CHUCK SCHOFFNER Associated Press
Even with a loss, Duke is still No. 1. Duke led the AP women's basketball poll for the eighth straight week Monday, holding on by a solid margin despite losing for the first time. Montana joined at No. 25 as the only newcomer, its first national ranking in 13 years.
The Blue Devils (30-1) were upset by North Carolina State in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, but still received 39 of 50 first-place votes from a national media panel.
Connecticut (29-2) moved up one spot to second and received seven first-place votes, the first time this season the Huskies have been voted No. 1 on any ballots. It's their highest ranking since they led the poll the week of Feb. 23, 2004.
The four other first-places votes went to No. 3 North Carolina (30-3), which climbed one place after beating N.C. State to win the ACC tournament. State's strong run through the tournament lifted the Wolfpack seven spots to 17th, by far the biggest jump within the poll.
Tennessee, a loser to LSU in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, slipped two spots to fourth.
Duke, which doesn't play again until the NCAA tournament, had 1,225 points in the voting to lead UConn by 48 points. The Huskies were 17 points ahead of North Carolina.
Despite the loss, Duke's resume remains impressive. The Blue Devils beat North Carolina and defending national champion Maryland twice each while going 14-0 in the ACC, and they also won at Tennessee. They'll be a strong candidate for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.
Robyn Rison of The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W. Va., was among those who kept Duke at No. 1.
"I honestly think they're the best team," Rison said. "They ran the table during the regular season and then you get to the (conference) tournament and maybe you lose a little focus. They still look like the best team."
Connecticut ran its winning streak to 15 with a 76-50 victory over No. 23 Louisville in the Big East semifinals Monday night. Coach Geno Auriemma's team, which has won those 15 games by an average of 19 points, has lost only to Tennessee and North Carolina.
"Overall, I felt like they're playing as well as anybody in the nation," Scott Nulph of The Tribune in Ames, Iowa, said after changing his vote for No. 1 from Duke to UConn. "Geno's got them playing at a high level."
Montana (27-2) made the Top 25 for the first time since it was 17th in the final poll of the 1993-94 season.
The Lady Griz won their 13th regular-season Big Sky championship and 20th league title overall in coach Robin Selvig's 29 seasons. They'll take an 11-game winning streak into the conference tournament.
Sophomore guard Mandy Morales leads Montana with a 20.1 scoring average. Two other sophomores and two juniors complete the starting lineup for a team that has only one senior.
"It's an honor for us to crack the Top 25," said Selvig, who's 672-190 with the Lady Griz. "This young team has had a phenomenal year. It's great recognition for us, but also for the Big Sky Conference."
Ohio State remained fifth, while Stanford traded places with Maryland, the Cardinal climbing to sixth and the Terrapins falling to seventh. Arizona State went from ninth to eighth, Vanderbilt climbed four places to ninth after winning the SEC tournament and LSU moved up one spot to 10th.
Oklahoma was 11th, followed by Texas A&M, Purdue, Georgia and George Washington. The Lady Bulldogs fell from 10th to 14th after their loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC semifinals and George Washington tumbled from eighth to 15th, the biggest drop in the poll, after losing to Saint Joseph's in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Middle Tennessee, North Carolina State, Baylor, Rutgers and Bowling Green completed the top 20.
The final five were Marquette, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Louisville, Michigan State and Montana.
California dropped out, one week after returning to the poll. The Bears, who had been 25th, beat Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament, then lost to Arizona State in the semis.
Most of the ranked teams are finished playing until the NCAA tournament. Bowling Green starts play in the Mid-American Conference tournament on Tuesday, while Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Baylor have games in the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday.
Wisconsin-Green Bay plays in the Horizon League quarterfinals on Wednesday. Montana doesn't play in the Big Sky tourney until Friday night's semifinals.
Two victories in that tournament would ensure Montana of its 17th NCAA tournament appearance.