(records through Wednesday's games; last week's rankings in parentheses.)
1. Merrillville (1) 11-0
After surviving a scare against Crown Point, the Pirates are secure in their knowledge that a fast-paced game is the best way to win. That's 32 consecutive regular-season wins and counting.
2. Lowell (2) 9-0
The Red Devils took a 12-day hiatus before diving into the Warsaw Tournament. They'll need all the rest they can get for a grueling January schedule.
3. Michigan City (3) 9-1
The three-day South Bend Washington Tournament is not for the light at heart. M.C. walks in as the defending champ and will need every weapon to repeat the feat.
4. West Side (4) 8-1
The Cougars have not bested Chicago Marshall in the Gary Holiday Tournament since the 2005-06 season. Not only could this be the year, but anyone who wants to see a great girls hoops game should be in attendance.
5. Whiting (5) 11-0
The Oilers held on with all their might to top a surging Boone Grove team in overtime. The undefeated record is put to the test again against top Class 2A and 3A region competition at the Hanover Central Tourney.
6. Hobart (6) 9-2
This Brickies team is a menagerie of balanced talent that doesn't need a superstar. Kinda like the Griffith teams that have won sectional after sectional and fight Hobart in the Northwest Crossroads Conference.
7. Hanover Central (7) 6-3
Like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when the Wildcats are good, they are very good. But don't hang your hat on when it can get ugly.
8. Kankakee Valley (8) 7-3
Though an NCC title is nearly out of grasp, the Kougars look like a force in their sectional. They haven't lost to a class or sectional opponent, and it will be a full month before they play fellow top contender Rensselear.
9. Portage (9) 7-3
A tough Northridge Tournament is a great test for the Indians before they return to the Duneland Athletic Conference ringer. Emerging unscathed -- or barely scratched -- could make Portage a bigger force in the second half of the final double round robin.
10. Bishop Noll (10) 11-1
It might be a couple weeks away, but don't think that every practice and every game leading up to Jan. 12 isn't preparation for Whiting. This is a determined Warriors team.
On the bubble: Griffith (7-3), LaPorte (8-3), Rensselaer (8-3), Hebron (6-4), Boone Grove (8-4).