Hello all and welcome back to my weekly column 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 to serve as a women’s basketball voter. I look at previous rankings and games from the past week to determine my weekly ballot. With that being said, let’s jump into this week’s rankings!
- South Carolina
- NC State
- Iowa State
- North Carolina
- Virginia Tech
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
- Georgia Tech
No. 6 Louisville–I get that a team ranked as high as Louisville should generally beat lower-ranked teams, but Louisville’s utter beatdown by then No. 14 Notre Dame was different. The Cardinals started off the game on a whopping 41-3 run, leaving the Irish completely out of the game before it was even halftime. That pure domination was really impressive and will help Louisville’s resume going into March. Even though they didn’t actually make a jump in the poll because all the teams above them won their games, Louisville established themselves as a clear contender and nearly a shoo-in for the Elite Eight.
No. 24 Iowa–After a pretty disappointing start to the year, Iowa is really starting to piece things together and find their rhythm behind POTY condenser Caitlin Clark. The Hawkeyes have won their past four games, with three coming against teams then ranked in the top 10. In those four games, Clark averaged 29.2 points, 10.0 assists and 6.8 rebounds, pulling through when her team needs her the most. With the regular season over, Clark and Iowa have a chance to create a new run for the ages, but for now, I’m sure they’re just enjoying their return to relevancy and the poll.
No. 14 Indiana–Indiana has just continued to skid these past few weeks. They lost back to back games to Iowa and one to No. 7 Maryland, resulting in losses in four of their last five games. Grace Berger has continued to play well for the Hoosiers, but their supporting cast needs to support her more as they face their most crucial stretch of the season. Indiana was ranked in the top five earlier this year, having potential to be an upper tier team. The Big Ten tournament gives them the chance to right the ship, with potential marquee games with high upside. They should still be able to grab a four seed, but are cutting things much closer than they need to.
No. 23 Florida–Following an 11 game stretch where the Gators went 10-1 with five wins against ranked teams, they have hit a skid, perhaps regressing to the mean. Florida lost all three games this week, two against unranked opponents, falling eight slots from their season-high ranking of No. 15. The good news is that they were not blown out in any of the games and kept it especially close at top five LSU. Every team in a conference as tough as the SEC is going to go through rough patches, so look for the Gators to still make a nice run in March Madness.
No. 8 UConn—UConn had three games this week against unranked teams and won just as many. The easy headline here is the return of reigning POTY Paige Bueckers, but a bigger storyline may be how much better the rest of the team has gotten. The emergence of Caroline Ducharme and Azzi Fudd will play a huge role for the Huskies down the stretch, as two players who are now capable of taking the ball themselves and getting shots to go when times get tough. Coach Geno Auriemma noted that “there will be no droughts,” most likely referring to the tendency to all come crashing down for UConn when Bueckers was having trouble getting her shot to fall. With this much offense and unselfishness, nobody will want to see UConn in March.