(AP) – Defending champion LSU is ranked No. 1 in the women’s preseason AP Top 25 college basketball poll for the first time in school history.
LSU, which won its first NCAA title last April behind star player Angel Reese and Co., received 35 first-place votes from a 36-member national media panel in the poll released Tuesday. UConn received the other top vote. The second-ranked Huskies have now been ranked in the AP poll for 565 consecutive weeks, tying Tennessee’s record.
Caitlin Clark and national runner-up Iowa was third. It’s the same spot the Hawkeyes held last year in the preseason poll. UCLA and Utah round out the top five.
The Tigers were ranked second in 1977 and third twice in 2004 and 2005 in the preseason poll, but never No. 1 until this year. There is a lot of optimism around LSU as they return a stellar group, including Reese, along with two talented transfers in Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow.
“We appreciate the recognition of being the No. 1 ranked team going into the season and it is something we will embrace,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “A ranking doesn’t win championships, but it brings great awareness to our program and our school. We want to be ranked No. 1 at the end of the season.”
The Tigers were last ranked No. 1 in the poll in 2005 when they held the top spot for a five-week stretch.
UConn’s run started in the preseason poll of the 1993-94 season and now has gone for 30 straight years. No. 14 Maryland has the second-longest active streak, appearing in the poll now for 250 consecutive weeks.
UCLA and Utah are spending their final year in the Pac-12. The Bruins haven’t been in the top five in the preseason since 1999 when they were fifth. The Utes, who haven’t been in the preseason poll since 2005, bring back a team led by Pac-12 player of the year Alissa Pili.
South Carolina was sixth, ending a run of 38 straight weeks that the Gamecocks were No. 1 in the poll. That’s the second longest run behind UConn’s 51-week streak (2008-10). Dawn Staley’s team has been in the preseason top 10 every year since 2014, trailing only UConn’s 30-season run that began in 1994.
Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top 10. It’s the first time the Hokies, who reached the Final Four last season, are in the preseason top 10.STAR POWER
There are a lot of talented players in the rankings alongside Clark, the AP player of the year, Reese and Paige Bueckers of UConn. Texas guard Rori Harmon is lightning quick and Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson is a great scorer. Notre Dame guard Olivia Miles is returning from an ACL injury she suffered in March.
No. 12 Ole Miss is in the preseason poll for the first time since 1995. It’s the school’s best ranking since the Rebels were ninth on Dec. 8, 1992. No. 23 Illinois is making its first appearance in the preseason rankings since 1999. No. 21 USC is back in the preseason poll for the first time since 2011 and Colorado is getting early recognition for the first time since 2013.
Stanford is ranked 15th in the preseason poll, the school’s lowest mark since 2015 when the Cardinal were 16th. Tara VanDerveer’s squad had been in the top 10 in the six previous initial polls.
The Pac-12 has the most ranked teams (six). No. 24 Washington State joins UCLA, Utah, Stanford, Colorado and USC. It’s the first time that the Cougars have been ranked in the preseason poll.
The SEC, Big Ten and ACC each have five schools ranked. The Big East and Big 12 each have two teams in the poll.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
The season begins for most teams Nov. 6 with some huge matchups in the first couple of weeks, including LSU playing Colorado and Ohio State facing USC on opening night in Las Vegas. Notre Dame and South Carolina also play each other that day in Paris.