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Nos. 1, 2 get early matchup

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 17, 2002

Fans won't have to wait long to see two of the nation's top teams go head-to-head.

Mark Nov. 24 on the calendar.

That's when No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Tennessee meet in the Jimmy V. Classic in Raleigh, N.C. The game is at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.

Duke, which opened the preseason No. 1 for the first time in school history, returns four starters from its Final Four team.

With the Vols' storied history, opponents always welcome the chance to play Tennessee.

"We are excited to be playing Tennessee early in the season because it will be a good measuring stick for us to see where we're at," said coach Gail Goestenkors, who is beginning her 11th season with the Blue Devils.

Tennessee advanced to the Final Four but also fell short of the title game. Duke will attempt to repeat last season's success (31-4) without ACC tournament MVP Monique Curry, out for the season with an ACL torn seconds into the first preseason game.

Her loss hasn't diminished Duke's desire to test its No. 1 status against the Vols, who defeated No. 22 Oklahoma Nov. 10.

"As a team, we're really excited to be playing a great team because it's going to teach us a lot about ourselves," junior guard Alana Beard said. "We're going to really see where we are and what we need to work on. We're really excited and we want to learn and Tennessee is going to be a good team to learn against."

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is beginning her 29th season, and with a victory over Duke would move two wins ahead of Texas' Jody Conradt for all-time victories by a woman (780).

WBCA CLASSIC: The Women's Basketball Coaches Association is getting into the preseason tournament business. The WBCA Classic, co-produced by the WBCA and Basketball Travelers Inc., is Nov. 28-29 at Purdue.

Holy Cross and TCU play at 4:30 p.m., followed by Savannah State and eighth-ranked Purdue at 7. The consolation and championship games are Nov. 29 at 4:30 and 7 p.m., respectively.

The tournament replaces the Coaches vs. Cancer, which lost TV exposure after three seasons and was canceled. The WBCA event is contracted through 2004.

RANKED FROGS: The season is looking bright at Texas Christian, ranked in a Top 25 poll for the first time in school history: No. 20 by ESPN/USA Today. "It's an honor to be rated that high to start the season," coach Jeff Mittie said. "But we know that it isn't where you start the season, it's where you end it. Being ranked in the Top 25 at the end of the season is one of our goals."

JUST GATORS, PLEASE: One of the first changes new Florida coach Carolyn Peck instituted is the way the team is recognized. Peck no longer wants it referred to as the Lady Gators. From now on, it's just Gators.

According to the Florida players, Peck, the former WNBA Orlando Miracle coach, has made an immediate impact on and off the court.

"She carries herself with such an aura that you feel the intensity when she just walks in the room, whether it's a birthday party or just a workout," guard Ashlea Moore said. CHANGES ABOUND: The sites for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament have been decided in advance. It's the first step toward neutral sites like the men's tournament, although this season most of the subregions will be played at schools that annually make the tournament and draw full houses. Among them: Tennessee, Connecticut, Louisiana Tech, Stanford, Texas Tech and Purdue. ... The national championship game is April 8, the night after the men's final. The game was played on the Sunday before the men's game. Organizers are hoping to draw basketball fans regardless of the players' gender.

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