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Upset-filled week leads to significant late-season AP Poll shakeup

With 14 top-25 schools losing last week — including seven to unranked teams — the AP Poll for Week 16 looks a little bit different heading into the last few weeks of the season.

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NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Miami-Florida
Miami’s Endia Banks, Laura Cornelius and Kelsey Marshall (left to right) celebrate after defeating then-No. 4 Notre Dame on Feb. 7. The Hurricanes jumped six spots in this week’s AP Poll, the most of any team, after defeating another top-5 team on Sunday: then-No. 2 Louisville.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough week for more than half of the AP Top 25, the voters certainly had their work cut out for them to determine this week’s rankings.

Although the new NCAA top-16 provides a more “official” look at the bracket that will be used in March, the AP Poll, for now, remains the best standard for determining where teams stand. But a week full of top-25 losses meant a late-season shakeup was surely coming, and that movement was evident in this week’s poll.

Here are the takeaways from the AP Poll for Week 16, from top-10 teams to mid-majors making history:

Top 10 shuffle

With two decisive wins last week, No. 1 Baylor kept its spot at the top.

The other teams that kept their top-10 status alive this week were Oregon, UConn, Louisville, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Stanford and Maryland, with each moving up or down at least one place. No. 2 Oregon’s loss last night could be an early indicator of some downward movement for next week unless upsets in the top 5 continue.

Meanwhile, Marquette and Oregon State fell out of the top 10. The Golden Eagles lost to unranked St. John’s on Friday, while the Beavers’ only game was a loss Friday to Oregon. But with the Beavers defeating Oregon last night, they could find themselves returning to the top 10 (or close). To do so, they also must beat UCLA and USC at home this weekend.

Biggest ascents

  • Stanford moved from No. 10 to No. 7, proving its resilience after its 40-point loss to Oregon. Stanford did it by outlasting UCLA and USC on the road over the weekend. It’s hard to argue that the Cardinal’s big rise isn’t partially due to teams above them losing. But Stanford’s place in the top 10 is still well-earned.
  • NC State moved from No. 12 to No. 9, after playing just once last week in a close win over then-No. 16 Syracuse. Like Stanford, the Wolfpack benefited greatly from the misfortune of teams above them. Like Oregon, NC State started this week with a loss — Monday night, though it was to No. 5 Notre Dame. But if they can get past Wake Forest and North Carolina this weekend, the Wolfpack should stay put come next week.
  • Iowa moved from No. 14 to No. 10 after taking down then-No. 7 Maryland on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Hawkeyes improved to 14-0 at home this season. However, Iowa will finish its season against three unranked, yet tricky opponents: defending WNIT champion Indiana, Nebraska (who Iowa beat by only six points in their last meeting) and Northwestern.
  • Miami moved from No. 20 to No. 14, the biggest jump of any team, thanks to a historic win over then-No. 2 Louisville on Sunday in their only game last week. The Hurricanes are in the midst of a four-game winning streak that also includes a win over then-No. 4 Notre Dame. Although they were already awarded four-seed in last week’s NCAA Tournament top-16 rankings, the Hurricanes could find themselves on the three-line if this surge continues.

Biggest descents

  • Marquette fell from No. 8 to No. 11 after its Friday loss to St. John’s. But the Golden Eagles seemed to get their frustrations out in their Sunday game, putting up their highest point total of the season in a 46-point dismantling of Seton Hall. Marquette has already beaten its remaining 2018-19 opponents by comfortable margins this season. So, finishing with consistent wins should keep their hopes of hosting some NCAA Tournament games alive.
  • Oregon State fell from No. 9 to No. 12 despite having just the one loss to Oregon last week — a likely casualty of lower-ranked teams having better weeks. Getting past UCLA and USC this weekend will be crucial for the Beavers heading into a difficult final weekend series at Arizona and No. 17 Arizona State.
  • Texas fell from No. 15 to No. 19 in the biggest drop of any team that stayed in the poll. The Longhorns’ Sunday loss to Kansas State isn’t exactly an upset, considering the Wildcats also beat Texas in the teams’ first meeting this season. However, Texas was defeated at home, making it three straight losses there.
  • Rutgers (No. 23) and Michigan State (No. 24) both dropped out of the poll. The Scarlet Knights ended a three-game skid on Sunday with a win over Indiana, but scored just 39 points in their loss to Ohio State. Meanwhile, the Spartans lost both of their games last week by more than 10 points apiece.

Mid-major entrances

  • No. 23 South Dakota entered the poll for the first time in school history last week, at No. 25, making this week’s spot its new highest ranking ever. The Coyotes’ notable wins this season include then-No. 23 Iowa State, then-No. 22 Missouri and in-state rival South Dakota State.
  • No. 24 Drake re-entered the poll for the first time since a two-week run in November and December triggered by an upset over then-No. 12 South Carolina. Although the Bulldogs suffered their first conference loss since 2016 earlier this month, their revamped consistency in Missouri Valley Conference play brought them back into the top 25.
  • No. 25 Rice, like South Dakota before them, entered the poll for the first time — ever. The Owls are undefeated in Conference USA play — tied with Baylor at 15 games for the longest active win streak in the country. This showing also means the four Ogwumike sisters — Erica and Olivia (currently playing for Rice) and Nneka and Chiney (Stanford) — have been on AP-ranked teams.