KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Defending national champion Azusa Pacific (Calif.) landed at No. 1 in the 2011 - 12 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Monday. The Cougars were awarded all 12 first-place votes for 312 points to earn their first-ever No. 1 ranking, dating back to the 1999 - 2000 season. Azusa Pacific's move to the top of the poll comes after winning the 2011 national championship in which the Cougars denied Union (Tenn.) its third-straight title, 65-59. Azusa Pacific also ends the Lady Bulldogs' hold at No. 1, a streak that lasted 48-consecutive weeks dating back to Oct. 31, 2007.
In addition to Azusa Pacific, a pair of teams that were listed among the top five in the final edition of the 2011 Division I Women's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 will start the season there. Union, who was ranked No. 1 to end 2011, is ranked second with 302 points. Oklahoma City was listed fourth in the final poll and advanced to the quarterfinals, checks in at No. 3 with 290 points.
Shawnee State, who was responsible for dealing Oklahoma City the quarterfinal setback, racked up 280 points to start its 2011 - 12 campaign at No. 4 after being listed 24th in the final poll. The Bears fell to Union in the semifinals of their first Division I National Championship appearance after making 15 trips to the Division II National Championship, including a runner-up finish in 2010.
Rounding out the top five with 266 points is No. 5 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). The Warriors climbed as high as No. 3 during the 2010 - 11 season and were ranked 10th heading into their 15th National Championship appearance.
Three squads that were unranked qualifiers for the 2011 National Championship have garnered Top-25 recognition: No. 21 Shorter (Ga.), No. 24 Rogers State (Okla.) and No. 25 Belhaven (Miss.). Shorter was ranked in six of the 12 polls last year and Rogers State landed on three of the polls during the 2009 - 10 season. Belhaven is making its debut among the Top 25 after a 24-9 campaign that earned the Blazers a spot in the National Championship field.
Eleven of the 12 Division I women's basketball conferences and independents are represented throughout the Top 25, led by four squads from the Sooner Athletic Conference: Oklahoma City, No. 11 Southern Nazarene (Okla.), No. 17 Lubbock Christian (Texas) and Rogers State. Four leagues boasted three ranked teams.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and independents. The first regular-season Top 25 poll will be announced on Dec. 5.
Notes: (All information dates back to 1999 - 2000 season) Azusa Pacific (Calif.) earned its first-ever No. 1-ranking and is the ninth program to top the poll ... The Cougars are the fifth squad to earn the preseason No. 1 spot ... The Cougars brought Union's (Tenn.) 48-week reign at No. 1 to an end ... Union occupied the top spot from Oct. 31, 2007 - March 9, 2011 ... Vanguard (Calif.) was the only other team in the last five years to own the No. 1 spot ... Four programs have topped the poll 10-or more times: Union (53), Oklahoma City (35), Vanguard (27) and Southern Nazarene (Okla.) (15) ... There have been six preseason No. 1s that have gone on to win the national championship with the last happening in 2010 ... Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), Oklahoma City and Union have been listed in all 141 polls since the start of the 1999 - 2000 season ... Vanguard has appeared in 107-consecutive polls ... Union and Vanguard are the only programs that have spent an entire season ranked No. 1 (Union: 2007 - 08, 2008 - 09, 2009 - 10, 2010 - 11) (Vanguard: 2005 - 06, 2006 - 07).
|RANK||LAST WEEK^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2010 – 11 RECORD||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||3||Azusa Pacific (Calif.) (12)||33-5||312|
|4||24||Shawnee State (Ohio)||27-10||280|
|5||10||Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)||29-5||266|
|11||18||Southern Nazarene (Okla.)||27-7||220|
|12||16||Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)||26-6||202|
|13||12||Saint Xavier (Ill.)||24-6||179|
|14||15||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||24-9||175|
|17||22||Lubbock Christian (Texas)||23-10||158|
|23||21||William Woods (Mo.)||30-5||77|
|24||RV||Rogers State (Okla.)||23-10||72|
Others receiving votes: The Master's (Calif.) 57; Carroll (Mont.) 39; Cumberlands (Ky.) 26; Southern Poly (Ga.) 22; Robert Morris (Ill.) 18; Avila (Mo.) 15; Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 11; Texas Wesleyan 10; Southern-New Orleans (La.) 9; Loyola (La.) 7; Wayland Baptist (Texas) 5; John Brown (Ark.) 4; Biola (Calif.) 3; Voorhees (S.C.) 1; Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 1; Benedictine (Kan.) 1; Georgetown (Ky.) 1.
^ 2011 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Final Poll