Monday, January 2, 2006
Lady Vols remain atop AP poll for fifth straight week
Tennessee keeps answering every challenge to its No. 1 ranking in women's basketball.
The Lady Vols led The Associated Press poll for the fifth straight week on Monday after defeating two more ranked opponents -- the 101st time Tennessee has been No. 1. Connecticut is next with 94 appearances in the top spot.
In a poll that had no newcomers, Arizona State joined the Top 10 for the first time in nearly 23 years and matched its highest ranking ever at No. 9.
With Tennessee (12-0) setting the pace, the top six teams remained the same after a week in which no one in the Top 25 lost to an unranked opponent. There were seven games between ranked teams, with the higher-ranked school winning four of them.
Tennessee continued tuning up for Southeastern Conference play by beating then-No. 22 Temple 75-50 and No. 12 Notre Dame 62-51, both on the road. The Lady Vols received 34 of 45 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,113 points -- 31 more than No. 2 Duke.
Duke had nine first-place votes and No. 3 LSU received the other two. Defending national champion Baylor remained fourth and was followed by North Carolina and Maryland.
The top six had a combined record of 69-1 through Sunday. Maryland had the only loss, 80-75 to Tennessee in its fifth game of the season.
Tennessee has also defeated Top 25 teams Michigan State, Texas and Stanford. The Lady Vols have another ranked opponent coming up this week, hosting No. 7 Connecticut on Saturday in their annual regular-season grudge match. UConn has lost only to North Carolina.
Ohio State's loss at Purdue on Sunday dropped the Buckeyes from seventh to 10th, enabling Connecticut and No. 8 Rutgers to move up one spot each. Arizona State, 3-0 in the Pac-10 for the first time, climbed two places to ninth.
It's the Sun Devils' first Top 10 since they were 10th the week of Feb. 20, 1983. They were previously ranked ninth on Jan. 9, 1983.
Michigan State slipped one spot to 11th after going 2-1 during the week. The loss was to LSU.
Notre Dame held at No. 12, DePaul remained 13th and Purdue jumped four places to 14th, the Boilermakers' highest ranking this season. Then it was Minnesota, Stanford and Georgia, followed by Oklahoma, Boston College and Vanderbilt.
New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Temple and Virginia Tech held the final five places.
A loss at Boston College dropped Stanford from 14th to 16th. The Cardinal then flew back across the country and beat Southern Cal and UCLA at home.
Oklahoma gained two places to 18th after beating New Mexico for the second time this season. New Mexico dropped from 16th to 21st, while Texas fell four spots to 23rd after losing at Rutgers.
Texas is just 6-4, but all four losses have been to ranked teams -- Rutgers, Tennessee, Duke and New Mexico.
Tennessee-Connecticut is one of several marquee games this week. Maryland plays at Boston College and New Mexico is at home against Utah on Thursday. On Saturday, LSU hosts Minnesota, Baylor entertains Texas and Rutgers goes to Michigan State. On Sunday, it's Duke at Maryland and Boston College at Virginia Tech.