UConn stays No. 1 in AP women's hoops poll

It's going to be a busy week for Big East teams as conference play kicks off.

Doug Bruno's 25th-ranked DePaul Blue Demons have three league games over the next eight days, starting with Tuesday's matchup with Marquette. The Blue Demons then hit the road to face St. John's and Seton Hall in a key early season conference matchup.

DePaul is looking to rebound from its loss to Loyola of Chicago last week. The Blue Demons, who played three ranked teams and traveled to South Dakota State before that defeat, dropped eight spots in the poll Monday.

''We came off two of the best wins in program history at Texas A&M and at Northwestern,'' Bruno said. ''I believe (Loyola) could win the Valley (conference). We are facing a very tough Marquette team next.''

Last year, the Big East played one game in early December, but most of the league's coaches weren't in favor of it and the plan was dropped. By eliminating that early game, the conference is having six of its 10 teams play four contests over the next eight days.

''Teams are so different in early December then once conference play starts,'' Bruno said. ''The old Big East had a lot more issues about scheduling and fairness, since there were so many monster teams. This league has become really strong that anyone can beat anyone on a given night.''

The Big East slate could have opened on Monday, but the coaches at the 10 Catholic schools wanted to give their players an extra day to spend at home following the Christmas holiday last Friday.

Big East schools went 69-41 against non-conference teams this season, up eight victories from last year. Teams had marquee wins over South Florida, Rutgers and Princeton as well as DePaul's victories over Texas A&M and Northwestern.

While DePaul fell down the poll, there weren't too many other changes. UConn remained No. 1 after routing LSU in its lone game last week. The Huskies faced a stiff test from No. 6 Maryland on Monday night in the 10th annual Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden before prevailing 83-73. UConn was followed by South Carolina, Notre Dame, Baylor and Texas.

The Irish edged No. 10 Oregon State by a point Monday night.

Other tidbits from the Top 25 poll:

MOVING ON UP: One week after entering the poll at No. 25, Missouri climbed to No. 23. It's the team's best ranking since they were 18th on Dec. 30, 1984. The Tigers fell out of the Top 25 the next week and didn't make it back in until a week one appearance in 2006. They close out their non-conference schedule on Tuesday against Charlotte before opening SEC play on Jan. 4 against Tennessee. Missouri then visits Georgia and South Carolina next week.

CONFERENCE SUPREMECY: The Southeastern Conference has six teams in the Top 25 for the second straight week led by No. 2 South Carolina. The SEC begins conference play this weekend. The Pac-12 follows with five teams while the ACC and Big Ten each have four. The Big 12 has three while the American has two. The Big East has one.

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Online:

Full women's poll: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/ap-top-25-womens-basketball-poll-week-7

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Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

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