For first time in five years, UConn is AP's preseason No. 1

Connecticut is back in familiar territory -- No. 1 in the preseason women's basketball poll.

This is the first time in five seasons and the sixth time in school history the Huskies have the top preseason ranking by The Associated Press.

UConn received 44 of the 45 first-place votes Saturday from a national media panel and compiled 1,124 points. No. 2 Stanford was 106 points behind and drew the other first-place ballot.

UConn lost to Stanford in the Final Four last season. Huskies coach Geno Auriemma returns three starters, including sensational sophomore Maya Moore.

"For this team to have a preseason No. 1 ranking is special," Auriemma said. "They have battled through a lot. Finally making the Final Four last year and now earning this ranking means something to them."

Maryland is third and followed by Oklahoma, one of five Big 12 teams in the poll. Rutgers is fifth and North Carolina sixth. Two-time defending champion Tennessee, the only school with more No. 1 preseason rankings than UConn, is seventh. The Lady Vols graduated last seasons' starting five.

The Huskies finished first in the poll last season. Connecticut, which was also No. 1 in the preseason in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003, opens Nov. 16 against Georgia Tech. Since the 1989-90 season, the No. 1 team in the preseason has won the NCAA championship only five times, most recently Tennessee in April.

"Being ranked in November isn't the goal of this program," Auriemma said. "It's winning in April that we focus on."

Stanford lost All-American Candice Wiggins but returns almost everyone else from its runner-up squad. That impressed voter Elliott Warnock of the Chapel Hill News.

"While winning 35 games one year doesn't necessarily mean anything for the next year, returning four starters from the NCAA finalists ought to help the Cardinal get a head start on the opposition," he said.

Duke is ranked No. 8, with California and Louisville rounding out the first 10.

Louisville is coming off its best season but its big hopes took a hit when senior center Chauntise Wright tore a knee ligament in practice. Louisville's previous best ranking was 14th on New Year's Day 2007.

Texas A&M is No. 11, followed by Vanderbilt, Texas, Oklahoma State and Virginia. The Cavaliers also have been hit by an early injury, with guard Paulisha Kellum tearing a knee ligament in a scrimmage.

Notre Dame, Arizona State, Ohio State, Baylor, and Auburn complete the first 20. Florida State, Xavier, Purdue, LSU, and Old Dominion finish off the Top 25.

LSU has been ranked for 117 straight weeks, the sixth-longest active streak behind Connecticut, Tennessee, Stanford, Duke and North Carolina. Xavier is ranked for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

"It's a great honor for our program," Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. "We have strived to make it into the Top 25."

Texas is one of six teams in the poll not ranked at the end of last season. The others are Arizona State, Auburn, Florida State, Xavier and Purdue.