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Monday, March 8, 2004
Updated: March 9, 7:00 PM ET
Top ranking changes hands again

Associated Press

With her team back at No. 1, Duke coach Gail Goestenkors summed up the season perfectly.

"The merry-go-round continues," she said.

That it does.

Duke's return to the top of The Associated Press women's basketball poll Monday marked the sixth time in the last 10 weeks the lead has changed hands.

It matches the most changes at No. 1 in the poll, which started in 1974. Wayland Baptist and Delta State went back and forth at the top six times during that first season.

Duke, which was No. 1 for three weeks in January, moved up from second to replace Tennessee, which lasted only one week in its second stint at the top of the poll. The Lady Vols lost to Georgia in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament and dropped to fifth.

Connecticut began the season at No. 1 and stayed there eight weeks. Duke replaced UConn after beating the Huskies and lasted three weeks there until losing to Tennessee.

Then it was Tennessee for two weeks, Texas for two weeks, Connecticut for one week, Tennessee for a week and now Duke again.

"It speaks to the parity we have around the nation," Goestenkors said. "Every year we talk about it, but this year is the first time we're showing just how much parity we have and how even all these teams are."

Goestenkors shrugged off her own team's return to No. 1.

"Here today, gone tomorrow," she said. "It's not important to us. The only No. 1 ranking we want is at the end of the entire season."

Duke took a 26-3 record and a nine-game winning streak against North Carolina in Monday night's ACC tournament final.

Boston College returned to the poll at No. 23 as the only newcomer. DePaul dropped out.

Duke received 25 of 47 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,145 points -- 38 more than No. 2 Texas. The Longhorns had 14 first-place votes, No. 3 Connecticut received three, fourth-ranked Penn State four and No. 7 Louisiana Tech one.

Purdue remained sixth, with Kansas State eighth, North Carolina ninth and Texas Tech 10th.

The next four teams were the same as last week: Houston, Stanford, Colorado and Baylor. Vanderbilt jumped six places to 15th after winning the SEC tournament, while Georgia climbed four spots to 16th after reaching the SEC championship game.

They were followed by LSU, TCU, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

The final five were Auburn, Minnesota, Boston College, Michigan State and Villanova.

Minnesota fell four places after losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Villanova lost to West Virginia in the Big East quarterfinals and dropped two spots.

Boston College was 23-6 with victories in nine of its last 10 games after beating Miami 65-53 in the Big East quarterfinals. The Eagles were ranked twice previously this season -- seven weeks in December and January and one week in February.

DePaul, which was 24th last week, lost to Marquette in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament. It was the fourth straight loss for the Blue Demons, who were ranked 12th three weeks ago.