Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies are starting this season where they left off, atop the poll.
It’s the 11th time that the Huskies are the top choice in The Associated Press preseason poll which was released Tuesday. UConn went on to win the national championship in seven of those years, including the last two seasons. Connecticut is one short of the record held by Tennessee.
“I think it’s part of the culture that we have hopefully created here where the expectations are really high,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Not just the outside world’s expectations, those are our expectations. We want to be viewed, year in and year out, as one of the best teams in the country.”
The Huskies received all 32 first-place votes from the national media panel Tuesday and will be trying for an unprecedented fourth straight national championship this year.
“It’s certainly not something you take for granted, but at the same time when you’ve been in that situation enough times, you get to appreciate a lot of those times we weren’t number one and won the national championship,” Auriemma continued. “That’s when you realize that the key is finishing the season number one, not what you’re ranked in the preseason. But as the famous Lefty Driesell once said, ‘you tend to finish where you’re picked’. I kind of like that.”
UConn also was the preseason No. 1 in 1995, ‘99, 2000, ‘01, ‘03, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10, ‘13 and ‘14. The Huskies open Nov. 16 at No. 6 Ohio State.
South Carolina was second with Notre Dame, Tennessee and Baylor rounding out the first five. The Gamecocks were also No. 2 in the preseason poll last year.
TOP RANKINGS: This is UConn’s 185th week as the No. 1 team in the AP poll, 73 more than No. 2 Tennessee. This is the 40th year of the poll, but all of UConn’s top rankings have come since 1995. The Lady Vols are second followed by Louisiana Tech (83), Texas (47) and Baylor (39).
WILD FOR THE WILDCATS: Expectations are high for No. 19 Northwestern, which is ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 1990. The only other time they were ranked in the Top 25 in the first poll of the year was in 1979. Joe McKeown’s squad, which was ranked for four weeks last season, is led by junior Nia Coffey. She scored in double figures in 31 games last year and had over 20 in seven of those contests. She was just one of two Big Ten players last season to rank among the league’s top 10 in points, rebounds and blocks.
STANDING ALONE: After ending a 31-year absence from the poll last season, Jim Foster has Chattanooga in the preseason poll for the first time in school history at No. 25. Foster is the only coach to have four different teams ranked and now is first coach to lead four different teams to the preseason rankings. He did it at St. Joseph’s, Ohio State and Vanderbilt also.
NEW GUYS: There are four teams in the preseason Top 25 that weren’t ranked in 2014-15’s final poll: No. 12 Texas, No. 17 Oklahoma, No. 23 Syracuse and No. 24 Michigan State.
CONFERENCE CALL: The Atlantic Coast Conference leads the conferences in preseason ranked teams with six. Third-ranked Notre Dame is the ACC’s highest-ranked team followed by No. 7 Florida State, No. 8 Louisville, No. 14 Duke, No. 22 North Carolina and No. 23 Syracuse.
The Southeastern Conference has five teams led by No. 2 South Carolina. Fourth-ranked Tennessee follows the Gamecocks. No. 11 Mississippi State, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 18 Kentucky round out the ranked teams in the conference.
The Big Ten has four teams while the Pac-12 and Big 12 each have three. South Florida joins UConn from the American Athletic Conference.
The Atlantic 10 and Southern Conference each have one team.