Bowling Green makes AP poll debut; UNC No. 1

A perfect league record carried Bowling Green into the Top 25.

Bowling Green joined The Associated Press women's basketball poll at No. 24 on Monday, the Falcons' first appearance in 12 years. They came in after running the table in the Mid-American Conference for the third time in the program's history.

"We have enjoyed a magical run so far this year," coach Curt Miller said.

North Carolina remained unanimous at No. 1 after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament for the second straight year, Ohio State jumped three spots to second and Maryland moved up one place to third, the highest ranking for the Terrapins since they were third the week of Jan. 12, 1993.

The No. 2 ranking is the highest of the season for Ohio State. The Buckeyes were second for three weeks last season.

Maryland beat then-No. 2 Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament before losing to North Carolina 91-80 in the championship game. Duke slipped to fourth and LSU dropped from third to fifth after losing to Tennessee in the finals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Bowling Green (25-2) hasn't lost since a 66-62 overtime setback at Kentucky on Jan. 2. The Falcons beat Akron five days later and went on to finish 16-0 in the MAC. Now they have the program's first national ranking since the Falcons were 24th in the final poll of the 1993-94 season.

"I'm happy for our program and our community," Miller said. "Our players deserve credit for stepping up to each challenge and test throughout the season."

There's still work to be done, though. Most years, a MAC team needs to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. Bowling Green, the defending MAC tournament champion, plays Northern Illinois in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

"We'll have to play our best basketball of the year to repeat," Miller said.

North Carolina (29-1) received all 45 first-place votes from a national media panel to lead the poll for the second straight week and fourth time in six weeks.

The ACC tournament championship, which followed the regular-season title, likely secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the Tar Heels. They don't play again until the
NCAAs, so they'll probably finish No. 1 in the final poll next week.

North Carolina had never been ranked No. 1 before this season.

Ohio State (27-2) won the Big Ten regular-season championship and took an 18-game winning streak into the finals of the conference tournament Monday night against Purdue.

The Buckeyes edged Maryland (28-4) by four points in the voting for the No. 2 spot. Duke (26-3) trailed Maryland by 19 points, with LSU (27-3) 39 points behind the Blue Devils.

Rutgers remained sixth, Tennessee moved up one spot to seventh and Oklahoma went from ninth to eighth after becoming the first team to go 16-0 in the Big 12. Connecticut fell two places to ninth after losing to Rutgers in the regular-season finale and Baylor held at No. 10.

No. 11 Stanford, No. 12 Purdue and No. 13 DePaul each climbed two places. Then it was Georgia, Arizona State and Michigan State, followed by Louisiana Tech, Temple, Utah and BYU.

The major change in that group was Arizona State falling four places to 15th after losing to UCLA in the Pac-10 semifinals. Temple jumped four spots to 18th.

The final five were New Mexico, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Bowling Green and Vanderbilt.

Florida, which had been 23rd, dropped out after splitting two games in the SEC tournament. The Gators, who had returned to the poll just last week, beat Mississippi State 98-83 and then lost to Kentucky 88-70.