CBKB: Hartford women in Top 25 for first time
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
Hartford rode a school-record winning streak to its first Top 25 appearance, and gave UConn a little Nutmeg State company in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll.
The Hawks entered the ranking for the first time in school history on Monday, tied at No. 24. Hartford has won 16 straight contests and will play their first game as a ranked team at Albany on Wednesday night with a chance to clinch the America East regular season championship.
“It’s a thrill for our program to be in,” Hartford coach Jen Rizzotti said. “It’s a first, but we take it one game at a time. If we’re ranked and we lose it won’t mean anything. We want to be ranked at the end of the year.”
Connecticut ran its remarkable streak at No. 1 to 40 weeks. The Huskies (27-0) have won 66 consecutive games after beating Providence on Saturday. They play at Syracuse on Wednesday before hosting No. 13 Georgetown on Saturday.
For one week, though, the Huskies gave up a little spotlight to the Hawks.
Hartford is just the second American East school to earn a berth in the Top 25 — Vermont was ranked for one week earlier this season. Having two teams from the conference ranked in the same season meant a lot to Rizzotti, who called it “a sign of respect.”
“Vermont has had a great run the last few years with the kids that are seniors in the program,” she said. “Going out and winning some big non-conference games, they’ve done their job.”
Stanford, Nebraska, Tennessee and Xavier followed the Huskies. The Musketeers are the first non-BCS conference team to crack the initial five since Louisiana Tech did it in 2001, and are the first Atlantic 10 team to appear in the top 5 since Penn State was No. 1 in the final poll of 1990-91. The Nittany Lions now play in the Big Ten.
Duke, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Florida State and Ohio State rounded out the top 10. The Irish fell three spots after losing at St. John’s and Georgetown, and Ohio State dropped three places after losing to Michigan State in overtime on Sunday.
Oklahoma remained 11th, followed by Texas A&M, Georgetown, Texas and Iowa State. Kentucky was 16th and Baylor was No. 17, while St. John’s climbed four places to 18th — its best ranking since 1984. The Red Storm knocked off then-No. 4 Notre Dame on Tuesday for their first victory ever over a top-five opponent.
Gonzaga moved up two spots to 19th and LSU gained three places to 20th. Virginia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Hartford and Georgia rounded out the poll. Virginia, which re-entered the Top 25 after falling out on Feb. 1, hosts Florida State on Monday night.
TCU and Vanderbilt dropped out of the poll this week.