South Dakota stays on top of espnW mid-major top 10 poll

The top two teams in espnW's mid-major ranking meet Sunday when Ciara Duffy and South Dakota hit the road to take on South Dakota State. The Coyotes won the first meeting, 105-98 in double overtime at home. Aaron Packard/USD

The week began with Oregon and Oregon State playing out one rivalry between neighbors with postseason aspirations. It concludes with another when South Dakota visits South Dakota State.

The first featured teams trying to make sure they play at home in the NCAA tournament.

The second features teams no host wants visiting in the first two rounds in March.

With that mid-major headliner leading the way, let's get to the latest rankings.

1. South Dakota (23-3, 11-1 Summit)

It's unlikely that anyone can displace Oregon as the best all-around shooting team in the country -- the Ducks began the week first in 3-point percentage, second in field goal percentage and fifth in free throw percentage -- but South Dakota isn't far off. The Coyotes ranked in the top 26 in all three. (Last ranking: 1)

2. South Dakota State (20-6, 12-1 Summit)

South Dakota State had two brushes with individual perfection in the past fortnight. Macy Miller made 13 of 16 shots without committing a turnover on her way to 30 points in a 40-point win against North Dakota State this past weekend. It was the third time this season that she scored at least 20 points without committing a turnover.

Part of the same Iowa recruiting class as Megan Gustafson, South Dakota State transfer Tagyn Larson put up a line that either Miller or Gustafson would be proud to claim in a win against Omaha earlier in the week. Not only did Larson make all 11 of her shots from the field, including five 3-pointers, but she also had nine rebounds and four blocks in addition to no turnovers. (Last ranking: 3)

3. Rice (22-3, 13-0 Conference USA)

Just like that, the once-crowded Conference USA race became a victory lap. Still unbeaten in the league, the worst the Owls can do is tie for the best regular-season record. One win in the final three games, all of which are against teams currently in the bottom half of the standings, will secure their first championship since they joined Conference USA prior to the 2005-06 season.

No one on the roster averages even three assists per game, yet ball movement might be among the team's best traits. While the overall numbers are lower because the pace of play is slower, Rice records assists on 59 percent of its field goals, almost identical to Oregon's mark. (Last ranking: 4)

4. Gonzaga (23-3, 12-2 West Coast)

Now 23-1 against everyone else, Gonzaga fell to 0-2 against BYU after a home loss this past weekend. But there is always a silver lining. Notre Dame lost to Louisville twice last season, and hey, things worked out all right for the Fighting Irish. And speaking of silver linings, Gonzaga controls its own fate in the WCC. If the Bulldogs win their final four games, they will claim the outright regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the tournament, no matter how BYU does in its remaining games.

Although hardly the sole deciding factor, Gonzaga will rue missing 14 free throw attempts in two losses decided by a total of four points. Ranked No. 18 nationally in free throw percentage, the Bulldogs made just 63.6 percent of their attempts against the Cougars. (Last ranking: 2)

5. Florida Gulf Coast (21-4, 12-0 Atlantic Sun)

In the span of five days, Florida Gulf Coast missed 55 of 64 attempts from the 3-point line and won the two games it played by 19 and 33 points, respectively. The Atlantic Sun does not appear to be any closer to solving the Eagles than it has been through the rest of their time together.

One of the reasons the Eagles can afford a few cold shooting nights? They haven't finished a season with more turnovers than assists since joining Division I more than a decade ago. Currently ranked No. 23 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, that isn't about to change. (Last ranking: 5)

6. Drake (19-5, 11-1 Missouri Valley)

Normal service has been restored in Des Moines after the end of Drake's long conference win streak earlier this month. In three wins covered in this ranking period, the Bulldogs piled up 80 assists with just 41 turnovers and assisted on 80 of 94 field goals. Included in that run was a near perfect passing game against Loyola, with assists on 30 of 32 field goals in an 83-55 win.

Rising on the horizon is the rematch against Missouri State on March 3 in Springfield, Missouri. (Last ranking: 7)

7. Quinnipiac (19-6, 14-0 MAAC)

The longer the win streak, the less likely that each of the component wins will be a masterpiece. That was the case for the Bobcats in a 48-40 win at Fairfield this past weekend. That margin of victory was 37 points less comfortable than the first game between the two this season, but it was plenty to extend Quinnipiac's regular-season MAAC win streak to 39 games.

Arguably the best Latvian currently playing in Division I (taking over for injured South Florida star Kitija Laksa in that department), Paula Strautmane averaged 13.8 points and 3.8 steals in the team's first five games this month. The scoring took a hit amidst a rough shooting day at Fairfield, but her rebounding and defense still helped the Bobcats keep the streak intact. (Last ranking: 8)

8. Central Michigan (18-6, 9-3 MAC)

As expected, the MAC is becoming a mess to sort out as teams inflict wounds on each other. Central Michigan is hardly immune. A loss against Ohio last week not only negated an earlier win at Ohio but also was a second conference home loss for the Chippewas -- double the total of the previous three seasons combined. The combination of a win at Buffalo this past weekend, Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost combining for 51 points, and an overall résumé that includes wins against the non-MAC Miami and Quinnipiac keeps Central Michigan here. (Last ranking: 6)

9. Miami (Ohio) (19-4, 10-2 MAC)

The Redhawks don't make it look easy -- their three single-digit margins in this ranking period are the same total as that of the top seven teams combined -- but they win. Lauren Dickerson is third in the MAC in assists per game and leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, but it's nice to have a scorer who can put up 20 points in a half. That's what Dickerson, also Miami's leading scorer, did to rescue a win at Bowling Green. (Last ranking: 9)

10. BYU (20-6, 12-3 West Coast)

It is difficult to figure out what to do with BYU. Its résumé highlights come almost entirely from the two wins against Gonzaga. There is enough else, including a 26-point win against Pacific earlier this month, to suggest that those weren't flukes. There are also red flags, such as the three-game losing streak that followed soon after the first win against Gonzaga.

Still, with their three remaining games at home and Sara Hamson growing into a presence -- 33 blocks in a nine-game stretch that includes both Gonzaga wins -- the Cougars return here. (Last ranking: Not ranked)