Connecticut's Katie Lou Samuelson smiles as she runs upcourt after scoring a basket against Tulsa in the second of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill
February 06, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) Holly Warlick has spent nearly three-quarters of her life at Tennessee. She's not used to seeing them unranked.

So getting back into the Top 25 after an eight-week absence meant something to the Lady Vols coach.

''I'm happy. My expectations are for us to win,'' she said. ''I never expected us to go out of the Top 25 poll, never. I understand (why). My job is to get us back in and keep climbing back up. Sometimes it's an unreal expectation at times. So you just got to keep plugging away.''

The Lady Vols returned to The Associated Press women's basketball poll Monday, entering at No. 24. The team fell out Dec. 5 and came back in by winning two of three games last week, including a two-point victory over then-No. 4 South Carolina last Monday. Tennessee lost in double overtime to Georgia on Sunday.

Finding consistency has been a problem for the Lady Vols. They have huge home victories over Notre Dame and South Carolina and losses at Mississippi and Penn State.

''We just got to finish the deal,'' Warlick said of Sunday's loss. ''We made great progress, we got to finish the deal. We had some big wins over some great teams.''

Over the past two seasons, Tennessee has been unranked for 13 weeks. That's one less than the Lady Vols had under Pat Summitt during her entire illustrious career. Tennessee was ranked for 565 consecutive weeks in the poll before that ended nearly a year ago. The Lady Vols entered the season in the Top 25 before falling out eight weeks ago.

''It's not something that we dwell on but it is expected (to be ranked),'' Warlick said. ''It's a great expectation here. It's in my blood. My expectations are just like Pat's.''

While the Lady Vols re-entered the poll for the first time in eight weeks, UConn remained No. 1. The Huskies (22-0) have won 97 consecutive games and continue to run through opponents.

Warlick was impressed by the consistency the Huskies have shown year after year.

''I think that's what unique about them,'' she said. ''Their conference isn't like the SEC, they don't care. My hats off to Geno and their staff. Those kids play hard regardless of who they are playing, that's a sign of a great team.''

UConn was followed by Baylor, Maryland, Mississippi State and Florida State. The Gamecocks fell to sixth.

Tennessee was joined in the Top 25 by No. 21 Michigan, which earned its first ranking since 2013.

''I think it's a tremendous honor,'' Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. ''It speaks volumes to the kids in the program and their commitment to come here and put Michigan women's basketball on the map.''

The Wolverines (19-5, 8-2 Big Ten) sit in third place in the conference behind Maryland and Ohio State. It's only the 16th appearance ever in the poll for Michigan. Before 2013, the last time the school was ranked was 2002.

''We're a program that doesn't have a lot of tradition. We have people like Katelynn Flaherty, who was recruited by everyone and wanted to come to Michigan to change the program.''

Kansas State also re-entered at No. 25.

West Virginia, Kentucky and Green Bay all dropped out.

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This story has been corrected to show that West Virginia fell out of the Top 25, not Texas A&M.

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To find the poll online: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/ap-womens-basketball-poll-week-14

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