1. USF Bulls

Bulls women 3rd in American preseason poll

In the wake of a second-round NCAA Tournament appearance and arguably the program's best recruiting class, USF's 2013-14 women's basketball team has been picked to finish third in the American Athletic Conference.

The preseason poll was taken among the American's 10 coaches at its annual media day Monday morning in Providence, R.I.

"It's great to have those kinds of expectations for our kids and our program, and the respect of our league coaches to think of us in that way and give us that ranking," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said.

"But I tell you what, if we do finish No. 3 we're not worried about getting in the NCAA Tournament or not, we're going to be in."

Reigning national champ Connecticut was the unanimous preseason No. 1, earning the top spot on all nine opposing coaches' ballots (coaches were not permitted to select their own teams).

Louisville, which fell to UConn in the 2013 national title game, was picked second. UConn coach Gena Auriemma gave the Cardinals his first-place vote.

The Bulls return three starters and the sixth player from a team that finished 22-11 in 2013. Additionally, Fernandez brought in an eight-player recruiting class.

One of those starters, 6-foot-2 senior guard Inga Orekhova (12.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg), made the 10-player preseason all-conference team.

"We've just got to keep working day by day and improve. This group has done it," Fernandez said. "They've done it in the summer and done it in the preseason. ... Now it's just got to translate starting Nov. 8 (at home against Maryland)."

The full poll (with total points in parentheses):

1. Connecticut (81)
2. Louisville (73)
3. USF (59)
4. Rutgers (57)
5. SMU (50)
6. Memphis (32)
7. Cincinnati (30)
8. UCF (28)
9. Temple (25)
10. Houston (15)