DePaul coach Doug Bruno always is willing to play a tough schedule. His 18th-ranked Blue Demons will be tested over the next two weeks as they are in the midst of a difficult stretch before the holidays.
Bruno's team gave top-ranked UConn a tough game last Wednesday before falling by 16 points. That helped move DePaul up five spots in The Associated Press Top 25 women's basketball poll Monday. Now the Blue Demons will take to the road to face No. 3 Notre Dame on Wednesday. That will be followed by a game at No. 15 Texas A&M on Saturday. Next week DePaul visits South Dakota State before facing No. 12 Northwestern.
''I've always believed my whole life coaching a tough non-conference schedule is essential,'' Bruno said. ''If you're going to ask the players to be competitive, you've got to show competitiveness as a coach.''
Playing four tough road games in a row isn't ideal, but Bruno knows he has a chance to see where his team stands heading into Big East Conference play.
''That sometimes happens,'' he said. ''You like to be a scheduling maestro, sprinkling degrees of difficulty. You like to sprinkle a balance of your home and away, but this was one of those years that this is what happened. To be really, really good you have to travel well and that's what we're going to find out. We'll be tested against ranked opponents and find out how well we travel.''
DePaul was one of a dozen ranked teams to lose this week in the Top 25. Six of those came to unranked opponents, including Tennessee, which fell eight spots to No. 16 after losing at home to Virginia Tech.
It's the lowest ranking for the Lady Vols since 2012 when they fell as low as 24.
''I really think there is more parity in women's basketball than I have ever seen before,'' said Bruno. ''Connecticut is in a class by themselves, but there's going to be three other teams going to Indianapolis with them for the Final Four.''
This was the first time that many Top 25 teams lost to unranked opponents in non-conference play since 2013, according to STATS.
The Huskies were followed by South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor. Maryland and Texas were tied for fifth.
Here's some other tidbits from the poll:
43 AND COUNTING: UConn has won 43 straight games after beating Chattanooga, DePaul and Notre Dame. The Huskies win over the Irish drew a 1.5 overnight rating, tying the highest-ever for a regular season women's college game across ESPN networks. It matched UConn's loss to Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010 that ended the Huskies' 90-game winning streak.
UConn visits Colgate on Wednesday as a chance to get senior star Breanna Stewart a game close to her home. Colgate, which is located in Hamilton, New York - about 45 miles from Syracuse - was the only school in the area willing to play the Huskies. UConn then hosts No. 11 Florida State on Friday at the Mohegan Sun.
CLIMBING CATS: Northwestern is one of 17 unbeaten teams left in Division I basketball. The 12th-ranked Wildcats are up to their best ranking since 1992 when they were 11th for two weeks. It's the second straight year that Northwestern has won its first eight games. Last season they won 10 straight before a loss to Arizona State.
FIVE ALIVE: For the second straight week the Pac-12 had five teams in the poll. This is the first time since the start of the 2006-07 season that that many teams have been ranked in the same week. Oregon State leads the way at No. 7. Stanford is 14th, UCLA 20th, California 22nd and Arizona State 24th.
To find the poll online: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/Womens-Top-25-2016-5
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