Tennessee replaces Blue Devils at the top

Updated: January 28, 2004, 9:54 AM ET
Associated Press

Welcome back, Tennessee. It's been awhile.

The Lady Vols were No. 1 in The Associated Press women's basketball poll Monday, their first appearance atop the rankings in nearly three years.

Tennessee moved up one spot to replace Duke after beating the Blue Devils 72-69 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night.

Tennessee (16-1) received 44 of 47 first-place votes and 1,172 points from a national media panel in earning its 91st No. 1 ranking -- but first since the week of Feb. 26, 2001.

Duke was No. 2 with one first-place vote and 1,096 points.

The Lady Vols also knocked Duke from its No. 1 perch in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, which was released Tuesday.

Monday's rankings must have seemed bittersweet for Tennessee. Team officials announced that point guard Loree Moore will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in the win against Duke.

There was, however, more good news for the Lady Vols: Pat Summitt wants to keep coaching the team. Summitt, 51, has signed a new contract to coach through the end of the 2007-08 season.

Tennessee ended its second-longest stretch away from No. 1; its record drought was from December 1978 to December 1986.

"I think in this program it's not so much about being ranked No. 1. It's about being prepared for postseason," Summitt said. "With that in mind, we play some of the best teams, not only in the Southeastern Conference, but outside our league.

"So when I look at that, I'm not surprised it's been awhile."

The Lady Vols certainly haven't taken it easy this season. Ten of their opponents have been or are currently in the Top 25, and their only loss was against No. 3 Texas.

"When it looked as though maybe I'd given them a schedule that was too challenging, I kept reminding myself why we play this schedule, and they kept getting it done," Summitt said.

"They're really a special group. They've had great chemistry."

Duke (15-2) spent three weeks at No. 1 after replacing Connecticut, which led the first eight polls of the season and is now fourth.

Texas (17-2) remained third with two first-place votes and 1,074 points.

There were numerous changes throughout the poll, including three newcomers: No. 23 Virginia Tech, No. 24 Vanderbilt and No. 25 Nebraska, ranked for the first time since November 1999. Villanova, Boston College and Houston dropped out.

Connecticut moved up one spot, while No. 5 Penn State and No. 6 Purdue each climbed two places. Texas Tech, tied with Texas for third last week, dropped to seventh after a double-overtime loss to unranked Oklahoma State.

Stanford fell from sixth to eighth after losing to Southern California, while Louisiana Tech climbed two spots to ninth, and North Carolina went from 13th to 10th.

No. 11 Colorado also jumped three places, while Kansas State lost to Nebraska and dropped from ninth to 12th.

DePaul moved up two spots to 13th, followed by Minnesota, LSU, Baylor, Miami, Michigan State, Georgia and Oklahoma. TCU, Auburn, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and Nebraska held the final five places.

Virginia Tech (15-3) returned to the poll after being out for a week, while Vanderbilt (15-3) had a three-week absence.

Second-year coach Connie Yori has turned things around at Nebraska after going 8-20 last season. The Cornhuskers (14-3) lost at Texas Tech last week but were impressive in beating Kansas State 81-63.

Villanova, Boston College and Houston each lost this week. Boston College was ranked for seven weeks, Villanova for two, and Houston for just one.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press