Notre Dame ranked No. 1 in pre­sea­son rank­ings

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Doug Feinberg

It’s been 15 years since Muf­fet McGraw and Notre Dame were No. 1 in the poll. The Ir­ish earned the top spot Tues­day in The As­so­ci­ated Press women’s bas­ket­ball, re­ceiv­ing 14 first-place votes.

It’s been 15 years since Muf­fet McGraw and Notre Dame were No. 1 in the poll.

The Ir­ish earned the top spot in The As­so­ci­ated Press women’s bas­ket­ball Tues­day, re­ceiv­ing 14 first­place votes from a 33-mem­ber na­tional me­dia panel to earn the top rank­ing in the pre­sea­son. Notre Dame last held the No. 1 rank­ing on March 5, 2001. McGraw re­turns most of the core from a team that went 33-2 last sea­son.

She was happy for the com­pli­ment, but found the rank­ing a lit­tle high con­sid­er­ing her team is com­ing off one of its most dis­ap­point­ing sea­sons in a few years and didn’t reach the Fi­nal Four for the first time in six years.

“I’d rather we earned it,” McGraw said. “We’re com­ing off the worst sea­son we’ve had in six years, it seems odd that we’re pre­sea­son No. 1. You should have to earn it.”

McGraw has had a bunch of very good teams over the last 15 sea­sons that never reached the top spot. There al­ways seemed to be some­one just a lit­tle bit bet­ter.

“Other teams have had good teams, too. Con­necti­cut has had some pretty good teams in there,” McGraw said. “There was a year when yeah maybe, Stan­ford beat Con­necti­cut, but then South Carolina went to No. 1.”

Bay­lor was a close sec­ond, four points be­hind the Ir­ish. The Lady Bears gar­nered 12 first-place votes.

“Be­ing pre­sea­son No. 2 in the coun­try brings great recog­ni­tion to our school and our pro­gram,” Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey said. “We wel­come it. We have a sched­ule, non­con­fer­ence and con­fer­ence, that will be most chal­leng­ing early in the sea­son. It’s one that I think will help us late in the sea­son.”

UConn, which has won 75 con­sec­u­tive games and four straight na­tional cham­pi­onships, was third. The Huskies had been the No. 1 team for the last 24 weeks.

“I don’t think we should be No. 1,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I don’t think we should be any­where near the teams that al­most went to the Fi­nal Four and have every­body back and have all that ex­pe­ri­ence and all that ta­lent. We’ve been in those sit­u­a­tions be­fore and we’re not there now. So, wher­ever they put us, I’m OK.”

South Carolina and Louisville round out the top five teams. Mary­land, Ohio State, Texas, UCLA and Mis­sis­sippi State are next.

Ten­nessee, which had its run of 565 straight weeks ranked in the Top 25 end last sea­son, is back in at No. 13. The Lady Vols have been in each pre­sea­son poll ex­cept the first one. They are one of four teams not ranked in the fi­nal poll that’s in the Top 25 now.

Na­tional run­ner-up Syra­cuse was 14th, while Fi­nal Four par­tic­i­pants Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon State were 17th and 25th.

The South­east­ern Con­fer­ence leads the way with six teams in the top 25. The Pac-12 and ACC each have five. UConn and 21st-ranked DePaul are the only two schools from non-power five con­fer­ences to be ranked.

The first reg­u­lar-sea­son poll will be Mon­day, Nov. 14, with two big games that night. Bay­lor hosts UCLA while UConn vis­its Florida State.

Here are a few other poll tid­bits:

It’s been awhile

Mis­souri is ranked in the pre­sea­son for the first time since 1984. The Tigers reached the NCAAs for the first time in a decade and re­turn star Sophia Cun­ning­ham. Un­for­tu­nately, they al­ready lost sec­ondlead­ing scorer and top re­bounder Jor­dan Fr­ericks and re­serve Bri Porter for the sea­son with knee in­juries.

Miss­ing tri­an­gle

Duke is not ranked in the pre­sea­son for the first time since 1994-95. The Blue Devils aren’t the only mem­ber of To­bacco Road ab­sent from the poll. North Carolina and North Carolina State aren’t ranked ei­ther. It’s only the sec­ond time in the 41-year his­tory of the poll that none of the three are in the pre­sea­son rank­ings. It also hap­pened in 1986.

Hoosier hys­te­ria

In­di­ana is ranked for only the third time in the pro­gram’s his­tory. The No. 23 Hoosiers are com­ing into the sea­son af­ter equal­ing a school record with 21 vic­to­ries and win­ning the team’s first NCAA game. In­di­ana is led by ju­nior Tyra Buss, who av­er­aged 18.8 points

ELISE AMENDOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this Jan. 14 file photo, Notre Dame coach Muf­fet McGraw ges­tures dur­ing the third quar­ter of Notre Dame’s win over Bos­ton Col­lege in an NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game in Bos­ton. McGraw and Notre Dame are ranked No. 1 in The As­so­ci­ated Press women’s bas­ket­ball poll for the first time in 15 years.

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