Reconsidering preseason rankings, and contemplating reconstruction

When looking back at the 2015-2016 preseason polls, below, there is not much about them that resembles current rankings. They are usually off, but not quite to this degree.

For starters, no one anticipated Tennessee and Duke dropping as far as they have. The Blue Devils fell out of the top 25 last month for the first time since 1999, and have suffered numerous losses since then. Their latest was being beat at home by Georgia Tech today for the first time in 23 years. Also today, the No. 24 Lady Vols’ lost their second game in six days, which should take them out of the rankings after a 565-week stint. It is nothing less than shocking – especially on the part of Tennessee, who returned center Mercedes Russell and were able to activate star transfer Diamond DeShields to add to an-already strong line up.

Less surprising has been the epic fall of roster-depleted North Carolina, who probably shouldn’t have been ranked in the first place. George Washington has been mostly out of the poll this season, but who knew Duquesne was going to dominate the Atlantic-10 and stay one step ahead of them? Northwestern’s tumble out of the rankings and into the double-digit loss column has been more puzzling. Then there is Chattanooga, at the top of the Southern Conference – a fact that apparently has not impressed voters enough to remain ranked.

Big ups to Louisville, which fell out of the rankings early on and fought their way back, stronger than ever. Their story should serve as an inspiration for all teams never to give up. Kudos also go to Texas and Arizona State – teams which each have overachieved all year long. Neither shows any sign of letting up. And a special nod goes to Kentucky, which is doing an amazing job considering all the players they’ve lost this season.

As for surprises, I’d say Miami and Florida tie for the biggest shockers to remain in the poll for an extended time. UCLA and Oklahoma State have also taken up residence in the top 25, but their appearances weren’t altogether unusual. Ditto, DePaul.

In the coaches poll we see Iowa, which has had an inexplicably inconsistent year, and Princeton, who isn’t as potent this season as last.

There have been other surprises outside of the rankings. One has been Iowa State, which is 13-13 and 5-10 in Big 12 play. Colorado, which was a ranked team just three seasons ago, lives at the bottom of the Pac-12 and collected just their second conference win today. Gonzaga is also taking some more time to adjust under new coach Lisa Fortier, and LSU seems to get worse every year.

Unranked overachievers include Missouri and Georgia in the SEC, Army in the Patriot League and South Dakota in the Summit League.

It’s an interesting time in women’s college basketball. Some of the traditional powers are declining, and only time will tell whether they will remain that way, as has Louisiana Tech. Other programs seem to be on the rise. And the effect of a third element – transfers – remains to be seen. On many teams, transfers are sitting out their required year, taking up a valuable spot on the roster. Schools that have lost players to transfers have holes on their benches of a different kind.

As I hear the anguished cries of Tennessee fans, and notice that around Los Angeles, there is no more Los Angeles Lakers gear, I am reminded that these times are also a test for fans. Women’s college hoops devotees: are you going to stick with your team, win or lose? Are you in it for the long haul?

Because I don’t think the reconstruction is finished yet.

Preseason rankings:

AP Top 25
1Connecticut (32)0-0800
2South Carolina0-0758
3Notre Dame0-0714
6Ohio State0-0570
7Florida State0-0551
10Oregon State0-0518
11Mississippi State0-0465
13Texas A&M0-0397
15Arizona State0-0347
20South Florida0-0202
21George Washington0-0171
22North Carolina0-094
24Michigan State0-061