The are reasons why the UConn women are considered unique among Division I national powerhouses. One in particular was reiterated on Monday.
The Huskies don’t care what the national pollsters think of them – good, bad or indifferent. And consider the pollsters thus far indifferent about them this season.
The No. 2 Huskies, perhaps expected to elevate to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll after Baylor’s loss to No. 4 Stanford on Friday, instead stayed in place.
“For us, it’s [the national polls] kind of something we don’t look at,” senior guard Kelly Faris said Sunday.
Stanford leapfrogged to the top, barely edging the Huskies in the vote of national sportswriters and sportscasters. Stanford got 21 first-place votes to UConn’s 17. Baylor received one vote and is now No. 3.
It’s the Cardinal’s first time at No. 1 since the final poll of the 2005 season. Duke and Notre Dame are ranked Nos. 4 and 5.
UCLA, Kansas, Dayton and North Carolina all move into the Top 25, while Delaware, Texas A&M, Miami and Georgetown all fall out.
The Huskies have not been No. 1 since the start for the 2010-11 NCAA Tournament. And now they may need to wait until they play Stanford on Dec. 29 in Palo Alto, Calif.
But the anticipation of being on top again wasn’t even enough to excite UConn on Sunday after its 81-50 win at Texas A&M,
“It’s because of the type of players we recruit here. And on top of that, the attitude is instilled in us even more when we get here,” Faris said. “That kind of stuff in on paper and it’s not important. We don’t look at it and its not important.”
The Huskies entered the season ranked No. 2 behind defending national champion Baylor, which was 40-0 last season and returned the core of its team. Baylor lost to No. 4 Stanford, 71-69, last week in Hawaii, ending its winning streak at 42 games.
“The ranking does not matter,” said Stefanie Dolson, who tied her career single-game high by scoring 24 points in the win over the Aggies, “You are going to play the way you are capable of playing [despite the ranking]. You don’t focus on those things. You play Connecticut basketball and whatever ranking that brings, you accept it.”
Geno Auriemma, whose lead on these matters the team follows, says the Baylor loss likely isn’t indicative of how good it is or where they should be ranked.
Auriemma points to the hamstring injury that limited Baylor’s All-American guard Odyssey Sims to four minutes and gave Stanford an unexpected competitive advantage.
“I don’t think anything about that [the polls],” Auriemma said. “Baylor’s loss, because of Odyssey Sims getting hurt … it would be like us playing Stanford without Bria Hartlery and Stanford beating us.
“It wouldn’t mean we weren’t as good a team as we were before that. Sims is one of the best players in the country. I don’t think it means they [the Lady Bears] aren’t the best team in the country right now. I don’t think that kind of stuff matters to our team.”
What does matter to the Huskies is the way they are playing. Dolson’s dominating play inside against the Aggies was supplemented by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who scored 16 points.
Without Hartley, who has missed the first two games with a severely sprained ankle, UConn is scoring from all spots on the floor. Even freshman Breanna Stewart, who is 6-4, scored six of her 11 points on Sunday on two three-pointers.
Stewart was named the Big East’s first Freshman of the Week for the season. She scored 32 points in her first two games.
“It’s kind of how this program runs,” Faris said. “We have a lot of depth this year and points are coming from every direction. The more we work on perfecting our passing, the better it’s going to be. That’s one of the strongest parts of the game for us.”
UConn was flying to St. Thomas from College Station Monday morning. They will have time to itself before resuming the season Thursday against Wake Forest at the Paradise Jam.
Hartley, the WBCA All-America, is scheduled to be re-evaluated after UConn’s practice on Tuesday. If she tests well, its possible she could play. Hartley was not wearing her walking boot on Sunday. Auriemma performed light work at practice last weekend.