NEW YORK (AP) — As women’s basketball teams finish up their regular season and turn their attention to the conference tournaments, South Carolina, Baylor and Oregon remain a step above everyone else.
The Gamecocks stayed at No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll released Monday, receiving 27 of 30 first-place votes from the media panel. Baylor was second, getting two first-place votes. Oregon had the final one to stay at No. 3.
“I do think that in all the chaos of this season with changes to No. 1, the top three as they stand right now have been the most consistent in their excellence,” longtime poll voter LaChina Robinson said.
The three teams all easily won their conferences, with South Carolina and Baylor going undefeated in the SEC and Big 12. Barring some major slip-ups or surprises, the trio is expected to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and then play close to home in the Sweet 16.
Louisville moved up one spot to No. 4, with UConn rounding out the top five teams in the poll. Maryland, Stanford, UCLA, Mississippi State and North Carolina State are the next five.
Stanford tumbled three spots to No. 7 following back-to-back conference losses to Oregon on Monday and Arizona on Friday. The Cardinal avoided its first three-game skid since 2001 with a 55-44 win over No. 24 Arizona State on Sunday.
The top 10 teams are expected to be hosts in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA will announce its second reveal of the top 16 teams on Monday night, two weeks before the actual tournament selection show.
For the second consecutive Sunday, ranked teams had a tough day, with six of them losing to unranked opponents. Seven days earlier, Top 25 teams lost seven such games.
“I think this year while there is definitely a lot more parity there’s also been a lot more inconsistency. Every week, we’re trying to put together a poll after several Top 25 teams have not just lost, but in some cases, lost to unranked teams,” Robinson said. “The hardest part has been trying to figure out because there’s so much parity how far do you drop some of those teams when they lose because we know the gap isn’t as great between the haves and everyone else.”
Here are a few other tidbits from the poll:
WELCOME BACK: A week after dropping out of the poll, the Arkansas Razorbacks are back in at No. 25. Coach Mike Neighbors’ team finished the SEC regular season with a loss to Mississippi State before topping LSU. Arkansas reached 10 conference wins for only the second time in school history, equaling the mark set in 2012. The Razorbacks replaced TCU in the poll, which lost both its games this past week.
RISING WILDCATS: Northwestern clinched a share of its first Big Ten title in 30 years on Saturday and moved up three places to No. 11 this week. The team set a program record with its 26th victory, topping the 1979 team that won 25 games and the 1989-90 team that won 24 and the Big Ten title.
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