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SAUNDERS: DWU women looking for a little more respect

A little more than a month into the women’s college basketball season, Dakota Wesleyan University is 8-2 overall and 3-1 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, but isn’t in the NAIA Division II Top 25 Coaches’ Poll.

In the most recent polls released Tuesday, the Tigers were receiving votes. DWU received 35 votes, which is fifth among the 15 schools that received votes. Purdue Calumet (Ind.), Huntington (Ind.), Friends (Kan.) and Union (Ky.) each garnered more votes than the Tigers.

Purdue Calumet is 7-3 with losses to No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan, Indiana Northwest, which is receiving votes, and Cornerstone, which is also receiving votes.

There are also teams in the polls that don’t have as strong a record as the Tigers, whose only losses are to ranked teams. St. Ambrose University (Iowa) and the College of Ozarks (Mo.) each have four losses and have also fallen to ranked teams but are still holding on to a top 25 spot.

DWU’s losses this season have come to Roosevelt University and Briar Cliff. The Tigers lost to Roosevelt (9-3) when it was the nation’s sixth-ranked team and also to then-No. 12 Briar Cliff (8-3).

The DWU women’s biggest victory this season came Dec. 7, when the Tigers defeated Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Midland University 85-74. Midland (8-4) was ranked 10th in the polls. The loss dropped Midland to 14th.

If the DWU women wish to jump into the top 25, they must take advantage of some of their upcoming ranked opponents, including No. 7 Concordia Friday and No. 16 Hastings on Jan. 4.

When selecting teams for a top 25 basketball poll there is no doubt that who you play and where you play counts. But the element that seems to be missing in the polls is who is hot at the moment.

The Tigers are clearly heating up and playing in one of the nation’s toughest basketball conferences as six GPAC teams hold spots in the top 25.

The next time the NAIA Division II women’s basketball poll comes out is Jan 7. Some say the polls don’t matter, but DWU know very well that the polls have a lot to do with the postseason. Last season, the Tigers finished fifth in the GPAC with a 20-11 overall record and 11-9 in the conference. The four teams in front of the Tigers in the conference were ranked in the top 15 of the national polls. Those four teams each earned national tournament bids, while DWU sat at home as the odd team out.

So far this season, the Tigers are fourth in the GPAC. They sit behind No. 2 Northwestern (12-0, 5-0 GPAC), No. 7 Concordia (10-2, 5-1 GPAC) and No. 10 Midland (8-4, 5-1 GPAC), yet are ahead of No. 22 Hastings (10-2, 3-2 GPAC), No. 15 Briar Cliff (8-3, 4-3 GPAC) and No. 12 Morningside (9-3, 2-3 GPAC).

After the bad break last season, the Tigers seem especially eager to make the postseason this time around. But the only sure way to do that is to win the GPAC championship, something every team in the conference should be focusing on, including DWU.