FORT MYERS, Fla. - ESPN.com women's basketball writer Graham Hays has placed the Eagles of head coach Karl Smesko in the No. 10 spot on his Mid-major top-10 rankings as part of his Dec. 7 blog entry.
“I think being included as one of the top mid-major teams in the nation speaks volumes to the national respect our program is earning,” said Smesko.
In his blog, Hays, who is an editor for ESPN.com's SportsNation and writes for Page 2 and contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage, points out FGCU’s wins over major opponents (Seton Hall and Virginia Tech) and also junior Kelsey Jacobson’s (Barnesville, Minn./Moorhead HS) three-point accuracy. The Eagles were the only A-Sun squad on the top-10 list.
Prior to the 2010-11 season, FGCU was featured on ESPN.com by columnist Charlie Crème. Crème ranked the Eagles 55th on his early look at the preseason top-64. The Blue and Green, who have compiled a 78-21 overall Division I record, were the lone member of Atlantic Sun Conference on that list.
Mid-major top-10 rankings
1. Xavier (8-0): There was a close call against USC, but Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips responded with 48 points and 30 rebounds in a 69-66 win. The Duke and Stanford road trips later this month loom large, but this week's game at Middle Tennessee might be no easy task with Katie Rutan still battling an ankle injury. Rutan's absence would mean another chance for freshman Ashley Wanninger to prove herself a long-range option off the bench.
2. Green Bay (8-0): A trip to Cancun offered a chance to get some quality competition on a neutral court, and the Phoenix rolled over Hartford and Utah and outlasted Penn State to improve to 3-0 against the Big Ten. It's early, but Sunday's game at Marquette looms as the biggest remaining hurdle between Green Bay and a run at a perfect regular season. For a team already loaded with proven talent, sophomore Adrian Ritchie emerging as the leading scorer through eight games is a pleasant surprise.
3. Bowling Green (8-1): Long one of the flagship mid-major programs under coach Curt Miller, Bowling Green is again rolling toward a date with the NCAA tournament. After a surprising season-opening loss at Evansville, the Falcons have rolled off eight wins in a row heading into Thursday's road game at Western Kentucky (where Bowling Green will manage the geographically curious feat of playing on the road in Bowling Green). Highlighting the run was last week's 79-68 victory against a Vanderbilt team ranked No. 23 at the time, the fourth win in program history against a ranked opponent and the second season in a row it earned one against the Commodores.
4. Princeton (5-2): The reigning Ivy League champs took another near-miss with a 74-68 loss at Vanderbilt, playing the Commodores largely even after a slow start and cutting the deficit to two points with less than six minutes to play. The good news is they were in that game at Vanderbilt's tournament because of a 60-59 win against USC. Addie Micir hit six 3-pointers in that game and is 12-of-22 from behind the arc in Princeton's past three games.
5. Tulane (7-1): The challenges of success became apparent immediately after the big win against LSU just before Thanksgiving. Tulane lost its next game against Portland State and lost Brittany Lindsey to a concussion. But the Green Wave bounced back with wins against Fullerton, Saint Joseph's and Detroit, not a murderers' row but worthwhile tests of focus. Brett Benzio pulled down 28 rebounds in those wins.
6. Charlotte (6-2): The team's best wins to this point are moral victories, but a 61-55 loss against Duke is worth noting, as is a 76-70 loss at Florida, to a slightly lesser degree. The 49ers held the Blue Devils to 30 percent shooting in their game and nearly matched them in rebounds (55-50). Eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer, Epiphany Woodson leads the team in assists (and had six assists and just two turnovers against Duke).
7. Gonzaga (6-3): It wasn't quite Virginia Tech playing James Madison in football five days after playing Boise State, but playing Ole Miss in Hawaii three days after a road game at North Dakota (and five days after a battle at home against Stanford) was a recipe for trouble. The resulting loss, in which Ole Miss piled up a 48-29 rebounding edge, prevented a rematch of last season's NCAA tournament game against North Carolina. The Bulldogs instead routed North Carolina Central and survived against Washington State (which they play again Thursday).
8. Dayton (5-3): The Flyers made Jim Jabir tops all time in wins at the school in fitting fashion, putting up triple digits in a 102-69 win against Toledo over the weekend. That makes three wins -- and 263 points -- in three games since a baffling home loss against Illinois-Chicago. The next three and a half weeks will reveal a lot, with games against Louisvile, San Diego State, Boston College and either USC or Colorado. For now, Dayton's good outweighs the bad in an up-and-down start.
9. Fresno State (6-2): Emma Andrews wasted little time making her presence felt in her first game back after suffering an injury this past spring. The Australian senior hit the game-winning shot to lift Fresno State past TCU over the weekend. Sophomore Rosie Moult, another of Fresno's plentiful Aussies, has stepped up in the early schedule, improving from 7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a freshman to 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds this season.
10. Florida Gulf Coast (6-0): In a landscape where mid-majors are struggling to pick up wins against their major peers, Florida Gulf Coast can at least call on wins against the Big East (Seton Hall) and ACC (Virginia Tech). Kelsey Jacobson might be the nation's leader in total distance on shots, firing off 52 3-point attempts in the team's first six games. And as long as she's hitting them at a solid 36.5 percent clip, it's easy to see why.
Next five: TCU, Illinois State, Missouri State, Houston, Drexel
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