Following Duke women's basketball's first back-to-back losses of the season, the Blue Zone is here with our thoughts on the latest rankings:
Duke falls to No. 21
Though the Blue Devils had a solid start to their season, reaching the poll for the first time and taking their opponents by storm, competition in the ACC has led to abrupt changes for the squad. Duke has proved itself competitive on multiple occasions—it tallied wins against Notre Dame and Syracuse, but a loss was firmly in the conversation in both of those victories. That conversation finally caught up with the group Monday morning, as the Blue Devils’ three conference losses led to a several-spot drop. Their losses include two handed to them by Virginia Tech, which has made a clear argument for being a stronger team than Duke, beating the Blue Devils on two occasions.
After losing a second time to Virginia Tech this week and facing a 24-point rout against No. 4 N.C. State, the Blue Devils now hold a 2-3 record in conference play. Virginia Tech remains unranked and N.C. State is stagnant but with nowhere to go as other teams within the top-10 have remained strong. Several weeks ago, the Wolfpack etched a massive 27-point win against then-No. 19 North Carolina. With another ranked opponent taking a massive hit to the same high-powered opponent, it makes sense why the Blue Devils were able to remain on the list, just not as high as they once were.
Virginia Tech still only receiving votes
The Hokies, twice victors in conference play against the Blue Devils, are still yet to make an appearance within the top 25. The group only had one opportunity to make an argument for itself this week, with Sunday's game against Clemson postponed, and that was against Duke Thursday night. Virginia Tech came out on top, finishing with a much-less-monstrous 11-point win compared to its previous 22-point victory against the Blue Devils, but still ended up 2-0 in competition with them. However, despite having received votes in the AP Poll for weeks and racking up one more conference win, the group’s efforts were not enough to make an appearance in this week's rankings.
Despite that, the Hokies remain a stumbling block for Duke, and though the two sides are not scheduled to play again this season, a postseason rematch is always a possibility. The Hokies have been one of the most significant challenges Duke has had to handle this season, with the group being able to flip a switch in both of their matches. How Virginia Tech fares in the rest of its season will serve as a measuring stick for the Blue Devils, whose most recent loss was within reach.
Top five remains the same
Since week seven, the top three teams in the AP Poll have consistently been No. 1 South Carolina, No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Louisville. Just behind those programs in the rankings released Jan. 10 were No. 4 N.C. State and No. 5 Tennessee. Those rankings were static this week, as each of the top-five teams upheld critical wins to stay on track.
The Gamecocks have remained at the very top since the preseason, only having recorded a single loss against unranked Missouri by one point. In two opportunities this week, the group continued to show excellence on the floor, winning by 20 points against Texas A&M and by nine against Arkansas. Following just behind, Stanford clinched two triumphs against then-No. 22 Colorado and Utah, Louisville handed Syracuse and Boston College losses, the Wolfpack finished big on Duke and Virginia and the Volunteers managed wins against Vanderbilt and then- No. 19 Kentucky, the latter being a 26-point victory. With no losses in the books this week, the top-five proved again that it will be a tough group to crack, which could be a problem for later in the season should the Blue Devils have to compete with one or more of them in the postseason.
1. South Carolina
4. N.C. State
7. Iowa State
18. Georgia Tech
19. Notre Dame
20. North Carolina
24. Florida Gulf Coast
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