Lizzy Wendell and Caitlin Ingle combined to hit 9 of 35 shots in the game. But Jonas came up with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in 40 minutes.

3. Gonzaga (17-4, 8-2 West Coast)

Back when Courtney Vandersloot ran the show and Gonzaga reached the Elite Eight in 2011, the team led the nation in scoring offense and ranked 154th in scoring defense. Here Gonzaga still sits -- because it isn't playing the same way. The Bulldogs began the week ranked No. 25 in scoring defense and No. 43 in field goal defense. They erased a five-point deficit late at San Diego on Jan. 26 by holding the host scoreless for the final 166 seconds. Four of the next five games are against the other WCC teams that are .500 or better in conference. (Last ranking: 3)

Top honors: Jill Barta (19.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG in four games). A familiar occupant of this space, Barta was responsible for 20 percent of the program's record-tying 15 3-pointers in the most recent victory against Pepperdine. In all, 10 of her 28 3-pointers this season came in the past four games. As if she needed to be more difficult to guard.

4. Harvard (16-1, 4-0 Ivy)

The Crimson's four Ivy wins are by a combined 19 points, including five points at home against Cornell and Columbia last week. Clarity will come with a trip to Penn on Friday. Ranked here in the preseason, Penn is 3-0 in Ivy games, albeit wins that came before recent losses against Villanova and Temple. Friday's game (ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET) is a rare clash of mid-major frontcourt riches, Harvard's 6-foot-1 Destiny Nunley and 6-3 McDonald's All-American Jeannie Boehm matched against Penn's 6-3 Michelle Nwokedi and 6-3 Sydney Stipanovich. (Last ranking: 4)

Top honors: Katie Benzan (14.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.7 APG in three games). The big kids don't have all the fun for Harvard. A more prototypical mid-major standout at 5-6, Benzan is 16th nationally in 3-point accuracy and hit eight in the past three games.

5. Belmont (17-5, 9-0 Ohio Valley)

Belmont isn't going to play the stifling, turnover-forcing defense that coach Cameron Newbauer saw in his time with Andy Landers at Georgia or Jeff Walz at Louisville. But with a diversity of size and skill sets, the Bruins are efficient on the offensive end. They rank in the top 40 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, field goal accuracy and 3-point accuracy. In the OVC -- where they average 77.2 points per game and already sit three games ahead of the pack -- that's generally too much to handle. (Last ranking: 7)

Top honors: Kylee Smith (15.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG in three games). The transfer from Vanderbilt has certainly found a home just down the road in Nashville, Tennessee. An all-Ohio Valley pick a season ago, her first at Belmont, the recent work is indicative of her season as a whole.

6. Colorado State (16-5, 8-1 Mountain West)

It seemed like 2016 would be a tough act to follow for Colorado State, which spent last spring ranked in the AP Top 25 and back in the NCAA tournament. But 2017 is working out well so far. After a loss on New Year's Eve, Colorado State went 7-0 in January, winning by an average of 18.9 points in the streak to rank as one of the hottest teams in the country. It helps that playing them is an automatic cold spell for opponents. As good as Colorado State was defensively a season ago -- when it ranked second nationally in field goal defense -- it is even stingier so far this season against what has been a more difficult schedule. February begins with a trip to Boise State, the one MWC team to solve the Rams this season. (Last ranking: NR)

Top honors: Elin Gustavsson (24.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 63.5 field goal percentage). The defense is great, but the Swedish imports on the other end of the court are as impressive. Ellen Nystrom could be singled out here, but Swedish countrywoman Gustavsson has been scorching opponents.

7. South Dakota (18-4, 7-2 Summit)

Thin ice might be the difficult kind of ice to find in South Dakota this time of year, but it's what the Coyotes stand on after a second league loss, this time at home against Western Illinois. They had 22 turnovers in the loss, highlighting a trend of inefficiency with the ball in league play. And what's looming ahead? A rematch against South Dakota State, this time on the road in Brookings, South Dakota (ESPN3, 3 p.m. ET Sunday). That said, South Dakota won its other two Summit games the past couple of weeks by a combined 60 points. (Last ranking: 5)

Top honors: Allison Arens (18.7 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.0 BPG in three games). It wasn't a flawless fortnight from a player who has produced a few this season, but she had 16 second-half points to give her team a chance in the closing minutes against Western Illinois.

8. Elon (16-5, 8-1 Colonial)

Their lone home game of the past two weeks tripped up the Phoenix, albeit a home game against perpetual tripper James Madison. That loss aside, Elon won at William & Mary, Northeastern and Hofstra to retain sole possession of first place. The return game at James Madison on Feb. 12 is one of just two remaining games against teams that currently have winning conference records. The team's 3-point shooting is one concern, both highlighted and perhaps skewed by the James Madison game in which Elon made 3 of 28 3-point attempts. (Last ranking: 6)

Top honors: Shay Burnett (14.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.8 APG in four games). Burnett scored at least 20 points for the fourth time this season, as well as her fourth double-double, in the loss to James Madison. She did so with few turnovers and efficient shooting.

9. James Madison (14-6, 7-2 Colonial)

James Madison couldn't hold the momentum gained from the win against Elon, losing two days later to Towson for the second time this season. But it turned around in its next game and beat Drexel, knocking the Dragons out of these rankings in the process. Here's the lesson: While the offense can be just scattershot enough to stumble at times, this team deserves to be here after playing competitively into the fourth quarter against both Tennessee and Iowa. (Last ranking: NR)

Top honors: Precious Hall (26.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG 1.8 SPG in four games). She can be a volume scorer because the offense needs her to be one, but Hall is a sight to see when she really gets on a roll. While it wasn't even a season high, her 41 points against Elon came on 13-of-24 shooting, including 6-of-11 from the 3-point line, and just three turnovers. The entire Delaware team, which is tied for third in the league, scored just 42 points against Elon.

10. Saint Louis (17-5, 7-2 Atlantic 10)

Saint Louis looked brilliant this past week, beating George Washington and Fordham (by 24 points) at home to solidify its hold on second place behind surging Dayton in the A-10. So why the drop? Well, there is that matter of a 29-point loss at Duquesne on Jan. 18 (Saint Louis trailed by 30 at halftime). Top 10 near-miss Bucknell, by comparison, incurred a deficit of just 25 points in all of its losses this season. (Last ranking: 8)

Top honors: Jackie Kemph (13.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.0 RPG in four games). No Billikens player had a game they might rather forget in the loss at Duquesne. But none responded any better than Kemph, who averaged 19.5 PPG in wins against Fordham and George Washington.

Dropped out: Drexel, Wyoming

Previous rankings: Nov. 3 (preseason) | Nov. 23 | Dec. 8 | Dec. 21 | Jan. 4 | Jan. 18

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