The nation's top 3 teams played today -- with the University of Connecticut and Notre Dame facing each other -- and they pretty much confirmed what we already know: there's UConn, Stanford, and the rest of the field.
Certainly, people will now question where Notre Dame belongs relative to the field, but one thing is for certain: it wasn't pretty in Storrs today, 11 hours after the excitement over the first ever ESPN College Game Day at a women's game.
Color commentator Dick Vitale said you can just forget stats in a game like last night's, but the stats do tell us something, that might have been glossed over during the monotony of the game.
Notre Dame does deserve credit for one thing, especially in terms of considering their place in the rankings -- they had an abysmal start to the game, got down by 26 points, and from then on played UConn "even".
I put that in quotes because obviously a lot of the 2nd half ended up being garbage time, reserves were in, etc. But when you consider that UConn has been blowing people out by margins of 40 points, Notre Dame actually did an admirable job.
Stanford had a similarly impressive outing against Washington, but Washington similarly fought the good fight.
"The Bay Area’s always a fun place to go so we’re excited," said University of Washington guard Kristi Kingma before leaving Seattle. By the way, she wasn't with the team during their 77 point loss to Stanford last year, which is probably why she's able to maintain fond memories of the place.
So in the context of Washington's improvement from last year to this year and from non-conference play to conference play, there is something to be taken from their game against Stanford. They're getting better and they were actually within single digits against Stanford late in the game. The problem is that they weren't able to put together two solid halves.
It probably comes as no surprise that Stanford forward Nneka Ogwumike was the team's MVP adding 4 steals to yet another double-double. Washington was led by the unlikely Christina Rozier who had 13 points on 5-10 shooting to go with 3 steals.
"We was talking about let's just fight, let's just keep pushing," said Rozier in a post-game radio interview of what they said to each other at halftime. "And our defense, just picking it up on defense…boxing out, not letting them get second chances."
Whatever happened in the locker room at halftime must have helped. Despite the loss, to Washington's credit, they won the turnover battle for the game and were actually even in total rebounding and outrebounded Stanford in the second half, no small feat for a team that has struggled on the glass all season.
"They don't necessarily get a lot of boards -- they only get 16 -- but that number equates to 50% of their missed shots," said Washington coach Tia Jackson of Stanford's rebounding.
Point being, that if you shoot 51% from the field and get half of those missed shots on offensive rebounds with the frontline they have, you're in pretty good shape. And for Washington, to fight hard in Maples is a rare occasion when I will grant a "moral victory".
So what does this say about the top of the nation's rankings?
UConn is still #1 by a long shot.
Stanford is clearly #2, but I would argue that both UCLA and Washington have now proven that Stanford is vulnerable, even aside from playing in Storrs. UCLA only lost by 4 and Washington played them relatively even in the second half. Nevertheless, if performance against UConn means anything, they are clearly the distant #2.
Notre Dame however has shown one of two things -- either they're overrated or UConn is really good...or both.
To penalize in the rankings them for losing to UConn would just seem unfair because essentially that decision would be based upon 12-15 minutes of really poor play in Storrs. Someone mentioned on the broadcast that the University of North Carolina plumetted in the rankings after their loss to UConn. But they lost by 41 -- the two situations are not even close to comparable.
Notre Dame lost by 24 while essentially getting nothing from leading scorer Skylar Diggins. UConn can take Diggins out of games, most other teams can't. We can say they're overrated -- the game looked horrible -- but the evidence in front of us is that they went out and competed against a very good team and did better than most other teams. Hard to knock them for that.
RPI would suggest Tennessee, Nebraska, and Ohio State as reasonable substitutes, but RPI also tells us that Stanford is better than UConn...so it's hard to say how much that is worth.
Will be interesting to see how voters treat Notre Dame on Monday.