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South Carolina tops preseason AP Top 25 for third straight season

Boston posted 23 points and 18 rebounds in South Carolina’s Final Four win against Louisville. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

The first Associated Press top 25 of the women’s college basketball season has arrived, with South Carolina taking the top spot in the poll again after finishing last season as the wire-to-wire No. 1.

The Gamecocks received all 30 first-place votes. The reigning national champions have taken the top spot in the preseason poll for three consecutive years.

“This is where we wanted to be and envisioned for our program,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley told the Associated Press. “I got to give it to our players. We constantly get some of the best players in the country. They put us in this position as they work extremely hard. I don’t know if they come in and say I want to be the No. 1 team in the country, but they do say they want to be national champions. This is a step to being a national champion.”

South Carolina is followed in the top 25 by Stanford and Texas. The No. 3 Longhorns moved up three spots from their final ranking last season.

Iowa is the top Big Ten team, coming in fourth in the poll. It’s a four-spot jump for Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes, who finished eighth overall last season.

“It makes no difference in March what we’re ranked in October, but certainly I want my team to have confidence and be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Iowa is on the map,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “We’ll celebrate it and then forgot about it.”

The Hawkeyes lead six ranked Big Ten teams, the most of any conference in the country. Joining the Hawkeyes are No. 11 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 17 Maryland, No. 22 Nebraska and No. 25 Michigan.

The Big Ten is followed by the ACC, which has five teams in the poll, including three in the top 10: No. 7 Louisville, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 10 NC State.

The biggest climber in the top 25 is Tennessee, which rose 13 spots to No. 5. UConn takes the No. 6 spot, while Iowa State rounds out the top 10 at No. 8.

This season marks the first time in 15 years that UConn has not been among the top five teams in the preseason poll. The Huskies finished last season at No. 5. They advanced to the NCAA title game last season but lost to South Carolina, and since then have lost star Paige Bueckers to a season-ending knee injury.

Princeton enters the preseason rankings for the first time at No. 24. While the Tigers were ranked in the final two weeks of last season, they’ve never found themselves in this position heading into the season.

“It’s great for our program and for the Ivy League and putting some respect on what we’ve done in the past,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said. “I think it’s tremendous for our team and for us to live up to the standards we’ve set, we’ve got lofty goals. To be ranked in the preseason means a lot, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”