FanHouse Terrific 12: A Few Surprises in Major Conferences Races
As the big six conferences approach the halfway point of their respective league schedules, virtually all of the races have a surprise team or more in the mix.
Only the Pac-10 has broken true to expected form, as Stanford and UCLA have effectively gone to the head of the class alone. In the ACC, Georgia Tech and Miami have risen along with Florida State to challenge Duke. Connecticut has a narrow lead in the Big East, but DePaul and Rutgers are also surprisingly unbeaten in league play with Notre Dame and West Virginia just behind with a loss each.
Every Big Ten team has a loss, but Michigan State has a half-game lead over Wisconsin and a full game over surprising Michigan and Penn State, while the expected leader, Ohio State, is in the middle.
The other power leagues are going as might have been predicted. In the Big 12, three teams -- Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma -- have separated themselves from the pack with unbeaten marks. The Aggies travel to the Sooners and are hosting the Lady Bears this week.
Tennessee, meanwhile, leads the SEC, but Georgia, not Kentucky, is the leading challenger. Both teams are unbeaten in league play and are at least 1.5 games clear of the rest of the field.
Terrific 12 Teams of the Week:
1. Baylor -- Lady Bears have won 15 straight, all by double digits
2. Connecticut -- Samarie Walker's transfer to Kentucky may leave Huskies thin in the post.
3. Duke -- Blue Devils hold Georgia Tech to lowest point total in 995 games.
4. Stanford -- Path to an unbeaten Pac-10 season cleared significantly with win over UCLA last week.
5. Tennessee -- Road contests with Arkansas and Kentucky may shape SEC race.
6. Texas A&M -- Can Aggies stake claim to NCAA regional berth in Dallas ahead of Baylor? Sunday's game could provide answer.
7. Xavier -- May not get Atlantic-10 challenge until end of regular season meeting with Temple.
8. Notre Dame -- Since three-point loss to UConn, Irish have won next four by average of 26.8 points.
9. West Virginia -- Will soft non-conference schedule undo Mountaineers in Big East play?
10. UCLA -- Home games with Arizona and Arizona State give Bruins a chance to bounce back from Stanford loss.
11. Michigan State -- Spartans are off to best start in school history.
12. Maryland -- Young Terps on verge of making charge in ACC.
Terrific 12 Players of the Week:
Adrienne Johnson, Louisiana Tech -- The senior forward followed up a 36-point, 13-rebound performance against Utah State with 26 points against Nevada. Johnson sank 24-of-25 free throws in the two games.
Maya Moore, Connecticut -- The NCAA's active scoring leader dropped 20 on North Carolina ... in the first half. All in all, Moore averaged 27 points and 10.5 rebounds in the Huskies' two wins last week.
Alyssa Thomas, Maryland -- With a pair of double-doubles, including a 16-point, 13-rebound performance against North Carolina, Thomas kept pace with Georgia Tech's Ty Marshall for ACC Rookie of the Year honors.
Kayla Pedersen, Stanford -- The 6-foot-3 forward (shown right) shot 63 percent from the field and 57 percent from three-point range in leading the Cardinal to big wins over UCLA and USC.
Marke Freeman, Northern Illinois -- Freeman, a senior guard, just missed a triple double in a win over Ball State, with 30 points, nine steals and eight rebounds.
Brittney Griner, Baylor -- The All-American center went for 25 points, seven rebounds and six blocks in a win over Texas Tech to keep the Lady Bears unbeaten in Big 12 play.
Courtney Vandersloot, Gonzaga -- The senior guard averaged 18 points and nine assists in a pair of wins to help the Zags stay unbeaten in West Coast Conference play.
Jantel Lavender, Ohio State -- The senior center turned in an impressive line of 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the Buckeyes' must-have win over Iowa.
Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee -- The 6-foot-2 junior bewildered South Carolina down low and on the perimeter, on the way to 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Mia Nickson, Penn State -- Nickson, a sophomore, scored 25 and pulled down 17 rebounds -- 14 on the offensive glass -- in Penn State's win over Indiana.
LaSondra Barrett, LSU -- The junior scored 17 of her 19 points against Mississippi in the first half, and followed it with a double-double against Florida.
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame -- The South Bend native had 22 points, six assists and four rebounds in the Irish's win over Georgetown to keep Notre Dame in the Big East race.
Terrific 12 Games of the Week:
West Virginia at Georgetown, Jan. 25 -- Hoyas need win to get out of middle of Big East pack.
Connecticut at Rutgers, Jan.26 -- The Scarlet Knights' quiet unbeaten Big East run gets its sternest test at home against the Huskies.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma, Jan. 26 -- The first of two Big 12 showdowns this week between the league's top three teams.
Michigan State at Iowa, Jan. 27 -- Spartans nipped the Hawkeyes by three in East Lansing two weeks ago.
James Madison at Drexel, Jan. 27 -- A Dragon win further muddles already tight CAA race.
Arizona State at UCLA, Jan. 27 -- After loss to Stanford, Bruins need win to keep Cardinal in view for Pac-10 title.
Richmond at Temple, Jan. 29 -- An Owls win could keep them unbeaten until end of February showdown with Xavier.
Baylor at Texas A&M, Jan. 30 -- The winner takes a big leap forward towards a top seed in March's conference tournament.
Ohio State at Penn State, Jan. 30 -- Surprising Lady Lions lead nation in three-point percentage.
Georgia Tech at Miami, Jan. 30 -- Hurricanes test nation's best backcourt against tough Yellow Jacket defense.
Duke at Connecticut, Jan. 31 -- A No. 1 NCAA tournament seed could be up for grabs.
Siena at Marist, Jan. 31 -- A Marist win essentially locks up the MAAC regular season title.