Shake up in women’s basketball power rankings

There was plenty of movement as teams jockey for position

UNC guard Alyssa Ustby is nearly averaging a double-double this season for the Tar Heels, scoring 12.5 point with 9.7 rebounds per game. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

Five weeks ago, when we released our first set of North Carolina women’s basketball power rankings, NC State was coming off a pair of surprising losses but still managed to hold onto the top spot in our countdown.

As we prepare to flip the calendar to March, our updated power rankings come at a very similar crossroads for the Wolfpack. Once again, State is trying to rebound from a pair of losses, and once again, the cold stretch is not enough to knock the Wolfpack out of the No. 1 spot.

That’s where the similarities between our Jan. 22 rankings and this updated version end, however. There has been plenty of movement among the other women’s teams in our state as teams jockey for position before it becomes net-cutting season.

Here’s a look at the latest power rankings, which, as we learned over the last month-plus, are subject to change.

19. Queens: The Royals were No. 16 in January, but since then, they’ve gone 1-9 and fallen into the bottom spot in the Atlantic Sun standings, two and a half games behind the next worst team in the conference. The analytics site has the Royals at No. 347 in the nation.

18. Western Carolina: The Catamounts dropped one spot after going 1-8 since the first power rankings were released. The Catamounts are actually ranked below Queens in the NET, which is used by the NCAA selection committee for seeding, but neither team needs to worry about that. Analytics has Western at No. 339.

17. UNC Wilmington: The bottom tier of the state’s women’s teams is not a pleasant place to visit. The Seahawks are yet another team in the bottom 20 of the NET and analytics ratings. At No. 351, they are the worst NET team in the state. They actually moved up one spot in our rankings after a 2-6 month, coupled with terrible months by the two teams now below them.

16. Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs went 4-5 since Jan. 22, which, while not great, is enough to move them out of last place and up three spots. They’re also almost as close to third place (two games out) as last place (a game and a half out) in the Big South.

15. UNC Asheville: The Bulldogs have a worse record than Gardner-Webb in the Big South, occupying the bottom spot at 4-11. Their 10-18 overall mark is better, however, as are their NET and analytics ratings. They’ve gone 3-7 since Jan. 22 and remain in the 15th spot in our rankings.

14. Elon: The Phoenix have gone 2-7 over the last five weeks and have lost three straight. Elon is now 9-19 on the season, 5-10 in the CAA and down two spots in our rankings. Most troubling is the 1-10 record at home for the Phoenix.

13. Wake Forest: The Deacs actually moved up a spot despite a 2-7 record over the last five weeks. They leapfrogged Elon because 2-7 in the ACC trumps 2-7 in the CAA. Wake won back-to-back games for the first time this season, beating Georgia Tech and Pitt for their first two road wins of the year.

12. NC Central: The Eagles have gone 4-3 since late January, but their NET and analytics ratings are still in the high 200s or low 300s. A 6-4 record in the MEAC is good for a tie for third place, and, as the men’s team has shown plenty of times, anything can happen in the MEAC Conference tourney.

11. Campbell: The Camels move up two spots in the rankings thanks to a 5-3 month. Campbell is 14-11 and has won back-to-back games, pulling to .500 in the CAA at 7-7.

10. UNC Greensboro: The middle of the power rankings doesn’t see a lot of movement since most of the teams have hovered around .500 since the last set of rankings came out. The Spartans have gone 5-4 and are in the middle of the pack in the SoCon, at 18-10 overall, 7-6 in the conference.

9. Appalachian State: The Mountaineers have gone 5-5 since landing at No. 8 in the first set of rankings. They’ve beaten the teams ranked below them and lost to the teams ranked above, which has helped keep them in the middle of our rankings as well as the Sun Belt standings.

8. East Carolina: The Pirates also went 5-4 and would have held serve at No. 9 in the power rankings, but their NET and analytics numbers move them up one notch. They are No. 111 in the NET, nearly 100 spots above UNCG and 50 above App.

7. Davidson: The Wildcats are at the top of the “treading water tier” after going 5-4 since Jan. 22. They’ve lost three straight, but two of those were forfeits as the program deals with non-COVID health problems that have forced them to cancel a pair of winnable games against Dayton and Fordham.

6. NC A&T: The Aggies are in second place in the CAA, a game out of the top spot, after going 7-2 since the first set of rankings. They’ll need to win the conference tournament to get a bid, however. They’ll play first-place Stony Brook for the first time this weekend, which could boost them up in our power rankings.

5. High Point: The Panthers don’t have an impressive NET rating — just No. 262 in the nation — or analytics profile. However, they lead the Big South by two and a half games and are projected to be the only non-ACC team from the state to make the tournament, with an expected No. 16 seed. High Point has gone 8-1 since the first set of rankings. They also have an eight-game winning streak, which moved them past the Aggies, who have a better NET rating.

4. Charlotte: The 49ers had a rough month, going 4-5 and falling out of the top three in the state. Bad losses to 10-16 Tulane and 9-17 FAU, two of the bottom three teams in the AAC, torpedoed any hope of an at-large NCAA bid. Charlotte also missed the chance to help itself by dropping toss-up games against ECU and SMU.

3. UNC: Five weeks ago, the Tar Heels were leading the ACC and No. 2 in our rankings. A 4-5 month has them looking at a No. 6 or 7 seed in the NCAAs. They’re currently tied for seventh in the ACC. They followed their win over NC State with a loss at Virginia Tech that could have given a significant boost to their resume.

2. Duke: The Blue Devils are making a bit of a late-season run, going 6-3 since the previous power rankings. They’ve faced a brutal five-game schedule — at Virginia Tech and Syracuse and home against UNC, Notre Dame and NC State — against teams all ranked in the top 30. The Blue Devils went 3-2 against them.

1. NC State: The Wolfpack are still the team to beat in the state despite back-to-back double-digit losses. State lost to Carolina and Duke on the road. So there’s no reason to panic. Still, the Pack is 3-3 in their last six and is probably looking at a No. 3 seed.