Iowa State has reached its best ranking in 20 years in The Associated Press women's basketball poll while South Carolina remains the unanimous choice at No. 1.
Iowa State (21-3) moved up three spots to sixth on Monday — its highest mark since the 2002 season — and has a huge week ahead with games against No. 14 Texas and No. 15 Oklahoma. The Cyclones then play No. 7 Baylor next Monday.
Longtime Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly couldn't remember the last time his team had such an important stretch.
“It's a really big week going to Texas where we haven’t played them very well lately and Oklahoma is playing at a very high level,” Fennelly said. “It's one of those weeks you hope to have in February.”
The Gamecocks received all 30 votes from a national media panel after beating Kentucky and Georgia on the road last week. Stanford, Louisville, N.C. State and Indiana rounded out the top five.
The Cyclones, who were sixth on Jan. 7, 2002, hold a one-game lead over Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 standings. Iowa State has only won the conference's regular season crown once, in 2000.
This is only the second time in the program’s history that the Cyclones have reached 20 wins in their first 23 games, joining the 200-01 team. Iowa State was missing star Ashley Joens, who averages 19.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, when it lost to Texas because of COVID-19 protocols. She is back now.
“This team is evolving into a really solid team that has done things the right way,” Fennelly said. “We’ve gotten healthier over time and that has helped us and we've won some close games.”
No. 7 Baylor and No. 8 Arizona follow Iowa State while Michigan fell from fourth to ninth after losing at Michigan State and Northwestern. UConn dropped two spots to No. 10.
Virginia Tech is back in the Top 25 at No. 23 after beating then-No. 11 Georgia Tech and former No. 23 North Carolina last week.
Louisville and N.C. State are two of six Atlantic Coast Conference teams ranked this week. The SEC and Big Ten each have five teams in the poll. The Big 12 has four and the Pac-12 two among Power Five conferences.
UConn's nine-year undefeated run of conference wins ended against Villanova last week; the Huskies hadn't lost a regular season or postseason conference game in either the Big East or American Athletic Conference since 2013, when they fell to Notre Dame. UConn rebounded with wins over DePaul and Marquette and still has not had back-to-back losses since 1993.
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 12 Tennessee at No. 1 South Carolina, Sunday. The top two teams in the SEC will square off with the Gamecocks hoping to put some space between themselves and the rest of the conference. ESPN will be on hand for the third-ever “College GameDay” at a women's basketball game.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25