Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies will begin the season the same way they ended the last one — atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll.
Connecticut received all 35 votes Thursday marking the 10th time that the Huskies are the top team in the preseason. Six of those years UConn went on to win the national championship.
“A lot of rankings are based on what you did last year and what you have coming back,” Auriemma said. “It’s nice when people are talking about your program and we like that feeling.”
UConn has won its last 46 games, including going 40-0 en route to a ninth national championship last April. The Huskies are led by sensational junior Breanna Stewart, the two-time most outstanding player of the Final Four. She was the only college player on the U.S. national team that won a gold medal at the world championship earlier this month.
Connecticut, which also was the preseason No. 1 in 1995, ‘99, 2000, ‘01, ‘03, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10 and ‘13 opens Nov. 14 at UC Davis before visiting No. 6 Stanford three days later. The Huskies only trail Tennessee’s 12 appearances at No. 1 in the preseason poll.
South Carolina was second in the poll — it’s best ranking since Jan. 3, 1982. The Gamecocks haven’t ever been ranked this high in the preseason. Expectations are high for Dawn Staley’s team, which advanced to the Sweet 16 last season and won its first SEC title. The team returns SEC player of the year Tiffany Mitchell and league freshman of the year in Alaina Coates as well as a talented freshman class.
Tennessee is fourth and Texas A&M rounds out the first five teams. It’s the Aggies best preseason ranking in school history. Stanford, Duke, Baylor, Texas and Maryland finish off the first 10.
Kentucky is 11th followed by Louisville, North Carolina, Michigan State and California. Nebraska, West Virginia, DePaul, Iowa and Oregon State are next.
Oklahoma State, Dayton, UCLA, Rutgers and Syracuse round out the poll.
72 MEN’S AND WOMEN’S GAMES SET FOR TV: In Frisco, Texas, Southland Conference men’s and women’s basketball teams will combine for a 72 broadcast opportunities during the 2014-15 season, the league announced Thursday. Included in the package are 49 men’s games and 23 women’s games that will be broadcast nationally or regionally.
Included in the television package are national broadcast opportunities for the championship games of the men’s and women’s tournaments. The championship game of the men’s tournament will be televised March 14 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2 for the second consecutive year, while the women’s championship game will be televised at noon on March 15 by the CBS Sports Network.
“We are very pleased to see the continued growth in broadcast opportunities for Southland Conference basketball,” Commissioner Tom Burnett said.
“After one of the most competitively successful years in league history, there’s a lot of anticipation that the 2014-15 basketball season will match or surpass the excitement of last year, and we’re glad much of it will be broadcast so broadly.”
The men’s broadcast schedule includes 40 national broadcasts and nine regional broadcasts. Southland men’s teams will play 19 games on ESPN3 and two games on ESPN2 and one on ESPNEWS. League teams will also make national appearances on Fox Sports 2, CBS Sports Network, the Big Ten Networks, the Pacific-12 Networks, the SEC Networks and the Longhorn Network.
Of the 23 women’s games that will be broadcast this season, 11 are available on ESPN3 as well as four on the SEC Network Plus, two on the Longhorn Network and one on Fox Sports in addition to the tournament final on CBS Sports Network.