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Posted: Tuesday January 6, 2009 3:49PM; Updated: Tuesday January 6, 2009 4:02PM
Tracy Schultz Tracy Schultz >

Sooners, Lady Vols on the rise

Monday turned out to be a tough night for a couple of Big 12 contenders. Texas A&M and Texas took hits on the road. The Aggies suffered their first loss, 60-53 at Florida State. The Longhorns dropped a 66-55 decision at Purdue.

NCAA Women's Hoops Power Rankings
1Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: 1
With six assists in a win over LSU, Renee Montgomery joined Jennifer Rizzotti and Diana Taurasi as the program's third player to reach 1,500 points and 500 assists. Montgomery also drew big praise from LSU coach Van Chancellor, who coached the U.S. to Olympic gold in 2004. "I told Renee, 'last year you were telling me that you didn't know if you deserved to be an All-American. You do," he said. "You are going to be one of the Olympic point guards."
Next three: 1/6 at South Florida; 1/10 at West Virginia; 1/13 vs. DePaul
2North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 2
Sylvia Hatchell is more interested in conference titles than individual milestones. Still, she has a chance to reach one this week. If her team can knock off Clemson and rival North Carolina State, Hatchell will join Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and C. Vivian Stringer in the 800-win club.
Next three: 1/8 at Clemson; 1/11 vs. N.C. State; 1/16 vs. Virginia
3Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 5
The Sooners showed Sunday what they are capable of if teams put too much focus on stopping the inside game. Oklahoma knocked down 10 three-pointers and put up 89 points. Yes, it was against North Carolina Central. If they can carry that shooting to the Big 12, the Sooners will be tough to beat.
Next three: 1/10 at Nebraska; 1/14 vs. Kansas State; 1/18 vs. Texas A&M
4Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: 6
Pat Summitt is making her case for Coach of the Year after she managed to find just the right way to challenge and motivate her young team on the road. The Lady Vols rallied from 20 points down to beat Rutgers 55-51 in the biggest comeback in program history.
Next three: 1/8 vs. Kentucky; 1/11 at Vanderbilt; 1/15 at Mississippi State
5Baylor Bears
Last Week: 7
The weather that prompted Baylor to postpone its game against California might be a blessing in disguise. The Bears had two weeks to rest up before facing the rigors of the Big 12. They sure looked ready on Saturday in what could have been a trap game. Baylor was focused on the task at hand in the 95-55 win against Texas State.
Next three: 1/10 at Colorado; 1/14 vs. Iowa State; 1/17 vs. Oklahoma State
6Auburn Tigers
Last Week: 8
Off to their best start in 10 years, the Tigers have to feel pretty confident going into conference play. Auburn is one of just six undefeated teams left in Division I, and the only one from the SEC. "Our preseason goals were to win championships and go undefeated in the preseason and we accomplished one of those goals today," guard Sherell Hobbs said after Saturday's win over Stephen F. Austin. "Our next goal is to win the SEC championship."
Next three: 1/8 at South Carolina; 1/11 vs. Florida; 1/18 at Arkansas
7Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: 3
Coming off your first loss isn't the best way to go into conference play, but the Aggies will be fine. They don't have much choice to dwell on the slip at Florida State. The Aggies are headed to Missouri, then Oklahoma, where they lost last season.
Next three: 1/10 at Missouri; 1/18 at Oklahoma; 1/21 vs. Baylor
8Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 9
The Blue Devils have put things together, winning 10 straight since getting upset by Hartford in November. They're getting consistent play in the paint, where senior Chante Black has scored at least 10 points every game. Black could have her hands full against a Maryland team that has three players matching her eight rebounds a game.
Next three: 1/9 vs. Miami; 1/12 vs. Maryland; 1/16 at Virginia Tech
9Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: 10
The Cardinal took care of a key part of the Pac-10 schedule -- the first road trip. Wins at Arizona and Arizona State are big for a team with a .500 record on the road. With all the attention All-America Jayne Appel draws, her teammates have helped carry the load. Jillian Harmon put up 28 points and 16 rebounds in the 2-0 conference start.
Next three: 1/8 vs. Washington; 1/10 vs. Washington State; 1/18 at California
10Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 4
Brittainey Raven discussed her team's lack of intensity after falling to Purdue on Monday, Texas' second loss in three games. The Longhorns better find it. With what should be one of the easier starts to conference play, they have a chance to jump out in front of the Big 12 race. They open conference play against three teams picked to finish in the bottom half of the standings.
Next three: 1/10 at Texas Tech; 1/14 vs. Nebraska; 1/17 vs. Colorado
11Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 11
Already on a nine-game winning streak, Louisville has a chance to gain an advantage on one key contender in the Big East. In their only game against Rutgers, the Cardinals get to play on their home court, where they've won 48 of their last 52 games.
Next three: 1/7 vs. Seton Hall; 1/11 vs. Rutgers; 1/14 at USF
12California Golden Bears
Last Week: 12
The Golden Bears are accustomed to leaning on Ashley Walker, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Devanei Hampton. Other options have emerged during their three-game winning streak, though. Freshman Casey Morris had 28 points in wins over St. Mary's and Arizona and junior Natasha Vital put up a team-high 19 in Sunday's win at Arizona State.
Next three: 1/8 vs. Washington State; 1/11 vs. Washington; 1/18 vs. Stanford
13Maryland Terrapins
Last Week: 14
Maryland, which handed Mississippi State its first loss last week, is headed for an interesting ACC opener. The Terrapins face a Wake Forest team that is confident with a 12-0 record.
Next three: 1/8 at Wake Forest; 1/12 at Duke; 1/15 at Clemson
14Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 15
In addition to a balanced offense, Notre Dame has a defense that's been even better than last season's record-setting unit, which forced 21.7 turnovers a game. Opponents are giving the ball up 22.2 times a game this season.
Next three: 1/6 at DePaul; 1/12 at Illinois; 1/15 vs. Minnesota
15Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 12-2
Defense is certainly working for Ohio State. The Buckeyes held their first three Big Ten opponents to less than 60 points. Pressure has been a key. OSU harassed Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan into 62 turnovers. If they can keep that up, things should work out just fine for the Buckeyes. They're unbeaten when they keep teams under that 60 mark.
Next three: 01/06 at Wisconsin; 01/10 vs. Georgetown; 01/13 at Marquette
16Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Last Week: 13
How do you recover from a second-half collapse in which you blew a 20-point lead? You trust try to forget and move on.
Next three: 01/6 at Syracuse; 01/11 at Louisville; 01/14 at Villanova

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