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Pac-10 leads early recruiting race

Amber Orrange of Houston, No. 15 in the ESPNU 100 for 2011, may be the kind of guard Stanford has never had before. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

Since 1995 two conferences have dominated the NCAA national championship -- the Big East and the SEC. During the past 16 years, the Big East has collected eight championships and the SEC five, with the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Big 12 each gathering one a piece. During that period, of the BCS conferences, typically considered the "power conferences," only the Pac-10 has failed to notch a national title, though it has four in its history

BCS Conference Women's Recruiting

A mid-October look at 2011 recruiting.


The Pac-10 has the highest average star-rating among the prospects committed to date from the 2011 class at 3.40 stars per recruit. The conference has the highest average of commits per school as well, suggesting that very little will change in the coming weeks leading up to the early signing period (Nov. 10).

As fans and recruiters talk about opposing conferences strength, top-heaviness, and how much better their own is, the fact remains that it is still early. The number of commitments reported to ESPN HoopGurlz per team in each conferences ranges from a low of 1.75 in the Big 12 and SEC to a high of 3.0 in the Pac-10. The typical recruiting class is around four players to turn a 15-player roster every four years. Furthermore, the fit of players pays bigger dividends ultimately than purely a players ranking or rating. With all that in mind here is a look at the ACC, Pac-10 and SEC conferences in part two of our conference-recruiting snapshot.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Schools: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest click here to search all recruiting classes.

Out in front: Duke fans are going to retort with the what-ifs, but, at this point in the process, Virginia is the likely leader from the ACC with No. 8 Bria Smith from Massapequa, N.Y., one of just 11 five-star prospects in the class, and No. 56 Sarah Imovbioh, a four-star prospect from Charlottesville, Va. The two give Debbie Ryan's Cavaliers an impact player both in the frontcourt and backcourt.

Virginia fans can also play the what-if card as the program is still in the mix with two of the same players Duke hopes to at to its class -- No. 2 Elizabeth Williams and No. 11 Betnijah Laney -- and if either chooses Ryan's program it would join Tennessee as the only programs with multiple five-star prospects. The Cavaliers also are in on No. 6 Briyona Canty also, a club teammate of Laney's on the NYC Gauchos.

Dark horse: In 2009 the Wolfpack didn't crack the top 60 signing classes. In 2010 NC State made the cut at No. 46. With three solid commitments, one being No. 75 Krystal Barrett of Dallas, the moving-on-up trend looks to be continuing. Joining Barrett in the class are four-star forward Therany Dunnigan from South Euclid, Ohio, and Erica Donovan, a three-star wing from Northside, Texas.

Pacific-10 Conference

Schools: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State click here to search all recruiting classes.

Out in front: It's probably not a coincidence that the two programs in the lead of the conference recruiting -- Stanford and UCLA -- finished first and second in the standings a season ago. Stanford has a five-player class of four-star prospects while UCLA brings a class that includes the conference's only five-star prospect, Justine Hartman, and three four-star players to supplement "Big Smooth" in the paint.

Stanford's class is impressive because it not only continues a great run of snatching up top 100 recruits, it added a wealth of athleticism the program has lacked in its successive trips to the Final Four. The addition of Amber Orrange gives the Cardinal a guard its not had, maybe ever. Many will jump to compare her to Candice Wiggins but the two are so very different yet Orrange may prove to be a player that can carry a team with the triangle offense goes flat.

The Bruins have loaded up the painted area with an accomplished back-to-the basket scorer, Hartman, a versatile forward with perimeter game in Kacy Swain, and an enforcer in Sheila Boykin. Add to that trio of frontcourt talent a savvy guard in Moriah Faulk and the Bruins class is pretty complete.

Darkhorse: With the Pac-10 being ahead in early commitments there aren't a whole lot of options but Cal and USC are the best picks here. Both are finalists for No. 22 Reshanda Gray if Oregon or Gonzaga doesn't swoop in and steal her.

Dark horse: USC has three 4-star commits led by Alexyz Vaioletama, a 6-foot-1 forward who has really advanced her game into a combo forward. Joining her in the frontcourt is Deanna Calhoun a 6-3 forward-post from Albany, Calif. Michael Cooper's Trojans landed the No. 3 point guard in the class, Ariya Crook-Williams, as well.

Cal has two commits to date and both are ranked among the top 40 players in the class. Local product Brittany Boyd is a four-star point guard with explosiveness and she joins Seattle, Wash., native Erika Johnson, a 6-1, four-star forward. In addition to waiting on Gray, the Golden Bears are waiting to hear from No. 9 Morgan Jones from Altamonte Spring, Fla. A commitment from either or both would catapult the class into the top tier nationally.

Southeastern Conference

Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt click here to search all recruiting classes.

Out in front: A familiar name leads the SEC recruiting race at this point -- Tennessee. The Lady Vols have two five-star recruits, forward Cierra Burdick from Charlotte, N.C., and point guard Ariel Massengale from Bolingbrook, Ill. Pat Summitt's squad is in the mix for several other top players in the class, including No. 2 Elizabeth Williams, No. 6 Briyona Canty, No. 29 Isabelle Harrison, and No. 42 Kiah Stokes. Looking at their current 13-member roster with two seniors suggests they could sign up to four players in the class.

Dark horse: With a loaded Lady Vol team out in front it's no wonder a team with two top 100 commitments could be considered a dark horse. Kentucky with No. 17 Bria Goss and No. 34 Azia Bishop has the makings of a terrific class and the Wildcats could be content adding just those two players. However, Matthew Mitchell's UK program is in the final running for a talented trio that could elevate this class to the 30th floor penthouse.

At the top of that wish list is Canty, who has a couple of visits remaining. The Wildcats also have pending offers out on Laney, the five-star wing from Clayton, Del., and Harrison, a versatile four-star frontcourt player. Adding any of those players to the Wildcats class would be impressive from a talent prospective and also from a fit angle.

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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at chris.hansen@espn3.com.