Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Silent majority rankings - preseason edition

We're at it again.

For the second straight year we proudly unveil these Silent Majority rankings, a list that tries to bring order to all the quality non-BCS hoops in the Division I world.

This isn't intended as a knock on or competition for the collegeinsider.com's mid-major poll, which is done by coaches. We like that poll. What we don't like is the fact that leagues like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West don't participate. They clearly don't like being classified as "mid-majors," and we don't blame them. We too hate that term.

The problem is we're not sure a lot of folks see much difference between the Atlantic 10 and the Atlantic Sun. Take a look at the just-released Associated Press Top 25 rankings, which feature all teams from BCS conferences. Is it possible that there are no Top 25 teams outside of the Power-6 conferences? We highly doubt it. It's more likely that a lot of the information about the quality non-BCS programs just isn't making it onto the national scene.

So quibble with who's in and who's out of these rankings if you wish. In fact, please do; we love the feedback. But most of all, consider this our earnest effort to shine some light on some of the "other teams" that can really play this game, too.

1. Delaware (Last year: 20-14, WNIT first round)
The loaded Blue Hens return star Elena Delle Donne and eight of their top nine scorers from last season. They also add transfer guards from Florida and West Virginia and welcome back 2009-10 starting point guard Kayla Miller, who missed all of last season after back surgery. Now they've got to make all these pieces fit so we won't be surprised if they're not the best non-BCS team when the season begins. But we love this group's upside. If Delle Donne can stay healthy for an entire season - which based on her history is pretty big if - she's the kind of once-in-a-generation talent capable of elevating her team a la Jimmer Fredette with last year's Brigham Young men - or Jackie Stiles with Southwest Missouri State's women in 2001.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. Rhode Island

2. Gonzaga (31-5, NCAA Elite Eight)
Point guards like Courtney Vandersloot don't come around that often. Still, the Zags won 24 games and played in the NCAA Tournament the year before Vandersloot arrived in Spokane so Kelly Graves and his staff clearly already knew the championship drill. Gonzaga caught a huge (and surprising) break when Kansas State transfer Taelor Karr, who started 29 games for the Wildcats last season and averaged 10.3 ppg, was declared eligible immediately. She'll join All-West Coast Conference performers Katelan Redmon (16.8 ppg) and Kayla Standish (17.1) and a supporting cast Graves said might be the deepest and most talented he's ever had.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. Hofstra

3. Florida Gulf Coast (28-4, WNIT second round)
The nation's best 3-point shooting team (10.9 made treys per game last season) returns four starters including preseason All-Atlantic Sun picks Courtney Chihil and Sarah Hansen. In addition, Oregon State transfer Brittany Kennedy will be eligible in late December. The Eagles will also welcome freshman Whitney Knight, the program's first-ever ESPN Hoopgurlz Top 100 recruit (No. 71).
Season opener: Nov. 11 at Seton Hall

4. Dayton (21-12, NCAA first round)
The quintessential women's basketball team, these Flyers are:
   - Smart - A 100 percent graduation rate;
   - Compassionate - They lead all Dayton athletic teams in community service and won the Atlantic 10 award for sportsmanship;
   - Talented - Seven seniors are back including Preseason Wooden Award watch list performer Justine Raterman, and the incoming freshman class includes McDonald's All-American Ally Malott;
    - Tough: Raterman scored 19 points in the Atlantic 10 tournament final a day after tearing her ACL, had surgery a few weeks later and was cleared for full workouts by the first day of practice in October.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. Bowling Green

5. Green Bay (34-2, NCAA Sweet 16)
When people say they prefer women's basketball because it's a purer, more selfless game, this is the type of outfit (20 assists per game last season) they have in mind. The Phoenix won't exactly pick up where they left off, as Kayla Tetschlag and Celeste Hoewisch weren't just the two best players on the team but the two best in the entire Horizon League. But the Phoenix still have Julie Wojta (13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Adrian Ritchie (9.4 ppg) and a host of complimentary pieces that seem capable of keeping Green Bay chugging along near peak efficiency under the tutelage of coach Matt Bollant, whose teams have gone 117-17 in his four seasons.
Season opener: Nov. 11 at North Dakota State

6. Temple (24-9, NCAA second round)
The Owls' toughness and tenacity is embodied by senior guard Shey Peddy, a three-time All-Defensive Team performer from rugged Roxbury, Mass - same hometown as head coach Tonya Cardoza - who averaged 14.1 points but would rather shut you down than light you up. Fellow senior guard Kristen McCarthy (13.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is primed for a big final season as well. Don't be surprised if Temple has a few stumbles early; their typically rugged non-league conference (Ohio State, Texas A&M, Rutgers and Duke, among others) pretty much guarantees it. But this is part of what makes them so tough in A-10 play and beyond - the Owls have been to the NCAA Tournament eight straight years, including all three under Cardoza.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. Miami (Ohio)

7. Marist (31-3, NCAA second round)
The MAAC juggernaut loses three starters from the 2010-11 team that scared mighty Duke in the NCAA second round, including conference player of the year Erica Allensbach and 6-4 Kate Oliver, whose desire to play against BCS-sized post players led her to transfer to USC. On the plus side, UMass transfer Kristina Danella has the potential to essentially replace what the Red Foxes lost in Oliver. They also still have Corielle Yarde, who used the NCAA Tournament spotlight to drop 25 points and snag 12 rebounds against Duke. And they still have coach Brian Giorgis, whose system continues to produce quality teams from talented but often under-the-radar parts.
Season opener: Nov. 16 vs. Villanova

8. Toledo (29-8, WNIT champions)
We fell in love with this team - and its star, Naama Shamir (15.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) - during its electrifying six-game run to the WNIT title. So did the Rockets fans, as a MAC-record 7,301 of 'em turned out to see Shamir drop 40 points on USC in the title game. The Blades must replace two-time All-MAC performer Melissa Goodhall and 3-point specialist Melissa Williams. But Akron transfer center Kyle Baumgartner and Illinois transfer forward Brianna Jones will bring much-needed size, and Spain import Inma Zanoguera should make an immediate impact. In other words, the Rockets should be a tough out again, particularly at their Savage Arena, where they won all six of their WNIT games and have gone 43-4 under coach Tricia Cullop.
Season opener: Nov. 13 vs. Dayton

9. Duquesne (24-9, WNIT third round)
Four talented and versatile starters, including preseason All-Atlantic 10 picks Vanessa Abel and Alex Gensler and 2010-11 conference rookie of the year Wumi Agunbiade, return from a group that set a school record for victories and reached the third round of the WNIT. Program has improved steadily under fifth-year coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, and if they can clean up the occasional rash of turnovers, no one should be surprised if these Dukes are the last team standing at the A-10 tournament.
Season opener: Nov. 11 at St. Francis (Pa.)

10. Memphis (21-13, WNIT first round)
All signs point to a breakthrough season for the Tigers, the preseason Conference USA favorites who are bidding for their first league title since 1998. Leading the way will be preseason all-league player of the year Brittany Carter, who averaged a team-high 13.4 ppg despite playing half the season with stress fracture in her foot, and fellow all-conference pick Jasmine Lee (12.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg).
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. Saint Louis

11. Middle Tennessee State (23-8, NCAA first round)
Most teams suffer when forced to play a lot of freshmen and sophomores; the Blue Raiders still made it to the NCAA Tournament. They'll miss four-year starter/leader Anne Marie Lanning and the late Tina Stewart, who was stabbed to death in her apartment last March. But Ebony Rowe (17.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg) is coming off a sensational freshman year, and while the Blue Raiders are still a young team, they'll no doubt remain a very good one.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. UNC Wilmington at Penn State's Lady Lion Classic

12. Louisiana Tech (24-8, NCAA first round)
Not sure how the Lady Techsters can replace WAC Player of the Year Adrienne Johnson, who finished up as the fifth-leading scorer in one of the sport's most storied programs. Consider this pick a show of faith in the abilities of coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who has done a bang-up job of reviving LaTech women's hoops.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. Missouri State

13.Princeton (24-5, NCAA first round)
The two-time defending Ivy League champion Tigers will miss unanimous conference Player of the Year Addie Micir. But they will welcome back first-team All-Ivy performers Devona Allgood and Lauren Edwards, defensive player of the year Lauren Polansky and probably the league's best player in Niveen Rasheed, who was averaging 16.2 points and 7.3 rebounds before tearing her ACL in late December. All this talent will again be blended expertly by one of the nation's best young coaches in Courtney Banghart.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. St. Joseph's

14. VCU (19-12, WNIT first round)
Four senior starters will try to go out in style, including Division I rebounding leader Courtney Hurt (who also averaged 23.4 ppg) and elite scoring guard Andrea Barbour. Should be hot on Delaware's heels in the race for the Colonial Athletic Association title.
Season opener: Nov. 11 vs. High Point

15. St. Joseph's (20-12, WNIT second round)
The tenaciously defending Hawks return all five starters from a year ago, most notably clutch senior guard Michelle Baker. That they're picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 says a lot about the perceived strength of that league.
Season opener: Nov. 11 at Princeton

On the verge

Hofstra, Cal Poly, Charlotte, Hampton, St. Bonaventure, Missouri State, Central Arkansas, Rice, Liberty, San Diego State, James Madison, Drexel, Denver, Bowling Green, Portland State, Central Michigan, UC Santa Barbara, UMBC, Navy

Whatever happened to....
(Traditional powers now in re-group mode)

Xavier - Huge graduation losses (Amber Harris, Ta'Shia Phillips), a key transfer to Maryland (Katie Rutan) and the move by former coach Kevin McGuff to Washington. The Musketeers were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10. 

Old Dominion - All but one starter is gone, and long-time coach Wendy Larry has stepped down, although the future does look promising under new coach Karen Barefoot.

Northern Iowa - Fortunes were compromised when reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Jacqui Kalin was lost for the season with a knee injury. Will still be good; we're just no longer sure how good.

Houston - Returns just one starter and five letterwinners from last season's NCAA Tournament qualifier.

TCU - Graduated its top two performers in Emily Carter and Helena Sverrisdottir, then recently lost its top returner Starr Crawford (12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg) for the season to a concussion.


  1. You do a great job with the Mids - we got a great Mid-Major match up early this year when #7 Marist plays at #13 Princeton Mon. Nov 21

  2. I find it interesting that you and other sources discount UC Davis in the Big West.

    Last year they defeated UCSB both times they played them and beat Cal Poly 2 out of 3 times, the last being for the Big West Championship.

    But somehow, UCSB and Cal Poly are mentioned and UC Dais is not.

  3. No disrespect intended to UC Davis, or any other team for that matter. We looked at how the Aggies lose two all-conference starters from a year ago, have a new coach and are picked to finish behind UCSB and Cal Poly in the Big West preseason poll. Doesn't mean they can't still have a fine season. We'd just like to see this group play a few games before we pile on the expectations.

  4. I like this blog. I'm rated a 4 star player on 2013 hoopgurlz and is considering a mid-major college. I have offers from major division I schools and feel that a mid major would be a great fit for me. I told that to a team mate of minds and she asked me was I crazy. I see alot of top players going to top programs and not getting the playing time they want or it's not what they thought it was going be. I believe the time is now to show players that mid major schools have a lot to offer and the ideal of going to one is not crazy.