(WTNH)–For the first time in what seems like forever, the UConn women are not the No. 1-ranked team in college basketball.
Yup. You read that correctly.
In fact, the Huskies aren’t even No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll, which was released Tuesday. They’re ranked a blasphemous third, behind Baylor and No. 1 Notre Dame.
The Irish are in at the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2001, when they beat Purdue for the national title. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw says she’s 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.”
Baylor wound up four points behind the Irish and garnered 12 first-place votes.
The Huskies, who have won 75 straight games and four straight national championships, had been the No. 1-ranked 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.”
“Right now, nobody has anything,” Auriemma told the Hartford Courant. “It’s up for grabs. Anybody can grab it. Last year’s national championship trophy? They can’t have that. That’s our’s. This year’s? Lots of people have a shot at it. People say, ‘You’re the champion until somebody beats you.’ Well, this isn’t heavyweight fighting. When you win a heavyweight championship, the following year you don’t send a different guy in there to defend the title, right? It’s the same guy.”
UConn, of course, lost Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Moriah Jefferson from a team that went 38-0 and thumped Syracuse, 82-51, for the national title.
It may be disrespectful to Huskies fans, but the No. 3 ranking could be the best thing to happen to the team heading into this, a transition year.
UConn opens the season on November 14 at Florida State.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.