Who's No. 1? UConn ... for now

Editor's note: In this new feature, ESPN.com columnist Mechelle Voepel shares her take on recent hot topics. If you've got a question you'd like Voepel to answer, shoot her an e-mail at mvoepel@kcstar.com.

Should Tennessee be the preseason No. 1?

Why does my preseason vote for No. 1 go to Connecticut over Tennessee (or even Texas)? Because the Huskies are still a very good team, even without Diana Taurasi. Sure there are questions to answer at point guard and with center Jessica Moore's knee. And, of course, it remains to be seen who will "take over" the big games when needed, now that one of the best collegiate players ever at doing that -- men or women -- is in the WNBA.

But having won the NCAA title the past three years, with stars such as Barbara Turner and Ann Strother back, and with players like Ashley Battle and Willnett Crockett quite capable of taking on even bigger roles, UConn deserves to keep No. 1.

Tennessee, Texas and LSU are right there near the top. And for what it's worth right now in November -- which is not much, I know -- but those are the teams I'd pick for the Final Four.

What's Duke's situation without Lindsey Harding?

Not so good, considering the team lost so much experience to graduation with Alana Beard, Iciss Tillis and Vicki Krapohl. Duke has proven, though, over the last few years that it finds ways to get over adversity. (Although,
obviously, that hasn't led to a national title.)

It would appear that Harding is staying close to the team and one could speculate her "indefinite" suspension will come to an end in time for her to play this season.

If that's in time for the ACC season, it gives Duke a better chance of staving off the top threats -- North Carolina and Maryland -- to finally end the Blue Devil domination of the last four or five seasons.

Without Harding, though, that will be a lot tougher.

What's the buzz on the early-signing period, which opens next week?

Well, we have to wait until the kids officially sign on the bottom line to be absolutely sure about their intentions, and to hear about them from their new coaches. But if the reported verbals all hold true, there's a blockbuster class at Texas and a similar situation at Oklahoma.

Both of which reflect what a Final Four appearance can do for a program (OU in 2002, Texas in 2003), along with how Big 12 attendance -- which led the nation again last year for the fifth season in a row -- has increased the league's chances with high-profile recruits.

Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.