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UConn women ranked third in preseason AP Top 25 poll; South Carolina comes in at No. 1

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Never have those words held more meaning for the UConn women’s basketball team.

The Huskies are entering new territory this season — and we’re not talking specifically about the pandemic.

The roster has been overhauled. After finishing 29-3 and winning the American Athletic Conference for the seventh straight year, the Huskies lost their top two starters. Seven players are new to the team — six freshmen and a newly eligible transfer.

Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma calls this his youngest squad in more than three decades.

And yet … the expectations remain sky high with the 2020-21 campaign just around the corner.

UConn was ranked third in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll released Tuesday. South Carolina came in at No. 1, as expected, after finishing in the same spot last season before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.

South Carolina received 29 first-place votes from a national media panel, edging No. 2 Stanford (one first-place vote). It’s the Gamecocks’ first time opening atop the poll.

Coach Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies will open the season at No. 3 in the AP Top 25 poll.

Gary Landers / Associated Press

UConn, the sport’s preeminent power, has opened in the Top 5 every year since 2006-07. That wasn’t going to change this season, even with all the roster turnover. The Huskies still boast plenty of talent, including junior guard Christyn Williams, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, junior forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa, and freshman guard Paige Bueckers, the consensus top recruit in the Class of 2020.

Baylor checked in at No. 4, followed by Louisville. Mississippi State, Arizona, NC State, UCLA and Oregon rounded out the Top 10.

UConn tips off its season against Quinnipiac on Nov. 28 in the Hall of Fame Challenge at Mohegan Sun. Three of the Huskies nonconference opponents are currently ranked: South Carolina, Baylor and Louisville. They may also match up with Mississippi State.

Depaul, at No. 19, was the only other Big East school ranked. Marquette also received votes. The Huskies, back in the Big East for the first time since 2012-13, are a unanimous favorite to win the league.

The Huskies held the top spot for three weeks last season before a January loss to Baylor. They initially fell to No. 4, then dropped out of the Top 5 (No. 6) entirely in February for the first time in 253 weeks.

But the Huskies, on the heels of a nine-game win streak, concluded the season at No. 5.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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