San Diego, BYU and Arkansas State break into top-10 mid-major poll

Maya Hood, left, and sister Malina Hood combine for 34 points and 15.1 rebounds for 16-2 San Diego. Courtesy of Brock Sports Photography/University of San Diego

Believe it or not, we are running out of mid-major rankings. Only two more check-ins remain before conference tournaments will end the subjective portion of the season and settle which teams will get a chance to play David, or occasionally under-seeded Goliath, in the NCAA tournament.

And we haven't even had a chance yet to talk about Albany's perennially underrated Shereesha Richards, St. Bonaventure again punching above its weight (or at least its enrollment) and the pipeline apparently linking Colorado State to basketball courts across Scandinavia.

There are so many stories left to tell as the final month of the regular season approaches.

For now, let's get to the rankings.

1. Green Bay (15-2, 5-0 Horizon)

Last ranking: 1. Since: Road wins at Cleveland State (66-45) and Youngstown State (68-60), home wins vs. Valparaiso (81-42) and UIC (64-22)

Spotlight on: Best defense in town. If only the local NFL team had been similarly stingy during the weekend. On the basketball court, the Phoenix held UIC to six points in the first quarter, four points in the second, six points in the third and six points in the fourth quarter. The winning points came on Tesha Buck's 3-pointer with more than two minutes to spare in the first half. Hardly a team that slows the pace of play to a crawl, Green Bay nevertheless has yet to allow an opponent to score as many as 70 points. It also began the week sandwiched between Oregon State and Tennessee at No. 13 in the RPI.

What's ahead: A trip to Northern Kentucky on Thursday, coached by one of Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth's former players in his time at Michigan Tech, Dawn Plitzuweit, can't be overlooked (Borseth's former boss at Green Bay, Ken Bothof, is also the athletic director at Northern Kentucky). But Saturday's game at Wright State begins one of the most appealing conference series of the season.

2. Florida Gulf Coast (15-4, 3-0 Atlantic Sun)

Last ranking: 4. Since: Home wins vs. Stetson (61-48), USC Upstate (54-43) and NJIT (70-37)

Spotlight on: Three-pointers on the rise. Some teams wear throwback jerseys; FGCU staged a throwback night from the 3-point line in its rout of Atlantic Sun newcomer NJIT. The Eagles never went away from the 3-pointer. They entered the game against NJIT fourth in the nation in 3-point attempts. But the shot's heyday in Naples, Florida, was four or five years ago, perhaps around the 2010-11 season when FGCU attempted nearly 30 3-pointers per game and converted them at a 37 percent clip. The current efficiency still needs some work, but after launching 53 attempts against NJIT, two shy of the most in program history, we see yet one more area where Whitney Knight's return from injury matters.

What's ahead: Florida Gulf Coast's next three opponents are a combined 15-39 this season.

3. George Washington (15-3, 5-0 Atlantic 10)

Last ranking: 9. Since: Home wins vs. Rhode Island (68-58) and La Salle (83-59), road wins at Dayton (62-61) and Duquesne (70-52)

Spotlight on: Even superstars need help. Combine the quality of the opponent and the clinical way in which it was dispatched on its own court and Sunday's win at Duquesne might well rank as this team's most complete performance this season. Three blocks shy of a triple-double against the Dukes with 24 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks, Jonquel Jones has reached a phase, if not to the same degree also not entirely unlike Elena Delle Donne at Delaware, in which she appears to be playing at a level apart from her surroundings. But what turned the game at Duquesne into such a comfortable win was in part Hannah Schaible's complementary prowess. Unavailable the first three games of the season because of injury and limited to reserve minutes for weeks after that, she complements Jones and Caira Washington well.

What's ahead: It's about avoiding stumbles against Massachusetts, George Mason and Davidson, teams in the bottom half of the A-10 at the moment.

4. South Dakota (13-5, 4-1 Summit)

Last ranking: 7. Since: Road wins at South Dakota State (63-58) and North Dakota State (96-94 2 OT), road loss at Oral Roberts (60-56), home win vs. Omaha (82-76)

Spotlight on: Three minutes to remember. How do you convince people to look past a perplexing loss at Oral Roberts? You take over a game on the road against an arch rival the way South Dakota's Nicole Seekamp did this past weekend. Seekamp finished with 23 points and seven assists at South Dakota State, but she scored 11 points in the final 103 seconds as the lead seesawed. The spree included a back-foot-planted turnaround from just inside the 3-point line that looked like something out of the ABA film vault, clutch free throws and a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead with 13 seconds left. In fact, until she iced the win with two free throws, all of her points in the run either tied the score or put the Coyotes in front. The result was South Dakota's first win on the road against its rival since before Seekamp or any of her teammates were born.

What's ahead: IUPUI appears the program most likely to break up the Summit League hegemony held by the state of South Dakota, and Austin Parkinson's team visits this week.

5. Wright State (15-3, 5-0 Horizon)

Last ranking: 8. Since: Road wins at Oakland (77-72) and Detroit (89-71), home win vs. Northern Kentucky (66-61)

Spotlight on: Ball control fuels success. That the most recent win against Oakland was closer than the standings might have predicted, and required a strong fourth quarter run, had something to do with uncharacteristically poor ball control. Wright State committed 627 turnovers in the 2009-10 season, the last before current coach Mike Bradbury arrived. That number decreased in each of his first five seasons, even as the pace of play and scoring increased. Even after those 22 turnovers against Oakland, Wright State is among roughly 20 percent of Division I teams with positive assist-to-turnover ratios (a group that surprisingly does not include Green Bay). In addition to individual talent, that is one of the reasons Wright State has been consistently competitive of late against the Phoenix.

What's ahead: The game against Green Bay is also Wright State's final home game for nearly a month. The Raiders will play five consecutive road games before Oakland visits on Feb. 18.

6. South Dakota State (14-4, 4-1 Summit)

Last ranking: 2. Since: Home loss vs. South Dakota (63-58), home win vs. Omaha (68-58), road loss at IPFW (61-42)

Spotlight on: End of a streak. With at least one more regular-season meeting, and the potential for another in the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the rivalry loss isn't the end of the world. But it was the end of a home winning streak in conference games that dated to the 2012-13 season and spanned 19 Summit League games. In fact, since moving to Division I in 2004-05, and even with the first loss at home against its rival since 1990, South Dakota State is 142-20 at home in college basketball's top division.

What's ahead: IUPUI visits Brookings to play the Jackrabbits on Thursday, while the Oral Roberts excursion that tripped up South Dakota awaits the following week.

7. Duquesne (16-2, 4-1 Atlantic 10)

Last ranking: 3. Since: Home loss vs. George Washington (70-52), home win vs. Fordham (55-40), road wins at Rhode Island (79-70) and George Mason (72-56)

Spotlight on: Anyone but George. Don't expect the Dukes to spend much time celebrating Presidents Day. Sometimes an opponent just has your number no matter what you try. Duquesne did little to counter George Washington's rebounding dominance Sunday, but the same was true two years ago when the score remained tied deep into the second half. And leveling the rebounding numbers didn't help much in an 83-56 loss to the Colonials a season ago. The problem for what remains an excellent Duquesne team, albeit one lacking résumé wins, is that any path to the NCAA tournament might involve going through George Washington for the Atlantic 10's automatic bid.

What's ahead: There is no time to dwell on the defeat, not with St. Bonaventure set to bring another unbeaten conference record to Pittsburgh this coming Saturday.

8. San Diego (16-2, 6-1 WCC)

Last ranking: NR. Since: Home wins vs. Gonzaga (63-54) and Portland (71-43), road wins at Santa Clara (70-58) and San Francisco (67-58 OT)

Spotlight on: Sister act. Like A-10 peers on the opposite side of the country, WCC teams have more opportunities than most mid-major teams to advance their cause in rugged conference play. And on the strength of a 3-1 mark against the other WCC teams with winning conference records, including this past week against Gonzaga, the Toreros debut. It's about time we got to twins Malina and Maya Hood anyway. The Hoods lost their first six games against Gonzaga (although two came during Maya's redshirt season). But Saturday's win against the conference measuring stick makes it two in a row in the series. The team's leading rebounders, Malina and Maya couldn't prevent a staggering 54-19 rebounding deficit against Gonzaga. But, they combined for eight steals as San Diego used 25 turnovers from its opponent to produce points.

What's ahead: Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount visit this week, with return trips to those two schools the following week as the second half of the conference season begins.

9. BYU (14-4, 6-1 WCC)

Last ranking: NR. Since: Home wins vs. Gonzaga (58-54) and Portland (78-66), road wins at Santa Clara (68-63) and San Francisco (66-57)

Spotlight on: Replacing the irreplaceable. Morgan Bailey quietly made herself one of the nation's most indispensable players as a senior a season ago for BYU. Kalani Purcell is quietly replacing her nonetheless. A 6-foot-2 junior who is from New Zealand but was a junior college All-American a season ago at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Purcell is averaging 10.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in her first season for the Cougars. She has more rebounds, in fact, than any two teammates combined. And she may just be hitting her stride. Purcell totaled 17 points and 16 rebounds in the recent win at Gonzaga and 14 points and 11 rebounds against Portland.

What's ahead: The travel partner for San Diego in conference, BYU has essentially the same schedule as that team duirng the next two weeks against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

10. Arkansas State (12-3, 6-0 Sun Belt)

Last ranking: NR. Since: Home wins vs. Little Rock (66-53), Appalachian State (83-60), Louisiana-Lafayette (83-56) and Louisiana-Monroe (66-43)

Spotlight on: Big wins and close losses. Arkansas State has a signature win on its résumé against Florida Gulf Coast, albeit when the latter was without Whitney Knight, but the best support it lent its cause early in the season was competitive losses at Florida (76-72), Nebraska (79-71) and Chattanooga (55-54). Now it's using blowout wins to make the same case. In the past two and a half weeks, the Wolves routed both Troy, on the road, and Louisiana-Lafayette by 20 or more points. It matters because each result remains the only conference loss either opponent has thus far incurred in the Sun Belt. If a team is that much better than its league and as competitive as it was on the road against the schedule Arkansas State played, it belongs here.

What's ahead: A trip to Texas State this weekend is the only game in the next two weeks against a team with either a winning conference or overall record.

Fell out: Santa Clara, Gonzaga, Princeton

Previous rankings: Nov. 3 (preseason) | Nov. 25 | Dec. 9 | Dec. 23 | Jan. 6