Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lady Vols No. 3 in preseason AP women's basketball poll

Tennessee hasn't experienced a Women's Final Four since 2008. Still, the Lady Vols have enough experience in their lineup to receive a No. 3 ranking Saturday in the Associated Press' preseason women's basketball poll.

The Lady Vols, who finished 34-3 last season, were ranked behind only No. 1 Baylor and second-ranked Notre Dame, which thumped UT, 73-59, in the Dayton Regional final last March.

"I think it's because of our seniors, our veterans,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said of her team's ranking before adding, "We're not going to focus on (being No. 3)."

Tennessee has five seniors on its roster and three others with at least a season's worth of experience. Sophomore guard Meighan Simmons started 36 games last season.

Baylor, led by 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner, received 33 of 40 first-place votes from a national media panel. The Lady Bears became the first Big 12 school to be ranked No. 1 to start the season since Texas in 1985 and 1986.

Notre Dame drew six first-place votes and was second. After UT, Connecticut and Stanford rounded out the first five. The No. 2 ranking is the Irish's best since the final poll of 2001 when they also were ranked second. The other first-place vote went to defending national champion Texas A&M, which is ranked sixth.

Baylor could meet Notre Dame in the Preseason WNIT final in mid-November. The Lady Bears also play the Lady Vols on Nov. 27 in Knoxville and UConn before the New Year.

Tennessee, meanwhile, plays 11 teams that are in the preseason poll, including every other top five team but Connecticut. UT's gauntlet begins with No. 7 Miami (Fla.) in the State Farm Tipoff Classic on Nov. 15 at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Hurricanes' ranking is the best since they were sixth in the final poll of 1992.

Duke, Louisville, and Georgetown round out the first 10. It's the highest ranking ever for the Hoyas.

There are three other SEC teams in the poll: No. 13 Georgia, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 21 LSU. Georgia and LSU were not ranked at the end of last season.

The Big East has seven teams in the Top 25 with the ACC next at five. The Big 12 joins the SEC with four teams. The Pac-12 has three and Big Ten two. It's the first time there was no team outside the BCS conferences in the Top 25.

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