Baylor No. 1 in final AP women's poll

BY foxsports • March 12, 2012

Princeton coach Courtney Banghart couldn't wait to tell her players.

The Tigers became the first Ivy League team to enter The Associated Press women's college basketball poll, coming in at No. 24 on Monday.

''It's so special to know what these kids have done,'' she said. ''To earn this very prestigious opportunity is remarkable. It's a testament to their work ethic, goals. It's all the things that are right about college athletics.''

In the season's final poll, Baylor was the unanimous No. 1 choice again. The Lady Bears received all the first-place votes Monday for the 15th straight week after easily winning the Big 12 tournament. There were ballots from 39 of 40 voters. One voter was absent.

Baylor (34-0) was the No. 1 team in the poll all season long and will enter the NCAA tournament as the top seed when the field is announced Monday night.

In all, only eight teams have run through the poll from start to finish at No. 1. UConn has done it four times.

''I'm flattered and honored to join those other teams that are all in the history books of women's basketball,'' Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ''We feel humbled to join that special group.''

It's the first time the Lady Bears have finished the season as the top team.

Stanford, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Maryland followed Baylor. Duke, Delaware, Miami, Tennessee and Wisconsin-Green Bay rounded out the first 10.

With Princeton's appearance, there are only six conferences that have never had a team in the Top 25: the Atlantic Sun, Big South, MEAC, NEC, Patriot and SWAC.

It's been a banner year for the Ivy League in basketball. The Harvard men's team earned its first ranking in early December and Crimson alum Jeremy Lin has been one of the top stories of the NBA this season.

''It's really a great time to be an Ivy athlete,'' Princeton star Niveen Rasheed said. ''People are finally learning that there is more to the conference than just academics.''

Banghart has known of the Ivy League's basketball talent for years. She starred at Dartmouth as a player before taking over the Tigers five seasons ago.

''Until the Ivy League wins more games outside conference, the league won't get the respect you hope it would,'' Banghart said. ''We've had some nice wins the last two years with Harvard beating St. John's and Yale beating Florida State. It shows the growth of Ivy basketball.''

Princeton has a chance Monday night to earn the highest seed for an Ivy League school. No team has been seeded better than No. 11. The Tigers have an impressive NCAA resume. They won their Ivy League games by an average of 31 points and were the only men's or women's team to win all their conference matchups by at least 10 points. Princeton boasts a 17-game winning streak heading into the NCAAs.

The Tigers' four losses this season have come against NCAA tournament teams: Stanford, Delaware, DePaul and Navy.

''There probably aren't very many teams in the field that have lost to only NCAA tournament teams,'' Banghart said. ''I hope we use this to continue to get some good momentum headed to the tournament.''

Princeton has won the Ivy League three straight years and gone 41-1 in the conference during that run. The Tigers fell in the first round the past two seasons, losing to St. John's and Georgetown.

''Two years ago it was about the matchup,'' Banghart said. ''Last year we didn't want an athletic team because Niveen was hurt. This year is truly about us and what we do.''