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Women’s college basketball Power Rankings: Utah up, Iowa down, Duke debuts


    M.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

ESPN’s women’s college basketball Power Rankings took a one-week holiday break but are back with a few top-10 changes (welcome, Utah), some large drops (Iowa is hanging on by a thread) and a huge jump in from Duke. All this, and the conference portion of the regular season is just getting started.

Duke’s lone loss was in November at the Phil Knight Legacy tournament to UConn, which also had a good week and returns to the Power Rankings’ top five. The Blue Devils needed a big win to get them into ranking consideration, and they got it against rival NC State. They confirmed their status with a victory over Louisville.

The Wolfpack dropped three spots but remain in the top 10. However, North Carolina is out of the Power Rankings for the first time this season after losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech.

There are just five remaining undefeated teams in Division I, with four of them in the Power Rankings. The fifth is the St. John’s Red Storm, one of several teams knocking on the door. It’s going to be an interesting 2023.

Illinois’ Genesis Bryant drains the jumper and draws the foul

Genesis Bryant knocks down a jump shot and draws the foul for the and-1.

Player of the Week: Genesis Bryant, Illinois Fighting Illini

Bryant had a career-high 24 points in Sunday’s upset of Iowa, including 14 in the fourth quarter. The junior was 8-of-10 from the field, making all three of her 3-point attempts, to go along with four rebounds and three assists. She also had a triple-double Dec. 21 against Florida Atlantic.

Bryant, who spent her first two seasons with NC State, is averaging 14.5 points this season at Illinois. She’s part of a three-guard attack with Makira Cook (18.5 PPG) and Adalia McKenzie (16.5 PPG) that has led first-year Illinois coach Shauna Green to an 11-2 mark so far. The Illini didn’t quite break into the Power Rankings this week but could be ranked in the Associated Press poll.

Duke outlasts NC State for ACC win

Duke avoids the upset and picks up the double-digit win over NC State.

Team of the Week: Duke Blue Devils

Coach Kara Lawson said her biggest concern over the offseason was getting better defensively, and the Blue Devils have done that. They lead the ACC in scoring defense, allowing 50.3 PPG. They are 10th in the league in scoring offense (71.2 PPG), but that hasn’t been a problem because of how they’ve limited other teams.

Wins this past week over NC State on the road and Louisville at home sent a message that 13-1 Duke looks ready to be a strong challenger in the ACC this season.

Michigan State beats No. 4 Indiana

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans: Full Highlights

Win of the Week: Michigan State Spartans 83, Indiana Hoosiers 78

The Spartans handed the Hoosiers their first loss this season, as Michigan State is on a three-game upswing after losing five in a row. But that losing streak actually seemed to help the Spartans because of how tough the competition was. It included three ranked opponents, including unbeaten Ohio State. The Spartans’ losses to unranked Georgia Tech and Purdue were by a combined eight points, the latter in overtime.

In other words, Michigan State was due a big win, and the Spartans got it Thursday, led by senior guard Kamaria McDaniel‘s 24 points.

Coach of the Week: Carrie Moore, Harvard Crimson

Harvard broke Princeton‘s 42-game Ivy League winning streak on Saturday with a 67-59 victory. Moore previously was a big part of Princeton’s success as a Tigers assistant to Courtney Banghart, whom she followed to North Carolina in 2019.

Last season, Moore was an assistant for Michigan, which went to the Elite Eight. In April, she took over for Harvard legend Kathy Delaney-Smith, who retired after 40 seasons.

Moore, who is Western Michigan‘s all-time scoring leader, also spent five seasons as an assistant for Creighton. She is starting a new era for the Crimson, and no better way to begin the Ivy League portion of her tenure than with a win over Harvard’s longtime rival.

Power Rankings

Cooke says Gamecocks’ win vs. Aggies was about rhythm

Following the 76-34 victory over Texas A&M, Zia Cooke explains how No. 1 South Carolina got into a flow early and details the intense competition at practice.

1. South Carolina Gamecocks (13-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Georgia (Monday), vs. Auburn (Thursday), at Mississippi State (Sunday)

Whatever conference chaos might be going on elsewhere, things are calm and status quo for the defending national champions. They beat Texas A&M 76-34 in a game in which the South Carolina bench got a lot of time. This week will be busier, including two road trips.

2. Stanford Cardinal (14-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Arizona (Monday), at California (Sunday)

Stanford dispensed with Arizona State 101-69 on Saturday for its final win of 2022, led by Cameron Brink‘s double-double. The Cardinal open the new year with Arizona, which has just one loss, to Kansas. Can the Wildcats give Pac-12 mega-favorite Stanford a test?

3. Ohio State Buckeye0073 (15-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Minnesota (Thursday), vs. Illinois (Sunday)

The Buckeyes got the bad news that Madison Greene is out for the season with a knee injury suffered Dec. 21, and fellow guard Jacy Sheldon remains out, too. Yet the Buckeyes keep on winning. After winning the San Diego Invitational before Christmas, Ohio State moved to 4-0 in the Big Ten this past week with victories over Northwestern and Michigan.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: at North Carolina (Sunday)

The Irish survived a challenge by Miami 66-63 on Thursday and then pummeled Boston College on Sunday 85-48. They have a week to prepare for a North Carolina team that has started the ACC season 0-2 and will be eager to pull an upset.

5. UConn Huskies (11-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Butler (Tuesday), at Xavier (Thursday), vs. DePaul (Sunday)

Coach Geno Auriemma returned to the sideline after missing two games with illness, and likes what he’s seeing from the Huskies. With just seven players available, they dominated Creighton in one of Aaliyah Edwards‘ best games at UConn. The Huskies followed it with a win over Marquette. Despite the injuries and illness they’ve dealt with, the Huskies are back in the top five.

No. 9 LSU’s explosive offense overpowers Vanderbilt

Angel Reese and Alexis Morris record double-doubles as two other Tigers score in double digits to stay ahead of the Commodores 88-63 and remain undefeated.

6. LSU Tigers (14-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Texas A& (Thursday), at Kentucky (Sunday)

The Tigers outrebounded Arkansas and Vanderbilt by a combined 115-52 this past week, easily winning both games to start SEC play 2-0. Not surprisingly, coach Kim Mulkey said rebounding is going to be a major part of the Tigers’ identity this season. Angel Reese has 14 consecutive double-doubles.

7. Indiana Hoosiers (13-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Northwestern (Sunday)

The loss at Michigan State ended the Hoosiers’ undefeated season, but what matters more is how they responded. In a tough battle at home against Nebraska, Indiana outscored the Huskers 12-0 in overtime. It was a grind-it-out win showing the Hoosiers’ resolve.

8. Utah Utes (14-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Colorado (Friday)

Maybe we’ve been holding back the Utes a little too much in past Power Rankings, but they deserve their spot in the top 10. They have just one win over a ranked team, at home vs. Oklahoma in mid-November, but have taken care of business and started the Pac-12 season 3-0.

NC State edge back-and-forth game vs. Syracuse

NC State storms back in the fourth quarter to overcome Syracuse 56-54.

9. NC State Wolfpack (12-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Boston College (Thursday), vs. Virginia (Sunday)

The Wolfpack’s loss to Duke showed how much they are missing the leadership and floor management of injured guard Diamond Johnson. That was also true Sunday at Syracuse, but they gutted out a 56-54 win, rallying from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit.

10. Iowa State Cyclones (9-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. West Virginia (Wednesday), at Oklahoma (Sunday)

No program is better known for 3-pointers than Iowa State. That they made just 4-of-26 from behind the arc in their Big 12 opener at Texas Tech, but still won by 23 points, shows the Cyclones have many other things to rely on — including Stephanie Soares‘ presence inside, Emily Ryan‘s playmaking and Ashley Joens‘ clutch scoring. Sunday’s game on ESPN2 will have Joens and younger sister, Aubrey, who transferred from Iowa State to Oklahoma, on opposite sides for the first time.

Check out this sweet dish from Georgia Amoore

Check out this sweet dish from Georgia Amoore

11. Virginia Tech Hokies (12-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Virginia (Thursday), at Miami (Sunday)

The Hokies’ loss at unranked Clemson dropped them from the top 10. But give credit to the Tigers, whose four losses are to teams that are or have been ranked, including No. 1 South Carolina. Virginia Tech bounced back from that loss with an important 68-65 win over North Carolina in which Georgia Amoore was fouled with 1.8 seconds left and made three free throws.

12. Michigan Wolverines (12-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Penn State (Tuesday), vs. Iowa (Saturday)

The Wolverines beat Nebraska led by Leigha Brown, a former Husker, and got coach Kim Barnes Arico’s 500th career victory. But the Wolverines were hurt by going 2-of-17 from behind the arc in a loss at Ohio State. Still, Michigan is playing well enough to rejoin the Power Rankings for the second time this season.

13. Maryland Terrapins (11-3)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Monday), vs. Michigan State Spartans (Saturday)

The Terps have won four in a row since their loss to Nebraska on Dec. 4. They were last in the Power Rankings in Week 2 and have returned. The Big Ten is going to be very interesting this season, and Maryland is likely to be right in the thick of things, even if the Terps are prone to some ups and downs.

Illinois and Iowa trade 3s down the stretch

The fighting Illini and Hawkeyes trade 3s down the stretch in a tightly contested fourth quarter.

14. UCLA Bruins (13-2)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. USC Trojans (Sunday)

The Bruins lost senior guard Charisma Osborne to a shoulder injury in their victory over Oregon on Friday, and that hurt them in a subsequent loss Sunday at Oregon State. Freshman Kiki Rice had a combined 41 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds on the trip to Oregon, but the Bruins will be eager to see Osborne return.

15. Duke Blue Devils (13-1)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Thursday)

Duke is in the Power Rankings for the first time this season. The key player in the Blue Devils’ victory over NC State was guard Celeste Taylor, with 23 points and eight rebounds. Against Louisville, it was forward Elizabeth Balogun, who had season highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds against her former team.

16. Iowa Hawkeyes (11-4)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Michigan (Saturday)

The Hawkeyes’ familiar concern stung them Sunday: an inability to get key stops at crunch time. Caitlin Clark, Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock combined for 73 points, but it wasn’t enough at resurgent Illinois. Iowa beat Purdue by 15 points on Thursday, and for now, the Hawkeyes hold on in the Power Rankings. But many teams are nipping at their heels, and their upcoming game at Michigan — where Clark scored a career-high 46 points last season — looms very large.

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