It’s always fun to wake up on Monday and know that the new AP rankings are coming out soon. In the past couple of seasons, there hasn’t been one dominant program like Tennessee and UConn of years past. That means your team, no matter where they are in the top 25, could become a contender in the NCAA Tournament come March.
Here’s an analysis of some of the teams that have risen — and fallen — in Week 4:
Notably on the rise
DePaul (4-1) climbs from No. 19 to No. 16
The DePaul Blue Demons beat the Miami Hurricanes and switched spots with them. In the Maggie Dixon Classic, DePaul was victorious over Arkansas State (Nov. 22) and defeated the Hurricanes the next day. This is a Blue Demons program that upset a very talented Marquette team in the Big East championship game last year. Senior Chante Stonewall is the one star back from last season — the team lost Mart’e Grays (14.4 point per game) and Ashton Millender (13.1). Stonewall averaged 14.3 points per game last year and is averaging 19.5 this year along with 7.2 rebounds.
Sophomore Sonya Morris, the team’s second leading scorer behind Stonewall, has started all five of DePaul’s games and is averaging 15 points. But it was her fellow sophomore, Jolene Daninger, who led the Blue Demons in scoring against Arkansas State (16 points). In the Miami game — a resume-boosting affair won by just six points — Stonewall exploded for 27 points and was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. DePaul may have lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year but they have legitimate hopes of advancing further this season.
Tennessee (5-0) climbs from No. 23 to No. 20
The Tennessee Lady Volunteers played just one game last week and defeated Stetson 73-46. They got a lot of attention for putting themselves in the Week 3 rankings thanks to a great start in coach Kellie Harper’s inaugural season. Then, during Week 3, Arkansas, Michigan and South Florida all lost, allowing Tennessee to move up three spots. The Lady Vols’ best players thus far have been senior Rennia Davis and freshman Jordan Horston — both 6-foot-2 guards who seem to complement each other well. It’s kind of crazy to think of the Lady Vols climbing to No. 20 this quickly after barely making the NCAA Tournament last year. And it goes without saying that there have been no complaints about Harper in Knoxville at this young juncture of the season.
Arizona (6-0) climbs from unranked to No. 24
The Arizona Wildcats notched two blowout wins last week, beating the Prairie View A&M Panthers and the Montana Grizzlies. That was enough for them to enter the poll after beating then-No. 22 Texas Longhorns the week before, which earned them votes. Their star player, Aari McDonald, scored 44 against the Longhorns and 34 points in last week’s two games combined. Cate Reese led the team with 20 points in the Prairie View game. McDonald, who had 14 assists against the Lady Panthers, is a definitive WNBA prospect who will do her best to keep Arizona in the mix this season.
Gonzaga (3-1) climbs from No. 23 to No. 22
The Gonzaga Bulldogs took the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal to overtime before losing 76-70, but they have blown away the rest of their competition this season. Last week, the Cardinal won their sole contest by a score of 84-44 against Eastern Washington. Junior guard Jill Townsend is the team’s leading scorer. She scored a season-high 18 points in the Stanford game and nine points against Eastern Washington while also hauling in nine rebounds. The Bulldogs advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year when Townsend was the second-leading scorer behind Zykera Rice (15 points per game). Without Rice, the team started the season unranked, but with 32 votes.
Notably in downward slide
Arkansas (5-1) slides from No. 20 to No. 25
On Sunday, the Arkansas Razorbacks lost to a California Golden Bears team that started the season 0-2 and did not live up to expectations last year, despite having one of the best players in the program’s history: Kristine Anigwe, who is now in the WNBA. As a result, Arkansas fell all the way to No. 25, while Cal received a pair of votes. The Golden Bears did put up a fight against UConn, though, losing by just nine — suggesting that Arkansas shouldn’t be too embarrassed about this loss. After all, the Razorbacks’ starting five has been a scoring machine, with four players averaging double figures scoring. That group is led by Chelsea Dungee (18.6 points per game). Arkansas is currently seventh in the nation in scoring, with 89.7 points per game. But on Sunday they got out-rebounded 49-32 and lost the bench-scoring battle 25-6.
Miami (4-1) slides from No. 16 to No. 19
The Maggie Dixon Classic did not treat the Miami Hurricanes well. They barely beat North Carolina A&T and then lost to DePaul in what seemed like an even matchup going in. A win in that game would have been a great resume-booster, and it’s always tough to lose a key matchup like that early in the season. But the Hurricanes can’t dwell on the loss. They have an even bigger task ahead: No. 7 Oregon State, on Friday. The Hurricanes will also face No. 17 Indiana on Dec. 14, so they do have other opportunities to strengthen their standing.
Battle for No. 1
No. 1 Oregon (4-0)
The No. 1 Oregon Ducks defeated the WNBA-star-studded U.S. Olympic team on Nov. 9 and picked up their first win against a ranked college team when they defeated then-No. 17 Syracuse 81-64 on Sunday.
No. 2 Baylor (5-0)
The No. 2 Baylor Lady Bears don’t know when Lauren Cox will return from her foot injury, but they haven’t lost a step without her, beating a ranked South Florida team 58-46 on Nov. 19. In that game, Queen Egbo and NaLyssa Smith stepped up with 28 points and 15 rebounds combined.
No. 3 Stanford (5-0)
The Gonzaga game was probably a little alarming for fans of the Cardinal. Gonzaga is a good team, but it seems that Baylor, if the Lady Bears get Lauren Cox back in action, may be a step ahead of Stanford.