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Monday, March 7, 2005
Stanford tops poll after Tennessee topples LSU

Associated Press

Stanford finally made it back to the top. The Cardinal are No. 1 again in women's basketball.

With a big assist from Tennessee, Stanford took over at No. 1 in The Associated Press poll on Monday -- the first time the Cardinal have led the rankings since December 1996.

They replaced LSU after the Lady Tigers lost to Tennessee 67-65 in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Sunday. LSU had led the poll for the last five weeks and had a six-week run at No. 1 earlier in the season.

LSU (29-2) dropped to No. 2 and Tennessee (26-4) climbed two spots to third. Neither will play again until the NCAA tournament. Stanford (28-2) played Arizona State on Monday night in the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament.

Five teams split the 45 first-place votes from the national media panel, with Stanford getting 28. LSU received 10, Tennessee had three and No. 4 North Carolina and No. 6 Baylor each received two.

Stanford had 1,089 points in the voting -- 30 more than LSU. Tennessee was another 37 points back.

Wisconsin-Green Bay and TCU returned at the bottom of the poll after being ranked earlier this season. Maryland and Gonzaga dropped out.

Stanford was No. 1 in the first six polls of the 1996-97 season, when coach Tara VanDerveer returned to the school after guiding the U.S. basketball team to the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. The Cardinal's only other appearance at No. 1 was the first poll of the 1992-93 season, seven months after they won the national championship.

Since its last appearance at No. 1, Stanford has won or shared seven Pac-10 championships, reached the Final Four once and spent nine weeks at No. 2, including four weeks this season.

North Carolina held at No. 4 and the next three teams all moved up one place each -- Duke, Baylor and Michigan State. Ohio State fell five places to eighth, the biggest drop in the poll, after losing to Minnesota in the Big Ten semifinals.

Rutgers remained ninth and Notre Dame stayed at No. 10.

Texas was 11th and Minnesota jumped three places to 12th. Then it was Connecticut, Texas Tech and Temple, followed by DePaul, Kansas State, Iowa State, Vanderbilt and North Carolina State.

Georgia, Penn State, Boston College, Wisconsin-Green Bay and TCU held the final five places.

Wisconsin-Green Bay (26-3) was ranked for two weeks in mid-February, then fell out after a loss at home to Youngstown State. The Phoenix bounced back to win four straight and reach the championship game of the Horizon League tournament.

TCU (23-9) returned to the Top 25 after winning the Conference USA tournament, a run that included a victory over then-No. 12 DePaul in the semifinals. The Horned Frogs were ranked 23rd for two weeks early in the season after beating Georgia, Michigan State and Oklahoma. They lost three straight after that before recovering to win 16 of their last 20.

Maryland (21-9), which was 25th, had been ranked all season and climbed as high as 15th. The Terrapins won three games last week before losing to Duke by 30 in the ACC tournament semifinals.

Gonzaga earned its first national ranking two weeks ago but couldn't hang on after its 23-game winning streak was broken with a loss to Santa Clara on Sunday in the finals of the West Coast Conference tournament.

Stanford's move to No. 1 was the fourth change at the top of the poll this season. Tennessee led the first three polls and was replaced by LSU, which was No. 1 for six weeks before giving way to Duke. Duke led for three weeks before LSU returned to No. 1 on Jan. 31.