Here’s my Associated Press poll ballot for Dec. 14:
1. Connecticut, 2. North Carolina, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Texas, 5. Stanford, 6. Baylor, 7. Tennessee, 8. Oklahoma, 9. Duke, 10. Louisville, 11. Auburn, 12.Notre Dame, 13. Maryland, 14. Cal, 15. Rutgers, 16. Virginia, 17. Georgia Tech, 18. Ohio State, 19. Pittsburgh, 20. Vanderbilt, 21. Old Dominion, 22. South Dakota State, 23. Kansas State, 24. TCU, 25. Wisconsin
Here’s what I was thinking while voting: Nos. 1 and 2, they were solid. I had Tennessee at No. 3. So with the loss to Texas, Tennessee dropped to No. 7.
I debated just swapping Texas, which had been my No. 7 the week before, with Tennessee. Instead, I gave the nod to Texas A&M. I jumped Texas to No. 4. Stanford is fifth, but I have no argument with anyone who right now has the Cardinal ahead of the Aggies and Longhorns.
As you can see, by having Baylor No. 6, I’m really not hanging on to that one-point loss by the Bears to Wisconsin … in the Virgin Islands. I could be wrong about this, but I’m attributing it to Wisconsin being better than we realized and the Badgers having better focus for that game. I think Baylor is quite good.
And, as you’ll see at the end of the poll, I decided it was time to bring in Wisconsin, with the win over Marquette being the final selling point. The Badgers got in while Purdue, which lost three in a row before rebounding to Iona, slipped out of my rankings.
It won’t take much for Purdue to get back in, though.
OK, back to nearer the top of the poll … as is the case with Baylor, I’m no longer “punishing” Louisville for its loss at Nevada. I’m not super-sold on Auburn yet, but I’m warming up to the Tigers. I’m very bummed for Notre Dame, which has now lost two players this season to the freakin’ ACL. Coach Muffet McGraw can be a magician with personnel and X’s and O’s, but she can’t snap her fingers and suddenly have another healthy player.
I hope Cal doesn’t dwell too much on its collapse against Oklahoma, because what’s done is done. No loss in December is worth agonizing a great deal about. The Bears DO need to remember a lesson they’ve seemed to forget at times in the past, “SHUT THE DOOR!” But there’s a difference in holding on to tough loss to keep fueling you … and holding on to a loss that keeps draining you.
I think Georgia Tech is still being underestimated, but was glad to see the Yellow Jackets make it into the poll at No. 25 this week. I have them at No. 17, as their only losses are to UConn and Texas.
I usually don’t make a big deal out of others’ voting because it’s such an inexact science and there’s always enough “wrong” with my own ballot. But that said, I disagree with anyone who wouldn’t have South Dakota State in their rankings this week. The Jackrabbits have played a very tough schedule, with their only loss to Maryland. And the idea of South Dakota State really being a legit program has had time to develop. By now, it should be one of the mid-majors that’s regularly on people’s radar screens.
I considered putting Oklahoma State back in my rankings after the Cowgirls’ victory against TCU. But I held out. The loss at Arkansas-Little Rock lingers, and Oklahoma State needs to get through the rest of its non-conference schedule unbeaten.
Florida is No. 20 in the AP poll, but I haven’t ranked the Gators yet. Let’s talk after they play Pitt on Dec. 21. Arizona State hasn’t won me over quite yet, but the Sun Devils certainly have a chance to do that. Look at their next five: at Texas, Xavier, at Nebraska, Stanford, Cal.
Lastly, Kansas State … the Wildcats have a talented, veteran-led team. Senior Shalee Lehning is leading Division I in assists per game (9.4), and K-State understandably has been publicizing her a lot. But a few other Wildcats also really deserve mention.
Senior forward Marlies Gipson is one of those undersized posts who’s been worth her weight in gold. Remember that the season K-State really struggled – in 2007 – it was because the team lost Gipson in January to a knee injury. She’s been irreplaceable for K-State.
Junior Ashley Sweat is a multi-talented player who can take over games; she’s leading K-State in scoring at 14.9 ppg. And junior Kari Kincaid is a reliable guard who is better in just about every aspect this season.
K-State is not playing a very good non-conference slate – Jerry Palm ranks its strength of schedule at 284 _ which is a little disappointing considering the Wildcats are defending Big 12 regular-season champs. But even without a good non-con barometer to go by, I think K-State is going to do well in the league.