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NCAAW AP Poll (Week 5): Youth-led Stanford rises to the top

The Stanford Cardinal are back in the nation’s top spot for the first time since 2012 thanks to the help of Haley Jones and Lexie Hull. The Louisville Cardinals came in second after their upset victory over then-No. 1 Oregon Ducks who now are ranked third.

Mississippi State v Stanford: Greater Victoria Invitational
Freshman Haley Jones led Stanford with 13 points against Mississippi State and at the Greater Victoria Invitational. In doing so, she helped the Cardinal rise to No. 1 in the AP Poll.
Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

It was a crazy week in the AP Poll top 10, with both the then-No. 1 Oregon Ducks and the then-No. 2 Baylor Bears suffering their first losses of the season. The rankings look a lot different than they did last week, with the shakeup also happening at the bottom. But first let’s take a look at the new No. 1 Stanford Cardinal who are back on top of women’s college basketball for the first time since Dec. 29, 2012.

Stanford’s youth movement comes up big

The Cardinal are led by Lexie Hull, who averages 14.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while Kiana Williams and freshman guard Haley Jones both average in double-figure scoring as well. Jones has come in and made an impact right way, which has helped make up for losing Alanna Smith to graduation and the WNBA. The Cardinal have a chance to be even better than last year, when they finished second in the Pac-12 regular season, beating Oregon, Oregon State Beavers and Arizona State Sun Devils twice before defeating Oregon again in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game. The Ducks and Beavers were both in the top 10 at the time that Stanford defeated them, while the Sun Devils were ranked in the top 20 both times.

Last year’s Cardinal team lost in the Elite Eight to the eventual national runner-up Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This year’s team has youth leading the way (four of its top seven scorers are freshmen and one — Hull — is a sophomore). Stanford hopes to advance to the Final Four for the eighth time in the past 13 years.

NCAA AP Poll (Week 5): A look at the top 10

  1. Stanford Cardinal (8-0) — The Cardinal have had a few close calls, but still have more resume-boosting wins than Louisville, having beaten the No. 18 Gonzaga Bulldogs, the Syracuse Orange and the No. 10 Mississippi State Bulldogs.
  2. Louisville Cardinals (8-0) — Obviously the biggest win from last week was the Cardinals’ defeat of an Oregon team that may not have been a prohibitive favorite but was close to it after beating Team USA in exhibition play and putting a plethora of offensive weapons on display through the Ducks’ first six games.
  3. Oregon Ducks (6-1) — The Ducks’ win over then-No. 17 Syracuse Orange is their only win against a ranked team, and the Orange fell all the way out of the rankings this week. But Oregon is still the most talented team in the country on paper and will have plenty of opportunities to rise back to No. 1 considering how loaded the Pac-12 is again this season. The Ducks will face Stanford twice.
  4. UConn Huskies (6-0) — The Huskies did not play last week. They are undefeated but lack a signature win and won’t have a shot at one until they face the No. 16 DePaul Blue Demons on Dec. 16 in Chicago.
  5. Oregon State Beavers (7-0) — Oregon State is a fun team to watch due to its plethora of 3-point options. The Beavers beat then-No. 19 Miami Hurricanes by 22 points on Friday and also have impressive wins against DePaul and the No. 22 Missouri State Bears.
  6. South Carolina Gamecocks (8-1) — The Gamecocks lost to then-No. 17 Indiana Hoosiers, but bounced back to beat then-No. 2 Baylor, making the top of the rankings difficult for voters this week. The Gamecocks boast two top-10 wins (the other one came against then-No. 4 Maryland Terrapins). If it wasn’t for their loss to Indiana at Paradise Jam, they could very well be No. 1 or No. 2 right now.
  7. Baylor Bears (7-1) — The Lady Bears beat Indiana and lost to South Carolina. The win over Indiana looks better than the Ducks’ win over Syracuse because the Hoosiers are on the rise and Syracuse has fallen out of the rankings. But the loss to the Gamecocks has the defending national champions out of the top five.
  8. Florida State Seminoles (7-0) — The Seminoles are quietly still undefeated. They picked up a huge (and comfortable) win over then-No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies and held Chennedy Carter to 20 points as opposed to 30 or more, which she is capable of.
  9. Maryland Terrapins (7-1) — The Terps lack a signature win but their 64-point blowout of the Belmont Bruins was impressive. Their one loss — to South Carolina on Nov. 10 — was not a bad one, so they’re still hanging in the top 10.
  10. Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-1) — The Bulldogs are the only team in the top 10 that didn’t fall in the rankings after suffering a loss last week. They picked up their first loss on Saturday, losing by five points to Stanford. That was not bad loss, however, as the Cardinal have now risen to No. 1 — meaning enough voters opted to keep the Bulldogs at No. 10. The No. 11 UCLA Bruins (7-0) had five blowout wins to start the season and added two more wins last week, but they still ended up 42 points behind Mississippi State in the voting. That is likely due to the Bulldogs’ dominance over weaker teams being even greater than UCLA’s thus far. The Bruins beat the Central Florida Knights by just five points and the Virginia Cavaliers by just 11.

A look at the rest of the top 25

Texas A&M fell all the way from No. 6 to No. 12 because of its loss to Florida State, while Indiana rose three spots for the third time this season, landing the Hoosiers at No. 14. UCLA, No. 13 NC State Wolfpack, No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats, No. 17 Tennessee Lady Volunteers and No. 20 Arizona Wildcats are the five teams between No. 11 and No. 25 that remain unbeaten. The Lady Vols have risen three spots in each of the last two weeks as new head coach Kellie Harper’s squad exceeds expectations perhaps more than any team in the country right now.

The LSU Tigers upset the Michigan State Spartans to join the rankings at No. 25, while the Spartans fell four spots to No. 19. Due to a quality win over the South Dakota Coyotes, Missouri State and the No. 24 Michigan Wolverines entered the poll along with LSU because of Syracuse’s loss to the Green Bay Phoenix, the West Virginia Mountaineers’ loss to the Creighton Blue Jays and the South Florida Bulls’ three losses to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles and the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame moved back above .500 with that win after losing to the Jackrabbits and Eagles last week as well. The Irish are still receiving votes, but the Bulls, who entered last week at No. 21, did not receive any votes.