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Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Tennessee edges LSU for No. 1; UConn 4th

The ESPN/USA Today top 25 preseason women's basketball poll, with 2003-04 record and final ranking, followed by total points and first-place votes:

Rank Points says ...
1. Tennessee
31-4 (2)
944 (15) Um, this is assuming Parker plays this season, and that Moore is as good as ever after her ACL tear last season ... right?
2. LSU
27-8 (3)
934 (10) Nobody's as smooth as Augustus. And diminutive TJ always comes up big. Now if 6-5 freshman Fowles can just boost things inside.
3. Texas
30-5 (10)
908 (9) Carey, Schreiber and Jackson are one tough trio to stop. Matter of fact, we're betting most aren't able to do it.
4. Connecticut
31-4 (1)
883 (6) Yes, Taurasi is finally gone. But Turner and Strother try to pick up where she left off. And though several publications are underestimating Moore in the paint, we aren't.
5. Georgia
25-10 (8)
782 Led by junior guards Baker and Kendrick, and sophomore Hardrick, the Lady Dogs were the only SEC team to beat Tennessee in '03-'04.
6. Duke
30-4 (5)
747 With Beard gone, spotlight shifts to Currie, who is talented but must shoulder an even bigger load now that Harding has been suspended indefinitely.
7. Stanford
27-7 (7)
724 VanDerveer says the Cardinal are uncharacteristically athletic. Maybe that's how they'll make up for losing Powell.
8. Baylor
26-9 (11)
688 KMR is probably still reeling about that late-game call in the Sweet 16. But it's gotta feel nice knowing she has plenty of talent -- think Blackmon and Young -- to get there again.
9t. Ohio State
21-10 (NR)
555 Foster continues to work his magic. Four starters return, including second-team All-Big Ten pick Matter.
9t. Texas Tech
25-8 (17)
555 Truly appreciate Sharp and her gang, but our experts say this is too high for Tech.
11. Notre Dame
21-11 (20)
483 Irish return four starters, but biggest expectations fall on Batteast.
12. North Carolina
24-7 (21)
472 Some say the winds are a'changing in the ACC, and this young, athletic and speedy squad looks to return to the top.
13. Vanderbilt
26-8 (13)
468 Early prognosis is good: "This team was more ready on the first day of practice than any other I've had at Vanderbilt," coach Balcomb said.
14. Minnesota
25-9 (4)
425 Sure, McCarville's out with a broken hand. But remember how unstoppable Whalen was last year after she broke her hand?
15. Purdue
29-4 (9)
420 Losing four senior starters is tough, but we look forward to watching Gearlds and Lawless start a new era in West Lafayette.
16. Michigan State
22-9 (NR)
397 On the rise? You bet. Spartans, who return all five starters, score preseason ranking for first time in program history.
17. Rutgers
21-12 (NR)
324 Could be tough for the Scarlet Knights until Pondexter returns in the second half of the season.
18t. Boston College
27-7 (14)
259 Miracle-maker Amber Jacobs is gone, but double D -- Develyn and Droesch -- help keep balance one of BC's biggest strengths.
18t. Kansas State
25-6 (15)
259 Plenty of questions face Wildcats, especially with Ohlde gone. But there's no question when it comes to Wecker, perhaps the nation's top player, or KSU's 3-point abilities.
20. DePaul
23-7 (25)
232 If you haven't heard of Khara Smith already, get used to hearing the name.
21. Penn State
28-6 (6)
226 The bad news? Mazzante graduated. Good news? That means the Lady Lions' offense will be more varied. Wright and Strom also should be better than ever.
22. Louisiana Tech
29-3 (12)
165 Expect La. Tech -- which opens season without 70 percent of its offense a year ago -- to peak later in season when Smith-Taylor returns after she gives birth in mid-December.
23. Maryland
18-13 (NR)
153 Shea what? UConn's Ralph ruled the Big East a few years back. Now, Terrapins' 3-point specialist Shay Doron could steal show.
24. Arizona
24-9 (NR)
147 Sure, Taurasi owns Arizona hoops now. But the tough inside-outside combo of Polk and Wheeler could help the 'Cats rule the Pac-10.
25. Oklahoma
24-9 (18)
139 Yes, we're supposed to focus on this season and look forward to Jackson's final year. But for some reason, the Eiffel tower just keeps popping into our heads.

Others receiving votes (with '03-'04 record): UCLA (17-12) 89; Utah (24-7) 83; TCU (25-7) 69; Villanova (23-7) 52; Houston (28-4) 45; Chattanooga (29-3) 43; Southwest Missouri State (28-4) 38; Old Dominion (25-7) 34; Florida (19-11) 32; UC-Santa Barbara (27-7) 32; Middle Tennessee (24-8) 25; UNLV (25-7) 23; Louisville (20-10) 16; Colorado (22-8) 15; Marquette (22-10) 15; Virginia Tech (23-8) 15; Montana (27-5) 14; Temple (21-10) 12; New Mexico (22-8) 8; Auburn (22-9) 7; Richmond (23-9) 5; Liberty (25-7) 4; Miami (Fla.) (22-7) 4; Oregon (14-15) 4; Virginia (13-16) 4; Arizona State (17-12) 3; Marshall (18-12) 3; South Alabama (22-7) 3; Wisconsin-Green Bay (23-8) 3; Eastern Michigan (22-8) 2; George Washington (22-8) 2; Maine (25-7) 2; Arkansas (16-12) 1; Creighton (21-10) 1; Idaho State (19-9) 1; North Carolina State (17-15) 1; Western Kentucky (20-14) 1.

The USA TODAY/ESPN Board of Coaches is made up of 40 head coaches at Division I institutions. All are members of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. The 2004-05 board: Mark Adams, UC-Irvine; Ceal Barry, Colorado; Candace Cage, Loyola (Md.); Royce Chadwick, Marshall; Bud Childers, Winthrop; Tricia Cullop, Evansville; Joe Curl, Houston; Kristy Curry, Purdue; Marnie Dacko, Massachusetts; Dave Dagostino, Jacksonville State; Samuel Dixon, Furman; Chancellor Dugan, Florida Atlantic; Jim Flanery, Creighton; Keith Freeman, Valparaiso; Kim Gervasoni, Nevada; Bill Gibbons, Holy Cross; Kelly Greenberg, Boston University; Cindy Griffin, Saint Joseph's; Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina; Caren Horstmeyer, California; Cathy Inglese, Boston College; Michelle Jacoby, Saint Mary's; Patrick Knapp, Pennsylvania; Joe Legerski, Wyoming; Felisha Legette-Jack, Hofstra; Phyliss Mangina, Seton Hall; Terri Mitchell, Marquette; Rick Moody, Alabama; Kim Mulkey-Robertson, Baylor; Jon Newlee, Idaho State; Rae Rippetoe-Blair, Texas-San Antonio; Saudia Roundtree, North Carolina A&T; Debbie Ryan, Virginia; Tricia Sacca-Fabbri, Quinnipiac; Lisa Stone, Wisconsin; Pat Summitt, Tennessee; Pam Tanner, Denver; Charli Turner Thorne, Arizona State; Mary Helen Walker, Loyola (Ill.); Altherias Warmley, Alabama A&M. The WBCA prohibits schools on major NCAA or conference probation from receiving votes.