Lady Vols look up at Baylor, Irish
Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 7:02 pm
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
Brittney Griner and Baylor are starting the season where they hope to end it — at No. 1.
The Lady Bears are ranked at the top for the first time in the preseason women’s basketball poll by The Associated Press. Baylor started last year at No. 2 before ascending to No. 1 in early January for the first time in school history. The Lady Bears finished with a No. 3 ranking.
“Certainly we’d rather it was the last ranking, but it’s great recognition for our program and Baylor University,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “Regardless of where you’re ranked at the beginning of the season it’s a positive for your university. We’ll embrace it in such a way and understand that it doesn’t win basketball games.”
Baylor received 33 of 40 first-place votes Saturday from a national media panel. The Lady Bears became the first Big 12 school to be ranked No. 1 to start the season since Texas in 1985 and 1986.
Notre Dame drew six first-place votes and was second, with Tennessee, Connecticut and Stanford rounding out the first five. The No. 2 ranking is the Irish’s best since the final poll of 2001 when they also were ranked second.
The Lady Bears could meet the Irish in the Preseason WNIT final in mid-November. They also play the Lady Vols and Huskies before the New Year. With the 6-foot-8 Griner, Mulkey is ready.
“If you have a team capable of playing them, go play them,” Mulkey said. “This schedule’s extremely tough — the toughest since I’ve been at Baylor.”
Notre Dame returns four starters, including sensational guard Skylar Diggins, from last season’s squad that lost to Texas A&M in the national championship game.
Tennessee retains most of the team that swept the SEC last season for the conference title. The Lady Vols fell to Notre Dame in the NCAA regional finals last season, missing a Final Four trip for the third year in a row.
They’ve never gone four seasons without playing in the national semifinals.
Published in The Messenger 11.1.11