Dawn Staley and South Carolina picked up where they left off: #1 in the Associated Press’s Top 25 Women’s Basketball.
The defending champion Gamecocks was the unanimous choice of the 30-strong national media panel in the preseason poll released Tuesday. It is the third consecutive season that South Carolina has been the preseason favorite.
“This is where we wanted to be and envisioned our program,” Staley said. “I have to give it to our players. We are constantly getting some of the best players in the country. They put us in this position because they work extremely hard. I don’t know if they come and say I’m the No. 1 team of the country, but they say they want to become national champions. This is a step towards national champions.”
Stanford, Texas, Iowa and Tennessee round out the top five teams in the preseason poll. It’s the best ranking in Iowa since 1994, when the Hawkeyes also finished fourth in the middle of the season.
“It doesn’t matter where we are in October in March, but I want my team to be confident and proud of what they have achieved. Iowa is on the map,” said coach Lisa Bluder. “We’ll celebrate and then forget.”
South Carolina went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team last season and has been the top team for 20 consecutive weeks. Only UConn (four times) and Baylor (once) have had longer streaks at No. 1 since the 1994-95 season, when the Top 25 became a writers poll.
The Huskies are in sixth place, the first time since 2006 that they have not been in the top five in the preseason poll. Louisville, Iowa State, Notre Dame and NC State round out the top 10.
KEEP THAT TIGER
Princeton has its first ranking for the season coming in at number 24.
The Tigers had been ranked for the final two weeks of last season, returning four starters from the team that caused one of the biggest disruptions in the NCAA tournament, knocking Kentucky over in the first round before it met in the next game. fell a point to Indiana.
“It’s great for our program and for the Ivy League and to show respect for what we’ve done in the past,” said coach Carla Berube. “I think it’s great for our team and for us to live up to the standards we’ve set, we have lofty goals. To be in the pre-season rankings means a lot, but there’s a lot of work to be done .”
Berube has upped 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 non-conference schedule, it can prepare you for the Ivy League and beyond,” she said.
There are high expectations in the state of Nebraska. No. 21 Creighton has its first ranking for the season, while No. 22 Nebraska was its first ranking since 2015. It marks the first time in the poll’s history that both teams have been ranked in the same week.
“It’s good to have Creighton and Nebraska in the Top 25. It’s good for the state,” said Creighton coach Jim Flanery.
The Bluejays are going to have a great season as they progressed to the first Elite Eight in school history by beating No. 2 at home in the second round and Iowa State in the regional semifinals. Expectations are high this year.
“It says to our players that they have put the program in a better position than we have ever been,” said Flanery. “That’s good for them. I think they deserve it. They did everything they could to get us to this point. I don’t think it changes their approach.”
No. 13 Virginia Tech is in its best position since the last poll in 1999, when the school was also 13th. … No. 23 South Dakota State has been ranked in the preseason for the first time in school history.
The Big Ten tops the nation with six ranked teams. Join No. 4 Iowa are No. 11 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio State, 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 NC State are No. 12 North Carolina and No. 13 Virginia Tech.
The Big 12 has ranked four programs, led by No. 3 Texas and No. 8 Iowa State. no. 15 Oklahoma and No. 18 Baylor are also ranked.
The SEC and Pac-12 each have three teams in the poll. No. 16 LSU joins the top ranked South Carolina and No. 5 Tennessee for the SEC. No. 19 Arizona and No. 20 Oregon join No. 2 Stanford for the Pac-12.
No. 21 Creighton and UConn represent the Big East, while No. 24 Princeton is the only Ivy League school and No. 23 South Dakota State is the only Summit League team in the ranking.