Sunday, October 25, 2009

One person's preseason Top 25

Everybody loves rankings, largely so they can pick them apart. It’s hard to believe anything you read about any team in the preseason because college media days are full of rhetoric. Coaches and players talk about how tough the conference is from top to bottom, even if they’re part of the lowest rated conference in the RPI. You hear clichés about how conference games are dogfights every night and the race is wide open.

But there are only a few dozen really good teams. Here’s my early stab at selecting the first 25 of this college women’s season.

1. UConn: How hard is that? Even without Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore and Tina Charles should lead the Huskies to yet another NCAA title.
2. Stanford: It’s not just that Jayne Appel is a senior. The Cardinal has its point guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude back along with Nnemukade Ogwumike, who’s as good as her name. Kayla Pederson isn’t too shabby either. Stanford opens with Old Dominion on Nov. 13.
3. Ohio State: Oh, how I loved Sam Prahalis in the NCAA tournament. Two-time Big 10 Player of the Year Jantel Lavender is back, too.
4. Notre Dame: A veteran-laden bunch that landed super frosh Skylar Diggens. Geno pick ’em to win the Big East (he can’t vote for his own team, you see), but there’s lots to like, including two top 10 freshmen.
5. Baylor: Kim Mulkey says don’t expect Brittney Griner to dominate as a freshman. But she’s 6-8. And she can dunk. Can she stay out of foul trouble? The Bears open against Tennessee on Nov. 15.
6. Duke: Jasmine Thomas leads a program that’s always a stalwart. I’m not in love with any one of their players. But I’d expect Duke to be where it usually is – in the mix.
7. North Carolina: Get a betting pool going on how many turnovers they’ll average. But it’s the score that counts and the youthful Tar Heels will put up plenty of points.
8. Tennessee: You can bet the Lady Vols won’t have a second straight disappointing year.
9. Texas: With their top two scorers back, you gotta think this is the year Coach G makes some noise in Austin.
10. Oklahoma: They don’t have Paris anymore. But they do have Danielle Robinson and Whitney Hand.

Anybody picking 11 through 25 is simply guessing. Here are my guesses.
11. Michigan State
12. LSU
13. Virginia
14. California
15. San Diego State
16. Louisville
17. Georgia Tech
18. Middle Tennessee State
19. Iowa State
20. Xavier
21. DePaul
22. Oklahoma State
23. Florida State
24. Kansas State
25. Kansas

A few thoughts. Bonnie Henrickson was considered a genius at Virginia Tech. This is her sixth year at Kansas, the runner-up in last year’s WNIT, and it will be fun to see if the Jayhawks can emerge in a trying conference. Kansas State always surprises me, and I like Ashley Sweat.

Virginia has plenty of potential and should be a top 10 team, but something seems to trip up the Cavaliers every year. If Monica Wright has her head together, the Cavaliers could be a threat in the ACC.

To start the season, I don’t like Maryland. Ditto for Rutgers. That’s not to say they won’t be good during the season. But the Terrapins don’t have Marissa Coleman anymore and Marah Strickland transferred to South Carolina. And Epiphanny Prince is skipping her senior year for international ball.

I love San Diego State. The Aztecs had their best season in 14 years last season, which included beating Texas. They return four starters. They beat DePaul in the NCAA tournament. What’s not to like?

And what about Oklahoma State? They had Andrea Riley but no chemistry last year. Coach Kurt Budke says Riley has put in great summer. She can score, but can she lead? If she can, the Cowgirls can be a force in the Big 12.

Stay tuned. We can probably toss this out once the games start.

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