In the parallel world of women's college basketball, three ACC teams top the polls: Maryland, UNC, and Duke. The unbalanced conference schedule soon rears its ugly head, as Duke plays the other two twice, while Maryland and UNC play each other only once. For that reason alone, expect Duke to remain third in the hierarchy, despite playing the toughest schedule thus far.
I may soon regret not including Duke in my year-in-advance predictions for the 2007 Final Four. Here's who I picked:
Maryland. Like the men at UCLA, they're #1 and without a loss. Unlike those Bruins, they haven't faced an elite opponent yet. That will change with Michigan State and UNC at home, and a pair of games with Duke.
Ohio State. My choice for the seemingly annual double dip. That win against then-ranked USC doesn't look as impressive now, but the win at Oklahoma does. (In a matchup between centers Jessica Davenport and Courtney Paris, Davenport's team won.) Also, the lone loss at LSU is forgivable.
Tennessee. Will they win it all? Despite an understandable loss at UNC, they've stormed through a nonconference schedule at least as good as Duke's, if not better. I abhor Pat Summitt, but give her credit for a Tom Izzo-like fearlessness when it comes to scheduling. They still have to play Connecticut, Duke, and the SEC.
USC. While this was my dark horse pick, I certainly expected them to be better than 0-3 in the Pac-10 and 7-7 overall. But then, I also expected star frosh Jacki Gemelos not to tear her ACL and redshirt this season. They may be a few years away from re-emergence.