According to one national poll, Texas is on the fast track to becoming an elite team in women’s basketball.
On Thursday, the Longhorns learned they are ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll. Only Connecticut, which was a unanimous No. 1, is ranked higher.
This is the highest preseason ranking for Texas since the 2004 team was also picked No. 2.
Texas head coach Karen Aston, though, has tapped the brakes, saying it’s way too early for the Longhorns to celebrate respect from the panel of 32 AP voters.
“We appreciate the national media recognizing the hard work and dedication of our players and coaching staff in recent years to return our program back to a place where we have the expectation to compete for championships,” Aston said Thursday.
“That said, I really don’t put a lot of emphasis on preseason polls. Our team this year is committed to focusing on the day-to-day process that will be necessary to reach our goals at the end of the season.”
The top five teams in the AP poll are UConn, Texas, Baylor, defending champion South Carolina and Ohio State. The Big 12 has two more teams in the Top 25 — West Virginia at No. 13 and Oklahoma at No. 22.
Led by seniors Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins, the Longhorns are stacked with 10 players who were McDonald’s All-Americans in high school.
In what might be college basketball’s game of the year, Texas plays host to UConn Jan. 15 at the Erwin Center.
Texas has been picked among the nation’s top-six teams in each of the six national preseason rankings that have been announced. The Longhorns were 25-9 last season, finishing No. 14 in the AP poll.
The Longhorns have made three consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and are coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Big 12 Conference. The Longhorns have posted 20 or more victories in four consecutive seasons.
Both McCarty and Atkins were selected to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. McCarty was the 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year and both were First-Team All-Big 12 honorees a year ago. The duo is 80-25 (.762) through three seasons on the Forty Acres and will be joined by fellow senior Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau.
Texas returns to action on Sunday when it plays host to Oklahoma City University, the 2017 NAIA Division I National Champion, in an exhibition game at the Frank Erwin Center. The Longhorns open the 2017-18 regular season on Sunday, November 12, hosting Stetson.
TEXAS WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON RANKINGS
Associated Press: No. 2
Athlon: No. 2
Lindy’s: No. 3
Sports Illustrated: No. 3
Street & Smith’s: No. 6
USA Today Coaches: No. 6