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Monday, January 16, 2006
BYU, GW join AP poll; Lady Vols remain No. 1

Associated Press

Make it a double for George Washington basketball.

The Colonials joined The Associated Press women's basketball poll at No. 25 on Monday as one of two newcomers, putting both the school's teams in the Top 25. The men, now 16th, have been ranked all season.

"It's great for a small school who's not in what I call a BCS conference to have both teams in the Top 25," George Washington women's coach Joe McKeown said. "I think it says a lot for the commitment the university has to basketball.

"That's why I'm still here," added McKeown, who's in his 17th season.

BYU was the other newcomer in the poll, which had Tennessee leading a top four that was unchanged. The Cougars (13-1), off to their best start ever, broke in at No. 23.

It's the first ranking since the week of Dec. 16, 2002, for BYU, which has appeared in the poll only five times previously. George Washington (11-4) made it for the first time since the Colonials were 25th in the final poll of the 2002-03 season.

Tennessee ran its record to 17-0 with victories over Georgia and Mississippi State last week and received 35 of 46 first-place votes from a national media panel. The Lady Vols had 1,138 points -- 30 more than No. 2 Duke.

Duke (16-0) had nine first-place votes and LSU (14-0) received the two others. North Carolina (16-0) remained fourth.

Tennessee's 79-56 victory at Mississippi State was the first of four straight road games for the Lady Vols. That stretch includes a visit to Vanderbilt on Thursday and a trip to Duke next Monday.

Connecticut (15-2), which has lost only to Tennessee and North Carolina, jumped two places to fifth -- the highest ranking for the Huskies since they were fourth the week of Nov. 25, 2004.

Maryland held at No. 6, Ohio State climbed one place to seventh and Baylor fell three places to eighth after its second loss in as many weeks, 64-62 at Texas Tech. The defending national champions beat Oklahoma State 57-26 earlier in the week.

No. 9 Rutgers and No. 10 DePaul each moved up one spot. DePaul (16-1), which has won nine straight, reached the Top 10 for the first time.

Purdue was 11th and Michigan State 12th. Then it was Georgia, Stanford, Arizona State and Minnesota, followed by Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and New Mexico.

The final five were Temple, Boston College, BYU, Notre Dame and George Washington.

Vanderbilt made the biggest jump within the poll, going from 23rd to 19th after beating Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Notre Dame dropped four places to 20th after beating Marquette in overtime and losing to Louisville. The Irish, who had been ranked as high as 10th, have lost four of their last five. Michigan State fell from ninth to 12th after losing two of three on the road. The Spartans lost to Iowa and Minnesota but defeated Wisconsin.

Missouri and North Carolina State dropped out after each split a pair of games.

Missouri earned its first ranking in 21 years when it joined at No. 24 last week. The Tigers beat Nebraska but lost at Texas. North Carolina State, which had been 25th, defeated Virginia before losing to North Carolina.

BYU has victories at UCLA and Utah, both of whom have been ranked this season, and its only loss was a two-pointer to North Carolina State. Coach Jeff Judkins said the 61-60 victory at Utah, a game the Cougars won with a basket at the buzzer, gave his team a huge lift.

"So many of our games with them have gone down to the wire and they always seem to make the big play," Judkins said. "For our team to execute and make a play like that, we really needed it. We know it's just one game, but Utah is the team you have to go through to win our conference, them and New Mexico."

After a rigorous nonconference schedule, George Washington is off to a 4-0 start in the Atlantic 10, including a victory over Temple last week. The Colonials, who have only one senior, have also defeated Purdue and Villanova. They've lost to Tennessee, North Carolina State, Texas and Virginia.

"Our kids really compete hard and want to play against the best," McKeown said. "They'd rather play the Tennessees and Purdues and teams like that than maybe putting together an easier schedule and trying to pile up more wins.

"I think it can only help us down the stretch," he said.