Women's Basketball: Solid Ceiling, Shaky Foundation

Much as I expected, the top 10 teams are practically unchanged from the previous week: Saskatchewan first, Windsor second, Western third, Carleton and Regina 4th and 5th (I'm still putting Regina at a tentative 4th, but I'll give Carleton the benefit of the doubt and say a grudge match could go either way), and the Varsity Blues at 6th. In fact, with Winnipeg and Alberta rounding out the bottom of the rankings this week, it's only Cape Breton and UNB that have moved at all -- and even then, it's only a 7/8 flip (which is something you'd hardy call substantial).

Now, maybe I'm getting too far ahead of myself (what with a full month still left in the season and all), but I'm already picturing these teams going up against each other at nationals. There'd be Regina and Alberta spitting dust behind their tires in all-out races... or maybe Western diving high posts off of 3-point ball screen plays while Saskatchewan held the fortress with a solid zone... or Toronto chucking long twos while Carleton's big rebounders pull down another 40-plus rebounds and bring yet another game to an overtime cage fight.

And yet, I still feel like it's premature to ignore the rest of the unranked teams. That's not to say that I disagree with the rankings -- aside from my Cougar-esque waffling, I think the numbers are a pretty solid representation of how teams have been doing this far. It's just that, ultimately, I'm of the opinion that (as she repeats, for yet another long-winded time) a top 10 should be more of a top 20 -- which is why I'm extra excited for playoffs to start, so I can tune in to all of the upsets.

Let's put it this way: in an attempt to phrase this as un-egotistically as possible, when I played varsity we were often ranked fairly high (and, let's be honest, more than a few teams had a solid hate-on for us). But, that's the nature of sport: doesn't matter who's at the top, whether it's the Lancers or the Huskies or anyone else, if you're ranked at or near the top then whoever comes up against you is going to bring their A game when they do. So, think of it this way: you're an arguably-could-have-been-or-at-least-at-some-recent-point-were-ranked team, like UBC or Victoria or Laval, and suddenly in playoffs you come up against a higher rank. Ha! you think, this is my chance: it's my last go at a playoff spot, and this squad is just sitting comfortably in the spot I need. Heck, they probably think they've earned it or something. Yeah, yeah, life is so wonderful at the top, isn't it? Well, I'm going to knock you off of your pedestal [insert obscene stream of expletives here].

Now, imagine you're a team like UVic or UBC, only a handful of games back (and, in UVic's case, has the exact same number of wins) from first and second place. You're telling me you're going to complacently accept your fate, docile as a Hindu cow? I don't think so. You are not your possessions, space monkeys. And no, you are not your ranking either.

And, already, I see this resentment producing results. Alberta and Winnipeg's split, for example? Granted, both teams are ranked, but after knocking UVic out of the top ten with a full sweep just a couple weeks ago, you would think that maybe the Wesmen would take a more commanding stance against their prairie brethren. Other examples, you say? Oh, certainly! Why, there's Victoria's thundering of Brandon (granted, most pundits would see this coming, but from a player's stance this is still an obvious reassertion and initial reclamation of power); Ottawa's overtime cage match with Carleton; or even Laurier's mere 6-point differential behind 3rd-ranked, and consistently dominant, Western.

So, in conclusion? Let me put it this way. Yes, I think the rankings are pretty solid as is, and seeing them virtually unchanged from the previous week only serves to solidify my opinion. Do I think they might change significantly before the end of season, however? Absolutely. At they very top, perhaps not; through the middle and latter portions, yes, it's a distinct possibility. After all, even if top 10 teams aren't playing each other much, the rankings still come down to a coach's vote, and if you throw in a few commanding W's (or maybe an upset or two) then I see potential for at least some fear (if not more) moving through the ranks of the upper crust.
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