South Carolina vaulted up to No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 women’s basketball poll on Monday after a chaotic opening week that saw nine of the top 14 teams in the preseason poll lose, including defending champion and preseason No. 1 LSU.
The Gamecocks, ranked sixth in the preseason poll, were awarded 23 first place votes by the 36-member national media panel. Coming in second was Iowa with the remaining 13 first-place ballots. The first five spots were completed by UCLA, Utah, and Colorado.
After their defeat to then-No. 20 Colorado, LSU dropped to seventh place in the rankings. This marks Colorado’s highest ranking since the end of the 1995 season when they finished at No. 2. UConn’s loss to N.C. State caused them to fall from second to eighth, while N.C. State entered the poll at No. 14.
Even though they lost, the Huskies have now held a ranking for 566 weeks in a row, surpassing Tennessee for the longest continuous streak.
“It’s truly impressive that we have maintained consistency for 30 years despite the ever-evolving nature of the game,” stated Geno Auriemma, coach of UConn. “I don’t fully realize the magnitude of it until someone brings it to my attention.”
This marks only the second instance in the poll’s history, which dates back to 1977, where the preseason top two teams did not maintain their positions in the first regular season poll. The same scenario occurred at the beginning of the 1998-99 season. Purdue defeated No. 1 Tennessee in their season opener, propelling them from fifth place to first the following week. This remained the largest jump to the top spot until South Carolina’s rise this week.
The Gamecocks kicked off their season with two remarkable victories, dominating then-No. 10 Notre Dame and then-No. 14 Maryland with scores over 100 points. Their 114-76 triumph against the Terrapins marked the largest win against a Top 25 team in the school’s history. Notre Dame dropped to 16th and Maryland fell to 20th in the rankings.
The preseason poll marked the end of South Carolina’s 38-week streak at No. 1, which was only surpassed by UConn’s 51-week streak from 2008-2010.
Stanford moved up to the sixth spot, while Virginia Tech and USC claimed the ninth and 10th spots, respectively. This is the highest ranking for USC since the end of the 1994 season, when they were ranked seventh. This accomplishment also means that the Pac-12 now has five teams in the top 10, a feat that has not been achieved by a conference since the SEC did it in the final poll of the 1997 season.
The University of Mississippi experienced the largest decrease in ranking this week, going from 12th to 23rd place after their loss to Oklahoma. Oklahoma entered the rankings at 25th place. Both Mississippi State and Illinois were removed from the rankings.
According to ESPN, the Pac-12 has had a remarkable start to the season with a record of 28-0, making them the only Division I conference in the last 25 seasons to have this many wins without a loss. However, the conference will see significant changes next year as all but two of its teams will be joining the ACC, Big 12, or Big Ten. On January 6, 2020, the Pac-12 was also the last conference to have three teams ranked in the top five in the same week.
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