NEW YORK — Philadelphia basketball legend Dawn Staley is back on top of the college women’s basketball world.
South Carolina, which Staley coached to the NCAA championship in 2017, moved up three spots to No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll after the top three teams from the previous week all lost.
South Carolina, which got 20 first-place votes, was last No. 1 on Feb. 9, 2015 — the end of a 12-week run atop the poll.
“Our ‘Women Up’ theme this season is about approaching each practice and game with a focused, disciplined and trusting mindset,” Staley said. “Our players have embraced this process and their commitment to hard work has earned them the No. 1 ranking in the country.”
Staley, a former Murrell Dobbins basketball star from North Philadelphia, was head women’s basketball coach at Temple University from 2000-2008 before moving to the head coaching job at South Carolina.
It was a rough week for ranked teams, with 11 of them losing at least one game, including Nos. 1-3 falling in a four-day span. The last time the top three teams in the AP Top 25 lost within a span of seven days was during the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
It wasn’t just the top teams that lost. Eight of the Top 25 programs were beaten by unranked teams, showing more parity in the sport than before. Only two teams — No. 9 North Carolina State and No. 16 Gonzaga — stayed in the same place.
Baylor jumped up four spots to No. 2 on Monday after beating then-No. 1 UConn. The Lady Bears, who received seven first-place votes from the 30-member national media panel, were followed by Stanford, UConn and Louisville. Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, N.C. State and Mississippi State rounded out the top 10.
The Gamecocks are the fourth different team to hold the top spot in the poll this season. It’s only the third time since the AP Top 25 became a writer’s poll in the 1994-95 season that there have been four different No. 1 teams in the same year. The other two times occurred in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
There has never been five different No. 1 teams in the same year since it became a writer’s poll.
There is no clear-cut favorite now to win the national championship. A handful of teams look like they could win the NCAA title in New Orleans.
“I don’t think there is one team that is head and shoulders above anybody. There are about six teams that have the ability, the talent and the coaching to win it all,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Don’t ask me who those six are, but I think there is about six and I think we are one of them and I think Connecticut is one of them.”