Monday, February 11, 2008

Tennessee back at No. 1, UTEP enters Top 25 for first time

Tennessee has Rutgers to thank for its return to No. 1.

The Lady Vols regained the top spot in The Associated Press women's basketball poll after Connecticut lost to Rutgers last week. Tennessee, which was the top-ranked team for the first seven weeks before losing to Stanford in late December, received 45 of the 50 first-place votes. The Huskies received the other five.

The Lady Vols rallied to beat No. 5 Rutgers 59-58 on Monday night in a rematch of last season's national championship game. The Scarlet Knights were bidding to be the first team ever to defeat top-ranked teams in consecutive games.

While the Lady Vols are no stranger to the poll, UTEP earned its first-ever appearance in the Top 25.

"It's a great feeling. It's a reflection of a lot of hard work and something that didn't happen over night," said UTEP coach Keitha Adams, whose team has won 15 straight games. "No question, it's a positive to be in the mix of the other great programs."

It's been a great few days for UTEP (19-2), which has never competed in the NIT or NCAA tournaments. The Miners made their first appearance on national television Sunday, set the Conference-USA record for consecutive league victories, and earned their first-ever Top 25 ranking.

Not too bad for a team that was 3-25 a few years back and has never advanced past the semifinals of the conference tournament. Coming off a 20-win season, UTEP has been outstanding with its only two losses at Nebraska and at Kansas State.

UTEP has the second longest winning streak in the country, trailing only Chattanooga, which has won 16 straight games.

Even with the recent success, the Miners are focused on their next game, a key Conference-USA matchup with Houston on Thursday night.

"Today's the only day we're going to talk about being ranked," Adams said. "The bottom line is we know we have to focus on playing Houston."

North Carolina remained No. 3 after blowing out then-No. 11 Duke, Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels were followed by Maryland, Rutgers, Stanford and LSU. Baylor fell three places to No. 8 after a loss to then-No. 17 Oklahoma State. California and Oklahoma are Nos. 9 and 10.

West Virginia and Duke flipped places followed by Old Dominion, George Washington and Oklahoma State, which moved up two spots to No. 15.

The Cowgirls were followed by Notre Dame, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Utah and Texas A&M.

Syracuse, Wyoming, Ohio State, UTEP and Vanderbilt rounded out the poll. The Commodores re-entered the poll for the first time since week 7. Georgia and DePaul dropped out.

A close loss to LSU on Sunday ended Georgia's string of 98 consecutive weeks in the poll alive. It was the seventh longest active streak.

The Lady Dogs fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since Jan. 20, 2003.

No comments: