By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
Baylor is back where it started the season — No. 1.
The Lady Bears regained the top spot in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll Monday after former No. 1 Connecticut lost to Notre Dame on Saturday.
Baylor, which received 32 first-place votes this week, was the top choice in the preseason after going 40-0 last year. The Lady Bears had a run of 21 straight weeks at No. 1 end with a neutral site loss to Stanford in November.
While Baylor coach Kim Mulkey was happy her team was back at No. 1, she was focused on other things.
“I never worry about it because I’ve come to learn that the only thing that matters is championships in your conferences, a good seed in the NCAA tournament,” she said after Baylor’s rout of Oklahoma State on Sunday. “You don’t have to be ranked No. 1 to get a No. 1 seed or to even be the overall No. 1 seed. I think the (NCAA) selection committee uses it as a gauge, but because you’re No. 1 in the country doesn’t mean you’re going to be the No. 1 seed. I don’t put much stock in it, other than it might bring a little recognition to your school, your program.”
The Lady Bears host Iowa State, which came into the poll at No. 25, and visit 17th-ranked Kansas this week.
Notre Dame jumped up three spots to No. 2 after its thrilling one-point victory at UConn. The Irish, who received two first-place votes, have only lost at home this season to Baylor. The Huskies fell to third, marking just the second time the school lasted one week at No. 1. In 2004, UConn ascended to the top spot on Feb. 23 before losing to Villanova a few days later.
UConn still has games left this season against Baylor, Notre Dame and No. 4 Duke, which is the only undefeated team left in Division I. The Blue Devils received four first-place votes.
“The beauty of college basketball is that so many of the top teams play each other,” said voter Marcus Henry, who writes for Newsday. “That also makes it tougher to put together a poll each week.”
Henry kept Connecticut at No. 1.
With Baylor, Stanford and UConn all holding the top spot so far this season, it’s the first time since 2006 that there have been this many different teams reaching No. 1 in the poll.
“It’s great for women’s basketball, having different teams upsetting different teams,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, whose Cardinal were ranked fifth. “That’s the direction we’re going in a little bit.”
Stanford is followed by Kentucky, California, Penn State, Tennessee and Maryland.
Oklahoma State had the biggest drop, falling eight spots to No. 21 after losing twice.
Miami also re-entered the Top 25 as Nebraska and Arkansas fell out.