It's UConn -- who else? -- at No. 1

The player of the year returned and so did everyone else from the national championship team. So, who else but Connecticut would be No. 1 in women's basketball?

UConn was a unanimous choice for the top spot Tuesday in The Associated Press' preseason poll, which was no surprise considering that superstar Diana Taurasi is back for her senior year with a talented cast around her.

It's also nothing new for the Huskies, who have won the last two NCAA titles and three of the last four. This is the fifth time they've started the season at No. 1, a position they've held in 57 of the last 76 polls.

"Being No. 1 is nice and it makes for interesting reading, but it really is not anything that we are strangers to,'' coach Geno Auriemma said. "This group has been in that situation so many times. I'm sure we'll handle it the right way.''

The No. 1 ranking for the women made it a UConn sweep in the preseason polls because the Huskies led the men's poll released Monday. This is the ninth time Connecticut has led both, including the 1999-2000 preseason polls.

The women, 37-1 last season, received all 47 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,175 points. The three teams that joined UConn in the Final Four last season were ranked right behind the Huskies -- Duke, Texas and Tennessee.

Connecticut could become the first team to get to the Final Four five straight years and just the second to win three consecutive titles. Tennessee did it from 1996-98.

Auriemma insisted it's way too early to be thinking about another title, though the Huskies' fans are excited. Their first
exhibition game Saturday night drew a sellout crowd of 10,167.

"Right now, we are trying to get healthy and prepare for what we anticipate to be a very difficult task over the next four
months: winning the Big East,'' Auriemma said.

"The danger, of course, is to not cruise through the regular season and think that come March, everything will be fine once the NCAA Tournament starts.''

And if UConn wins the Big East again?

"I really believe if we win our league, we are automatically the best team in the country,'' Auriemma said. "Forget what
anybody else is doing.''

Connecticut also was the preseason No. 1 in 2000-01 and 2001-02.

Duke led the preseason poll a year ago and remained No. 1 until losing to Connecticut on Feb. 1.

The Blue Devils, who finished 35-2, return All-American Alana Beard and three other starters. Plus, guard Monique Currie is back after missing all last season with a knee injury.

Duke had 1,117 points in the voting, Texas 1,071 and Tennessee 983. Kansas State was fifth, just two points behind Tennessee, and was followed by Stanford, Purdue, Penn State, LSU and Texas Tech.

Georgia was 11th and Louisiana Tech 12th. Then it was Minnesota, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Rutgers, followed by Ohio State, UC Santa Barbara, Utah and Colorado.

Oklahoma, Auburn, Arizona, TCU and Virginia held the final five spots.

TCU, which has become a solid program under coach Jeff Mittie, has been ranked only once before -- No. 25 during the week of Feb. 25, 2002. Virginia, once a regular in the poll, made the Top 25 for the first time since midway through the 2000-01 season.