Stanford climbs to No. 2 in women’s AP Top 25 behind UConn

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Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer talks to her team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UCLA in the Pac-12 women’s tournament championship Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Buoyed by an impressive run to the Pac-12 Conference championship, Stanford jumped two spots to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll on Monday.

The Cardinal won three games in the conference tournament by an average of 31 points, including a 20-point victory over then-No. 9 UCLA on Sunday for the title.

Coach Tara VanDerveer’s team received five of 29 first-place votes from a national media panel. Stanford (25-2) trails only UConn in the AP Top 25. The Huskies got 22 first-place votes and play for the Big East Tournament title on Monday night against Marquette.

North Carolina State stayed at No. 3 after edging Louisville for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The Wolfpack received the other two first-place votes. Texas A&M and South Carolina rounded out the top five teams in the poll. The Gamecocks won the SEC championship on Sunday, beating Georgia.

Baylor was No. 6, with Louisville and Maryland tied for seventh. Indiana and UCLA finished off the top 10. The Lady Bears, Terrapins and Hoosiers all play in their conference tournaments this week.

The final poll of the season will be released next Monday before the NCAA unveils the tournament bracket.

Florida Gulf Coast entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2015, coming in at No. 24, while DePaul fell out. The Eagles have won 22 consecutive games after losing in the Gulf Coast Showcase to Missouri State and Arkansas. They play in the Atlantic Sun Tournament later this week.

“We’re definitely excited that we’re being considered among the best 25 teams in the country,” Florida Gulf Coast coach Karl Smesko said. “It’s something that’s very challenging for mid-majors to break into that poll. We know we put in a lot of work and had to have a successful season up to this point to be considered for it.”

The Eagles were ranked for the final five weeks of the 2015 season, reaching No. 20 — the only other time the school has been in the Top 25.

“It is rewarding that we’re being recognized for how well we’re playing when we didn’t have the same type of nonconference season we normally have with the number of BCS teams,” Smesko said.

Here are a few other tidbits from the poll:

MOVING UP

Rutgers shot up five spots in the poll to No. 19 this week. The Scarlet Knights have won nine games in a row for the longest conference winning streak since the 2004-05 team went unbeaten in the Big East. Rutgers finished third in the Big Ten, which ties the school’s best finish since joining the conference in 2014-15.

FALLING JACKRABBITS

South Dakota State saw its 18-game winning streak end with a loss to Omaha in the quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament. The Jackrabbits fell to No. 25 in the poll and will have to wait until Selection Monday to find out their NCAA Tournament fate. Early season wins over Gonzaga, Iowa State and Missouri State should bolster their tournament resume.

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More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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