Gators crack Top 25
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Carolyn Peck has maintained all season her Florida women's basketball team is not focused on rankings, but rather making the NCAA Tournament.
Nonetheless, there was still a bit of gratification Monday afternoon when Peck learned her Gators made a long-awaited return to The Associated Press Top 25.
Florida cracked the poll at No. 24 Monday, UF's first appearance in the poll since the week of Feb. 9, 2004.
The Gators (15-3, 3-2 SEC) are coming off a big week which included a 66-58 win at Ole Miss last Thursday and a 73-59 upset of No. 19 Vanderbilt on Sunday in the O'Connell Center.
"We definitely appreciate the recognition but it doesn't mean anything with so many games left," Peck said. "We all know that you can be in and then you can drop out."
Florida knows that well. The Gators actually spent two weeks in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll earlier this month, their first appearance in that poll since March 11, 2002. Florida was ranked No. 25 the week of Jan. 2 and No. 24 the week of Jan. 9 but was unable to crack the AP poll during that time.
Florida then lost to Georgia and Kentucky two weeks ago to fall out of the coach's poll. The newest ESPN/USA Today poll will be released today.
"I really think after the experience we've had our players know it's really important on staying focused as a team and playing our game," Peck said. "We still have several games left and it's going to be the teams that remain in that get into the tournament."
The Gators will have that chance to build on their two-game winning streak this week when they travel to Arkansas on Thursday and host No. 15 Georgia on Sunday.
The Gators' win over the Commodores was the team's second over a top 25 opponent this season. The other was a 58-55 win at No. 18 Temple on Dec. 3.
Voter Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer saw Florida's win at Temple and has had the Gators in and out of his Top 25 all season. He put them 19th this week.
"You knew you had to make some changes in those bottom positions because of some losses," Greenberg said. "At that point, you almost run a mini-poll and measure a team against all those others you're considering for the final five or six spots. Florida's total body of work was enough to get them in there."
Boston College, which was 22nd and had been ranked for five weeks, dropped out after losing at Miami. George Washington lasted only one week after joining at No. 25, its first appearance in the poll since the end of the 2002-03 season. The Colonials beat Rhode Island but lost to UMass.
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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