Behind the Ballot: Welcome! 

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Hello to all and welcome to a new weekly column that I will be writing for the remainder of the semester called Behind the Ballot, where I will share my top 25 women’s basketball rankings that I submit to be included in the Student Media Poll. The SMP is a weekly basketball poll, voted on by student journalists from around the country from a variety of different college newspapers and I am fortunate enough to serve as a WBB voter. With that being said, let’s jump into this week’s rankings! 

Jan 16, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maddy Westbeld (34) goes up for a shot as North Carolina Tar Heels guard Deja Kelly (25) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Photo by Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
  1. South Carolina 
  2. Louisville 
  3. Stanford 
  4. Tennessee 
  5. NC State 
  6. Indiana 
  7. Iowa State 
  8. UConn 
  9. LSU 
  10. Michigan 
  11. Arizona 
  12. Maryland 
  13. Georgia 
  14. Notre Dame 
  15. Texas 
  16. Oklahoma 
  17. Baylor 
  18. Colorado 
  19. Georgia Tech 
  20. BYU 
  21. Duke 
  22. North Carolina 
  23. Oregon 
  24. Ohio State 
  25. Kansas 

The first notable team that we have to look at is Arizona. The Wildcats started the season off blazing hot, with 12 straight victories, most notably in winning overtime against my current No. 2, Louisville. Since then, Arizona dropped a game on the road against a mediocre USC team, won close against Oregon State and lost in overtime against Oregon, who jumped in the top 25 after the win. Things don’t get any easier, with two of their next four games coming against ranked opponents. I didn’t punish them too hard for their road loss against a solid Oregon team, but if they lose, it will be a long way down and out of the poll. 

The next big mover is Michigan, who jumped five slots into the top 10 after their massive, 20 point win at Maryland, who was No. 10 at the time of the loss. Although a Naz Hillmon led team, Maddie Nolan took on the scoring burden against the Terps, dropping 21. This team is really deep, and aside from what now looks to be a fluke loss at Nebraska, could do some serious damage come March. This week will be relatively light for the Wolverines, only playing one game at home versus a weak Wisconsin team, whom they already beat by double figures earlier this campaign.  

Although no longer undefeated, their loss against No. 3 Stanford really taught us a lot about Colorado. The Buffalo had the Cardinals tied going into the fourth quarter, but were unable to pull out a win, earning their first loss of the season. Playing a team as good as Stanford demonstrates that they are not fakers and could actually contend for a top seed in the PAC 12, something that few expected going into this season. Veteran forward Mya Hollingshed has been a force this season, scoring 14.1 points, grabbing 6.4 boards and blocking just north of one shot per game. If the Buffalo want to have success though, Hollingshed will need to be more efficient, as she is just shooting 42.9% from the field currently. 

Staying in the Pac-12, let’s take a look at Oregon, who picked up a huge comeback, overtime win at home versus Arizona, as mentioned earlier. This year has been a wild ride for the Ducks, who had a COVID-19 pause and has been hit hard by the injury bug. All but one of their losses came to top 25 caliber teams, which is why I put them into my rankings for the first time this year. In big games, Nyara Sabally has come up huge, most notably scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 boards against the Ducks. The Ducks have five players scoring in double figures on the season and have potential to go on a big run as they get into a rhythm. They also added a big win against UConn Monday, which is not reflected in the rankings but will help them for next week. 

Lastly, I’ll take a look at a team that I massively misread: Kansas State. The Wildcats started the season off strong going 13-2 with wins over Oregon and No. 17 Baylor. Their two losses came to No. 1 South Carolina and No. 5 NC State, albeit by over 20 points each. Then, this week, they laid an egg, losing at home to No. 7 Iowa State close. That win wouldn’t have been bad alone, but they followed it up with a resounding 19 point loss at Texas Tech, a team that hasn’t sniffed the rankings this year. I had the Wildcats as No. 12, but they now fall out of the rankings after a disappointing week. 

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