The Huskies started the season at No. 1, dropped out of the lead after a mid-season loss to Notre Dame, then made it back to the top Monday in the final poll.
“They’ve got to make somebody number one, so they made us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Connecticut (28-2) regained the No. 1 spot after beating last week’s leader, Notre Dame, in the championship game of the Big East tournament. The Huskies received 32 of a possible 40 first-place votes from the national media panel and had 990 points.
Notre Dame (28-2) slipped to second, with five first-place votes and 951 points. Tennessee (29-2) remained third with three first-place votes and 934 points.
All three are seeded No. 1 in their regions in the NCAA tournament — UConn in the East, Notre Dame in the Midwest and Tennessee in the Mideast.
Fifth-ranked Duke is the top seed in the West. Georgia, fourth in the poll, is seeded second in the East.
Connecticut will try to repeat as the national champion without its two first-team All-Americans from last year, Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph. Abrosimova has been out since Feb. 1 with a torn ligament in her left foot. Ralph tore the ACL in her left knee in the Big East final.
The Huskies are still deep in talented players, but their margin for error will be smaller in a tough region that not only has Georgia but No. 6 Louisiana Tech, No. 19 North Carolina State, No. 21 Penn State and No. 24 Wisconsin.
“I think if everybody does a little bit, we’ll be fine,” Auriemma said. “If someone tries to do more than they’re capable of doing, I think that’s going to mess us up.”
This is the fourth time in the last seven years that Connecticut had led the final poll. The Huskies also finished the season at No. 1 in 1995, 1997 and last year. The only time they did not win the national championship as the No. 1 team was 1997, when Tennessee beat them in a regional final.
Louisiana Tech’s ranking at No. 6 was the same as last week. Oklahoma stayed at No. 7 and was followed by Iowa State, Purdue and Vanderbilt. Iowa State moved up five places from 13th, the biggest jump within the poll, after beating Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.
Rutgers, which lost to Connecticut in the Big East semifinals, fell three places to 11th and Xavier held at No. 12. Then it was Texas Tech, Florida, Southwest Missouri State and Iowa, followed by Utah, LSU, North Carolina State and Colorado.
Penn State, Clemson, Baylor, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Virginia Tech completed the list. Arizona State and Virginia Tech, the only newcomers, were tied at 25th.
Arizona State (20-10), which shared the Pac-10 title with Stanford and Washington, returned to the poll after being out for one week.
Virginia Tech (21-8) made it for the first time this season and became the 40th team to be ranked. The Hokies tied for fourth in the Big East and reached the conference tournament semifinals.
Washington, 22nd last week, dropped out after finishing the regular season with road losses to Southern Cal and UCLA. A victory against either would have given the Huskies (19-9) the Pac-10 championship outright.
Connecticut, Tennessee and Notre Dame were among 15 teams that stayed in the Top 25 all season. The others were Georgia, Duke, Louisiana Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Southwest Missouri State, LSU and Penn State