Lady Vols score another No. 1

Originally Published: November 4, 2004
By Nancy Lieberman | Special to ESPN.com

On Wednesday, Tennessee topped the ESPN/USA Today preseason top 25. Now, the Lady Vols have gone 2-for-2, headlining another set of rankings.

A look at our second annual preseason poll:

LIEBERMAN'S PRESEASON TOP 25
1. Tennessee Lady Vols graduated some great players. But they return a ton of talent, too. In end, Tennessee gets edge over UConn on strength of Parker and the Super Six, which just might be the best recruiting class ever.
2. Connecticut Diana Taurasi is gone, but Geno Auriemma remains. He always gets you to play just a little better than you thought you could. And don't forget he had plenty of talent, including All-Americans, on the bench last year.
3. LSU Everybody benefits from a trip to the Final Four. But it paid off most for Pokey Chatman, who will be even better this season.
4. Texas The Longhorns have all the bases covered and an extremely strong, versatile and balanced core.
5. Duke Lindsey Harding has been suspended indefinitely -- and that definitely hurts. Fifth spot might be too high now.
6. Georgia It was hard enough stopping the Lady Dogs on the perimeter last season. Should be even tougher now that young pups Alexis Kendrick, Janese Hardrick and Sherill Baker are older and wiser.
7. Stanford How do you make up for losing Nicole Powell? Returning six seniors who averaged at least six points last season helps. Tough nonconference schedule awaits, though.
8. Rutgers Great incoming class will help offset early loss of Cappie Pondexter, one of the best point guards in the nation.
9. North Carolina Come February, the Tar Heels could be the new No. 1 in the ACC. This is a fun team loaded with talent, athleticism and quickness.
10. Baylor Bears have plenty of motivation after "the call." Best part, though, is that Baylor hit so many high notes in '04 with a pair of underclassmen leading the way, then reached its first Sweet 16 with one of them sidelined.
11. Notre Dame Jacqueline Batteast is a proven star, but she must now take her game to an even higher level, and come through when the game is on the line.
12. Michigan St. Excellent coach gets all five starters back from 22-9 squad. And adds Al Brown to her bench. Any questions why the Spartans are my pick for the Big Ten title?
13. DePaul On my ballot, Khara Smith is a second-team All-American.
14. Ohio State Young, small team has talent -- and the talented Jim Foster -- on its side.
15. Penn State This is a very talented team that will be a little bit more diversified on offense. Tanisha Wright and Jess Strom are outstanding, but inside game took a hit with Reicina Russell's transfer to Georgia.
16. Vanderbilt The Commodores were one of the hottest teams in the nation late last season -- and capable of reaching that level again.
17. Texas Tech Marsha Sharp has taught us this: Don't ever count out the Lady Raiders. Tremendous recruiting class will complement solid returners.
18. Kansas State The Wildcats will miss Nicole Ohlde, but have plenty of firepower and play a great system. They distribute the ball very well and can shoot the lights out on 3s.
19. Purdue The senior class shouldered most of the burden in '04, but watching freshmen Katie Gearlds and Erin Lawless play fearless basketball and take their game to another level was quite a show, too.
20. Minnesota Despite the broken hand, Janel McCarville is headed toward another All-American season. Now we'll see who else steps up to help fill void Lindsay Whalen left behind.
21. Maryland Terps have one of best young backcourts in nation. And like last season, the freshmen need to make an immediate impact.
22. Boston Coll. The Eagles are so good at passing the ball and getting it to the right players. But they've got to replace Amber Jacobs' numbers.
23. Oklahoma Keep in mind that fourth or fifth place in the Big 12 isn't shabby at all.
24. Chattanooga It's time Katasha Brown and the Lady Mocs start making noise outside of the Southern Conference.
25. Arizona Shawntinice Polk and Dee-Dee Wheeler are a fantastic inside-outside combination. But don't overlook Wheeler's backcourt mate Natalie Jones.

Editor's note: Nancy Lieberman will take a closer look at the major conference races next week during ESPN.com's college basketball preview, which tips off Monday.

Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.

Nancy Lieberman

Basketball analyst / Writer
Nancy Lieberman, one of the most recognized individuals in women's basketball, is a men's and women's basketball analyst for ESPN. She works on ESPN and ESPN2's coverage of men's and women's college basketball, plus the WNBA and writes for ESPN.com.

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