<
>

Duke women finish No. 1 in poll for first time

3/15/2004 - Duke Blue Devils

Add a chapter to Duke's basketball lore -- a final No. 1 ranking
for the women.

Duke was an overwhelming choice for the top spot Monday in the
last Associated Press poll of the season. It's the first time the
Blue Devils have finished at No. 1 in the women's poll, and they
now turn their attention to a possible first national championship.

Coach Gail Goestenkors' team is the No. 1 seed in the Mideast
Regional of the NCAA Tournament and hosts Northwestern State in the
first round Sunday.

"It's an awesome accomplishment for us now that I know this is
the first time we've finished No. 1," Duke's Iciss Tillis said.
"I wouldn't say it was a goal because we're always trying to
finish as high as we can. But it shows that all the hard work and
effort has paid off."

Duke (27-3) received 43 of 47 first-place votes from a national
media panel and ended Connecticut's string of four No. 1 finishes
in the poll. The Huskies dropped to sixth, their lowest finish
since they were 10th in the final poll of the 1992-93 season.

The solid vote for Duke came after 2½ months of constant
shuffling at the top of the poll. Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas
also were No. 1 during that stretch and no team held that position
for more than three weeks. The six changes at No. 1 matched the
most in any season since the AP poll started in 1976.

Duke moved to No. 1 last week and held it after beating North
Carolina to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. The Blue
Devils finished with 1,168 points in the voting, 90 more than No. 2
Tennessee.

Purdue was third and Texas fourth, followed by Penn State,
Connecticut and Louisiana Tech. Tennessee and Penn State each had
one first-place vote while Louisiana Tech received two.

Kansas State was eighth, Houston ninth and Stanford 10th. It was
the first top 10 ranking for Houston (27-3), which moved up rapidly
after rejoining the poll at No. 25 on Feb. 9.

Oklahoma made the biggest jump, climbing eight places to 11th
after beating Texas to win the Big 12 tournament. North Carolina
dropped three places to 12th and Vanderbilt moved up two spots to
13th.

Then it was Texas Tech, Baylor and Georgia, followed by
Colorado, Boston College, LSU and TCU. Boston College went from
23rd to 18th after winning the Big East tournament. The Eagles beat
Connecticut in the semifinals.

Ohio State, Auburn, Michigan State, Minnesota and Villanova held
the final five spots. There were no newcomers.

Tennessee and Purdue climbed three spots in the final poll.
Tennessee, idle last week after losing in the semifinals of the
Southeastern Conference tournament, is the top overall seed in the
NCAA tournament. Purdue advanced after defeating Penn State in the
finals of the Big Ten tournament.

Texas dropped two places, Penn State was down one and UConn fell
three spots.

Duke and Tennessee were among 17 teams that appeared in every
poll this season. The others are Texas, Connecticut, Penn State,
Purdue, Louisiana Tech, Kansas State, North Carolina, Texas Tech,
Stanford, Colorado, Georgia, LSU, TCU, Auburn and Minnesota.

Only Duke, Tennessee, Texas, UConn, Penn State and Purdue were
in the top 10 all season.

Purdue was the highest ranked team that did not get a No. 1 seed
in the NCAA Tournament. The third-ranked Boilermakers are the No. 2
seed in the West Regional. Penn State and Texas are the other No. 1
seeds.

The widest discrepancy between rankings and seedings involved
No. 7 Louisiana Tech and No. 10 Stanford. Tech is only a No. 5 seed
in the tournament. Stanford, winner of the Pac-10 regular-season
and tournament championships, is a No. 6 seed.