Mississippi State has become a contender
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer is starting to build the Bulldogs into a women's basketball power.
The fourth-year coach got the team ranked for the first time last season in nearly five years and now he has guided the No. 8 Bulldogs to their best ranking ever in The Associated Press women's basketball poll.
"I'm really proud to be the head coach of Mississippi State," Schaefer said Monday. "It's nice to get that recognition now. The national respect we're getting, but it really doesn't mean a lot in November. It's March when we want to be there and it's our challenge to make that happen."
The top five in the poll remained the same with UConn the unanimous No. 1 again. The Huskies routed then-No. 7 Ohio State in their opener by 44 points. Connecticut, which had all but one of the first place votes last week, plays Kansas State at home Monday night. The Buckeyes dropped to 11th.
South Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Baylor once again follow the Huskies to round out the first five.
Maryland is sixth with Oregon State seventh. The Bulldogs (2-0) are tied for eighth with Texas. Texas A&M rounds out the first 10.
Schaefer has seen the attention on the program grow over his time at the school. Last season, he guided the team to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010 while setting school records for overall wins (27) and league victories (11). The Bulldogs also won 18 straight to start the season.
"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "To build the program, not just the team. It starts with my staff."
Fans have taken notice.
"The first year we sold 1,100 season tickets, second year 1,750. Last year we had 2,200 and now 2,800. We'll get to 3,000. The average is what I'm excited about. We had 4,900 and change in conference, 7,300 for senior night."
Schaefer was proud to see his team up in the poll with some of the biggest names in the country.
Here's some other tidbits from the poll:
WELCOME HAWKEYES: Iowa enters the poll at No. 25 while Chattanooga fell out of the rankings.
"It's great to have our program recognized," Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said. "We're off to a good start and hope to have continued success this week against quality opponents at the Lone Star Showcase."
SEC DOMINANCE: For the second straight season, the Southeastern Conference had four teams among the top 10 with South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The only other conference to pull off that feat in recent memory was the ACC.
"It's a nightmare of a league," coach Schaefer said. "There are so many great players in our league, so many great coaches. It really is a nightmare night in and out. You play bad on a night in the SEC, you're not going to get beat, you're going to get embarrassed."
FREE FALLING: Florida State had the biggest fall after losing to rival Florida, dropping eight spots to 14th. The Seminoles have a busy week playing in Long Island University's tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. Louisville also dropped six spots to No. 22 after losing to Western Kentucky.
The Cardinals (0-2) are the first team to lose their first two games and still be ranked since Oklahoma in 2007-08. The Sooners dropped their first two games to No. 4 Maryland and No. 1 Tennessee to fall from sixth to ninth. Oklahoma won its next 10 games.
Louisville lost to Cal and Western Kentucky. Coach Jeff Walz hopes for a similar run with his young team. The Cardinals' next game is against Marist on Friday.
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