Dawn Staley and South Carolina are right where they left off: number one in an Associated Press poll of the top 25 women’s basketball.
Title holders Gamecox was the unanimous pick of the 30-member National Media Committee in a pre-season poll released Tuesday. It’s the third season in a row, and South Carolina is the pre-season favorite.
“This is where we wanted to be and envisioned our program,” Staley said. “I have to give it to our players. We constantly get some of the best players in the country. They put us in that position because they work very hard. I don’t know if they come and say I want to be the first team in the country, but they say they want to be champions on the National level. This is a step up for being a national champion.”
Stanford, Texas, Iowa and Tennessee graduated from the top five teams in the pre-season poll. It’s Iowa’s best ranking since 1994 when the Hawkeyes finished fourth in the middle season.
“There was no difference in March than we got in October, but I definitely want my team to have confidence and be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Iowa is on the map,” said coach Lisa Blouder. “We’ll celebrate it and then forget it.”
South Carolina turned a tangled wire as the first team last season and was the first team for 20 consecutive weeks. Only UConn (four times) and Baylor (once) have had longer streaks in the number one spot since the 1994-95 season when it became a top 25 book poll.
The Husky was ranked sixth, the first time since 2006 that they weren’t in the top five in a pre-season poll. Louisville, Iowa, Notre Dame, and North Carolina made the top ten.
catch this tiger
Princeton University earned its first pre-season ranking, ranking 24th.
The Tigers were seeded for the final two weeks of last season and returned four rookies from the team that produced one of the biggest upsets in the NCAA Championship, defeating Kentucky in the first round before falling to Indiana by a point in the next game.
“It’s great for our program and for the Fifi League, and we put some respect for what we’ve done in the past,” said coach Carla Birob. “I think it’s huge for our team and to live up to the standards we’ve set, we have lofty goals. To be ranked in pre-season means a lot, but there is a lot of work to be done.”
Berube raised the Tigers’ schedule to challenge them with games in Texas and at UConn, her alma mater.
“We’ve learned that if you have a tough no-conference schedule, it can prepare you for the Ivy League and beyond,” she said.
There are high hopes in Nebraska. No. 21 Creighton ranked first before the start of the season while No. 22 Nebraska was its first ranking since 2015. It’s the first time in poll history that both teams are ranked in the same week.
“It’s good that Creighton and Nebraska are in the top 25. It’s good for the state,” said Creighton coach Jim Flannery.
The Bluejays are coming off a great season when they advanced to their first Elite Eight in school history by defeating the second seed Iowa State at home in the second round and Iowa State in the regional semifinals. Expectations are high this year.
“He tells our players that they put the program in a better position than we’ve ever been,” Flannery said. “It’s good for them. I think they deserve it. They’ve worked to get us to this point. I don’t think it changes their approach.”
No. 13 Virginia Tech has had the best rating since the last poll of 1999 when the school was also at No. 13. … No. 23 South Dakota was ranked in pre-season for the first time in the school’s history.
The Big Ten leads the nation with six ranked teams. Joining No. 4 Iowa is No. 11 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio, No. 17 Maryland, No. 22 Nebraska and No. 25 Michigan.
The ACC has five teams in the poll, including three in the top 10. Joining Louisville, Notre Dame and North Carolina is No. 12 in North Carolina and No. 13 in Virginia Tech.
The Big 12 has four ranked programs, led by Texas No. 3 and No. 8 Iowa. Oklahoma was ranked No. 15 and No. 18 Baylor as well.
The SEC and Pac-12 each have three teams in the survey. 16 LSU joins the top-ranked South Carolina and No. 5 Tennessee in the SEC. No. 19 Arizona and No. 20 Oregon join No. 2 Stanford at Pac-12.
No. 21 Creighton and Ocon represent the Big East while No. 24 Princeton is the only Ivy League school and 23 South Dakota State is the only Summit League team in the rankings.