Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Silent Majority rankings #17 (March 1)

1. Xavier (25-2, 14-0 Atlantic 10)
Last week: 1
Streak: Won 15 straight. Status: A-10 regular-season champions, No. 1 seed in A-10 tournament. 
As Dayton did on two occasions earlier in the season, Temple proved that it can hang with the mighty Musketeers. But when it gets to winning time, well, to paraphrase Geno Auriemma, the Musketeers have Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips, and you don't. With Xavier ahead by just a point and just under 11 minutes left Sunday, Harris and Phillips combined for 9 points in a decisive 13-2 run. The Musketeers went on to win 73-66 and complete back-to-back unbeaten conference seasons for the first time in A-10 history. On deck: Saturday vs. either No. 8 St. Joseph's or No. 9 LaSalle in Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals.

2. Marist (27-2, 18-0 MAAC)
Last week: 2
Streak: Won 23 straight. Status: The Red Foxes have ridden the nation's longest winning streak to a No. 18 ranking by ESPN/USA Today - the highest in program history. Erica Allenspach and Corielle Yarde each earned first-team All-MAAC honors, and we suspect Allenspach will hear her named called again when the league announces its Player of the Year on Thursday. On deck: Friday vs. No. 8 St. Peter's or No. 9 River in MAAC Tournament quarterfinals.

3. Green Bay (27-1, 16-0 Horizon)
Last week: 3
Streak: Won 18 straight. Status: Clinched Horizon regular-season title.
The best part of Green Bay's 93-57 victory over Butler Sunday wasn't the season-high point total, or the season-high 64-percent shooting that led to it. The best part was that a sold-out crowd of 4,018 fans jammed the Kress Center to see it, and those that couldn't get a ticket watched from the hallways through the glass windows. And these fans don't just catch Phoenix fever for home games. According to the Green Bay sports information department, attendance in other Horizon League gyms jumps 34 percent when the Phoenix are in town. On deck: Regular-season finale Thursday at Wright State.

4. Gonzaga (26-4, 14-0 WCC)
Last week: 5
Streak: Won 16 straight. Status: WCC regular-season champions; No. 1 seed in WCC Tournament.
Speaking of rousing turnouts, the Bulldogs drew 6,000 fans - the third sellout in program history and second this season - for Saturday's 80-58 dismissal of San Diego that capped their second straight undefeated WAC season. On Tuesday, point guard Courtney Vandersloot picked up her third straight WCC Player of the Year award while Kelly Graves was tabbed conference coach of the year for the second year in a row and sixth time in his 11 seasons at Gonzaga.On deck: Saturday vs. No. 4 Portland, No. 5 Santa Clara or No. 8 San Francisco in WCC semifinals.  

5. Temple (22-7, 13-1 Atlantic 10)
Last week: 4
Streak: Lost one. Status: 2nd in Atlantic 10; No. 2 seed in A-10 Tournament.
Owls guard Qwedia Wallace, the Big Five Player of the Week, nailed her program-record 155th 3-pointer late in Sunday's 73-66 loss to Xavier. The win gave Xavier the outright A-10 regular-season title, but no one will be surprised if we see these same teams hook up again for even bigger stakes next Monday. On deck: Friday vs. No. 7 St. Bonaventure or No. 10 Fordham in A-10 Tournament quarterfinals.

6. Houston (24-4, 15-0 Conference USA)
Last week: 6
Streak: Won 15 straight. Status: Clinched C-USA regular-season title
The Cougars rallied from 19 points down to cook Rice 74-70. Their reward - a No. 25 ranking by AP, the program's first charting by the writers since Dec. 20, 2004. Also Monday, forward Courtney Taylor earned her fifth C-USA Player of the Week honor this season (10th of her career). The Cougars are 23-2 with Taylor in the lineup. On deck: Regular-season finale Saturday vs. Tulane. 

7: BYU (21-7, 13-1 Mountain West)
Last week: 9
Streak: Won 10 straight. Status: 2-game lead over TCU atop WAC with 2 games remaining.
The Cougars trailed by 16 early and by 10 at halftime before clawing their way back for a 56-52 win over San Diego State. "Even though we were down, we knew we were going to come back little by little, even if it was little by little," BYU senior Coriann Fraughton said. "We believed the whole game we'd win and we stuck with our principles." On deck: Tuesday at New Mexico; Saturday at Wyoming. 

8. Northern Iowa (22-5, 15-1 Missouri Valley)
Last week: 11
Streak: Won 14 straight. Status: Clinched MVC regular-season title.
Friday's 71-61 decision over Bradley was surprising, not because the Panthers won but because they gave up 61 points. The Panthers' previous two opponents had failed to crack 45, and Northern Iowa hadn't surrendered 60 or more since an 80-69 victory over Missouri State on Jan. 6, or 14 games ago. On deck: Thursday vs. Indiana State; Saturday vs. Illinois State.

9. Louisiana Tech (21-6, 13-1 WAC)
Last week: 7
Streak: Lost one. Status: One-game lead over Fresno State atop WAC with two games remaining.
Monday's 71-66 loss to Nevada snapped the Lady Techsters' 13-game winning streak and represented their first defeat in 2011. Strange game. The Wolf Pack played without captain and leading rebounder Shavon Moore, who tore her ACL in the previous game. But even without Moore's 8.5 boards per game, Nevada outrebounded the Lady Techsters 46-22. Ah, the magic of Senior Night.... On deck: Thursday vs. Boise State; Saturday vs. Idaho. 

10. Hampton (22-6, 14-1 MEAC)
Last week: 10
Streak: Won 10 straight. Status: Clinched MEAC regular-season title.
Former Fanhouse.com writer Milton Kent turned in a nice profile of Lady Pirates guard Jericka Jenkins, the presumptive MEAC Player of the Year who has battled back from Hodgkin's Lymphoma. On deck: regular-season finale Thursday at Howard.

11. James Madison (22-7, 15-2 CAA)
Last week: 8
Streak: Lost one. Status: One-game lead over ODU and UNC Wilmington in CAA with one game left.
JMU's 75-73 loss at Hofstra Sunday, a game in which the Dukes lost a 23-point lead, injected some drama into the final day of the CAA race. The title is still theirs if they can beat UNC Wilmington Wednesday. And with this being the final home game in the illustrious career of guard Dawn Evans, well, frankly we can't imagine them losing it. On deck: Wednesday vs. UNC Wilmington. 

12. Princeton (21-4, 10-1 Ivy)
Last week: 12
Streak: Won 7 straight. Status: 2-game lead in loss column over Yale and Harvard atop Ivy.
The Tigers can clinch at least a share of their second straight Ivy League crown with a win Friday at Dartmouth, and can claim the title outright - and punch their NCAA Tournament ticket - with another win Saturday against Harvard. On Feb. 4, the Crimson handed the Tigers their only Ivy League loss. On deck: Friday vs. Dartmouth; Saturday vs. Harvard. 

13. Middle Tennessee State (23-6, 14-2 Sun Belt)
Last week: 14
Streak:Won one. Status: Clinched Sun Belt East Division title.
For what it's worth, ESPN's NCAA Tournament projections have the Blue Raiders with a tenuous grip on being one of the last four teams in the field of 64. Makes for interesting reading. But since thousands of variables will change between now and Selection Day, that's all it is - interesting reading. On deck: Sunday vs. No. 4 Arkansas State or No. 5 Florida Atlantic in Sun Belt Tournament quarterfinals. 

14. Fresno State (21-7, 12-2 WAC)
Last week: 15
Streak: Won 6 straight. Status: 2nd place in WAC, 2 games behind Louisiana Tech with 2 games left.
Senior guard Jaleesa Ross scored 25 points in Sunday's 83-70 win at Hawaii and needs just 8 more to break former Fresno State forward Melvin Eley's nine-year-old scoring record of 1,951 points and become the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorer. On deck: Thursday at San Jose State; Saturday vs. Nevada. 

15. Old Dominion (20-8, 14-3 CAA)
Last week: 17
Streak: Won 3 straight. Status: Tied with UNCW for 2nd in CAA, 1 game behind JMU with 1 game left.
A victory Wednesday at Drexel coupled with a James Madison loss to UNC Wilmington would create a three-way tie for first in the CAA from which ODU would emerge as the tournament's No. 1 seed. The Lady Monarchs have been the event's No. 1 seed 15 times in their 19 previous seasons in the CAA. On deck: Wednesday at Drexel. 

16. UNC Wilmington (22-6, 14-3 CAA)
Last week: 21
Streak: Won 4 straight. Status: Tied with ODU in 2nd place in CAA, 1 game behind JMU with 1 game left. 
Seahawks coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke will take a break from CAA coaching Sunday to return to USC and have her jersey retired. Let's see...Cooper left USC in 1986. Since then, she's been arguably the greatest player in WNBA history and a successful Division I coach. In August, she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. One question, Women of Troy: What took you guys so long? On deck: Regular-season finale Wednesday at James Madison. 

17. Arkansas-Little Rock (19-7, 13-2 Sun Belt)
Last week: 17
Streak: Lost one. Status: Clinched Sun Belt West Division title.
The Trojans are just 2-2 in their last four games after Saturday's 54-51 setback at Arkansas State. Not exactly the kind of momentum a team wants to take into a one-and-done postseason tournament. On deck: Regular-season finale vs. North Texas.

18. Bowling Green (24-4, 12-3 MAC)
Last week: 20
Streak: Won 7 straight. Status: Clinched MAC East Division title.
The Falcons' five fourth-year seniors – Chelsea Albert, Tracy Pontius, Lauren Prochaska, Jen Uhl and Kelly Zuercher - have been a part of 106 victories. Remarkably, that total is only the fourth-highest in program history; the record is 114. On deck: Regular-season finale Wednesday vs. Buffalo. 

19. Florida Gulf Coast (24-3, 17-3 Atlantic Sun)
Last week: 16
Streak: Lost one. Status: A-Sun regular-season champions.
The Eagles' spectacular run through the Atlantic Sun was acknowledged Tuesday as Shannon Murphy earned first-team all-league honors and rookie Sarah Hansen was a second-team and all-freshman pick. In addition, FGCU coach Karl Smesko was named coach of the year. Although not yet eligible for the NCAA Tournament, the Eagles are qualified to accept the A-Sun's automatic bid to the WNIT. On deck: Friday vs. Seattle in FGCU Tournament. 

20. Toledo (21-7, 13-2 MAC)
Last week: 19
Streak: Lost one. Status: Clinched MAC West Division title.
Must be something about Northern Illinois. On Saturday, the Huskies held Toledo to just 53 points in a four-point victory that snapped the Rockets' 9-game winning streak. The 53 points were the fewest Toledo has scored since the last time they played Northern Illinois and eked out a 42-31 decision on Jan. 12. On deck: Wednesday vs. Central Michigan. 

And finally, once again:

21 (tie). Duquesne (22-7, 9-5 Atlantic 10)

21 (tie). Dayton (18-10, 9-5 Atlantic 10)

21 (tie). St. Bonaventure (19-10, 9-5 Atlantic 10)

21 (tie) Richmond (18-10, 9-5 Atlantic 10)

21 (tie). Charlotte (21-8, 9-5 Atlantic 10)

Hate to keep doing this. But we're sure these Atlantic 10 teams, all of whom tied for third in the final standings, belong on this list somewhere, They keep knocking each other off, though, so it's virtually impossible to sort them out. All of these teams are ticketed for the postseason - NCAA or WNIT - and we think they're all going to be extremely dangerous. Relieved, too, no doubt, that they don't have to keep banging into themselves every night.

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