The game's chess not checkers. UCONN's season didn't end Saturday afternoon with their 10-point home loss to Providence; in fact it's just beginning. The Huskies' plate looks a lot more edible from here on in, and they're still the best team in the country. Such a loss was just the slap in the face they needed. Their record isn't perfect, and now not even their conference mark is, but this resilient bunch won't lose more than three in their last dozen.
Last Week: Unchanged
2. Texas Tech
Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight has asked the Indiana Court of Appeals to review a judge's decision dismissing his lawsuit against Indiana University for firing him as basketball coach. The appeal challenges Monroe Circuit Judge Kenneth Todd's ruling in October that IU didn't violate Knight's contract when former university President Myles Brand fired the coach in September 2000.
Last Week: 3rd
Gonzaga's star power forward is a shining beacon of academics, but guard Blake Stepp leads a team with few weaknesses and lots of NCAA experience. (Had Stepp's bank shot not been a smidge too hard last year, the Zags knock out Arizona.) A placement in the lacking West Coach Conference will probably cause the ‘Zags to slide in the coming weeks, but this team may well be the March surprise that comes through when it counts.
Last Week: 5th
UK head coach Tubby Smith describes his point guard Cliff Hawkins as "emotional", and if Hawkins is in a funk as he had been prior to UK's overtime win against Tennessee on Tuesday, it seems no amount of counseling will help him get through it – he's got to work it out on his own – and fast.
Last Week: 8th
The Panthers battered and bullied the smaller and more slender Orangemen all night en route to an astonishingly simple, 66-45 victory against the defending national champions Saturday night before a sellout of 31,347 hushed fans at the Carrier Dome. It was Syracuse's worst home loss since an 85-61 loss to Seton Hall Feb. 7, 1998 and it marked the fewest points scored by a Syracuse team since a 71-41 loss to Kansas during the 1968-69 season.
Last Week: 2nd
The Wildcats appear to be back on track following their 90-66 victory over Oregon at home Sunday, but it remains to be seen if Arizona has what it takes to take a big victory on the road.
Last Week: 12th
The combination of Sheldon Williams inside and Chris Duhon outside silenced the first sellout at the MCI center in Georgetown history quickly. A 27-5 run at the end of the first half erased the suspense of the first period in Duke's 85-66 victory Saturday over the Hoyas, spoiling the most highly anticipated game on GW's schedule.
Last Week: 18th
The Cardinals are riding the all-around brilliant play of Francisco Garcia, who's been playing more like a skinny Scottie Pippen than a 20-year-old kid from the Bronx. His stat line against a solid Cincy defense: 19 points, seven assists, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and zero turnovers. Meanwhile, head coach Rick Pitino has brought his team to a level of cohesion unmatched in the country right now.
Last Week: 14th
9. Georgia Tech
The Jackets dropped their second loss in a little more than two weeks Saturday when they fell by four points to N.C. State on the road. What's worse, G.T. will have little opportunity to slip any further, as the upcoming 14 days won't provide much relief. Georgia Tech will host Duke and North Carolina in ACC conference play between now and mid-February.
Last Week: Unchanged
For the second straight game, the absence of a healthy Gerry McNamara and his potent outside jump shooting slowed Syracuse's high-powered offense to less than 70 points. He entered the game as the team's second-leading scorer behind Hakim Warrick. "When you don't practice, I've never seen a player yet who's been able to play," head coach Jim Boeheim said of his long-ball specialist. "When you've got a pulled muscle, leg - almost invariably it's a struggle when you don't practice. Pittsburgh's also a very good defensive team. But I thought Gerry got some shots that he's more than capable of making."
Last Week: 4th
A brilliant second-half performance by Ramod Marshall enabled Dayton to weather a strong comeback by La Salle and squeeze past the Explorers, 77-75, Saturday. Marshall scored 13 of his team-high 24 points in the second half when La Salle practically scored at will against the Flyers, who had opened the game with a 16-2 lead. He made 7 of 12 shots, had a career-high six 3-point goals and held La Salle's Gary Neal scoreless for a six-minute segment.
Last Week: 20th
Their 14-4 mark has the Jags left off most people's top 25 lists, but Lafayette is loaded. Senior guard Justin DeBerry is averaging 16.6 points per game while shooting 58.8 percent from the three-point line and has scored 19 or more points in three of his team's last four games.
Last Week: 11th
13. Mississippi State
Georgia had missed 10 shots, turned the ball over six times and showed no evidence that it belonged on the same court - or in the same league - with Mississippi State, and they trailed the Bulldogs 19-0 a fifth of the way through Saturday night's SEC matchup. The Red and Black Bulldogs eventually scored, of course, but the Maroon and White variety still did most of the woofing en route to a 71-58 victory.
Last Week: Unranked
The Jayhawks' 78-57 victory over Colorado Sunday afternoon was made especially sweet for fans in Lawrence after the comments of seven-foot center David Harrison the week before. Harrison, who had words in 2002 with ex-KU standout Drew Gooden and said Oklahoma had a better team than Big 12 Conference champion KU, last Wednesday said a win at KU was "doable. I'm not saying they are a pushover or anything, but it's doable."
Last Week: 7th
15. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys dumped the border-rival Texas from the list of the Big 12 unbeatens Saturday with 72-67 road victory in front of 16,221 on the UT campus. OSU broke the Longhorns' 25-game home win streak by starting out hot and balanced, hitting 7 of its first 8 shots, including a basket from each starter as the Cowboys jumped to a 16-8 lead they would never retire.
Last Week: 25th
Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus was cleared in an investigation into a complaint by a former player who claimed the coach berated him about his partial hearing loss, university officials said last week. Athletic director Chris Hill confirmed there was a university investigation, launched after a complaint from former Utes center Lance Allred after the 2001-2002 season.
Last Week: 6th
17. Iowa State
Saturday's 63-59 loss to the lowly Baylor Bears extended the Cyclones' road losing streak in the Big 12 Conference to 19 games, the longest current streak and a school record. "We're just going to have to bring the game that we have at home on the road," ISU guard Jake Sullivan theorized. "I don't know what it's going to take."
Last Week: 15th
The Cats improved to 7-0 in American East Conference play in claiming a 14-point home victory over New Hampshire, and are the only remaining team in our poll with serious potential to sweep its remaining season.
Last Week: 16th
19. South Carolina
Despite shooting just 4.3 percent (1 of 23) on 3-pointers and wasting their 10-point first-half lead, USC won its fourth consecutive game Saturday night, finding a way to knock off LSU 61-55.
Last Week: 13th
No, they weren't nobodies before they pull the upset of the year Saturday in upsetting UCONN in Hartford, and their play in the win proved it. The Friars had a season-low six turnovers and their zone defense got the best of the Huskies early, and had nine steals in the first half, stepping into the passing lanes repeatedly for easy picks.
Last Week: Unranked
21. Saint Joseph's
Still undefeated, Joe's drilled home their point Saturday; obliterating Saint Bonaventure 114-63. Whether they know it or not, the Red Hawks fit the mold to rise to the top (See: Indiana 2002, Wisconsin and North Carolina 2000, Ohio State 1999, Arizona 1997, Syracuse 1996, Oklahoma State 1995, Florida 1994.)
Last Week: 17th
Creighton rebounded from a surprising loss at Northern Iowa Wednesday with a solid 72-53 win over Evansville on Saturday, the Bluejays' 26th straight win at home. Creighton took a 19-point lead early in the second half, and the Purple Aces never seriously challenged the rest of the way. Brody Deren, a 6-foot-8 senior, led four teammates in double figures with 15 points.
Last Week: 10th
Stanford may not be the most talented group of players, but as a group, the Cardinal is one of the country's best teams. And that was even while it went through its non-conference schedule without its most talented player - All-America candidate Josh Childress.
Last Week: Unranked
Every player in the Panther backcourt has averaged at least 13 points a game for WMIL this season; including senior Dylan Page, who has dropped 20.9 while shooting better than 53 percent from the floor in 555 minutes of action.
Last Week: Unranked
Another first-timer in our poll, the Rockets have won their last four dating back to Jan. 10. Toledo will have road tests against Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) before returning home for three of their final six before beginning MAC Tournament play.
Last Week: Unranked
Keep An Eye On…
Led by 17 points per game from junior forward Danny Gathings, the Panthers have claimed victory in their last three games, and have succumbed to losses just twice since Christmas. Their classification in the Belt South Conference in a season of late-season undefeateds has prevented the Point from catching the national eye, but a projected 21-6 mark at the end of the season will get some attention after they've claimed a birth with a conference title.
Boston College's initial transition into the ACC has taken everyone through something of a loop. First, the ACC wooed the Eagles, then jilted them, then asked them back. Now BC's move from the Big East to the ACC will be delayed a year longer than the switch for Miami or Virginia Tech. Boston College athletics director Gene DeFilippo said Tuesday, before the Eagles beat N.C. State 66-65 in basketball, that he expects Boston College to become the ACC's 12th member in July 2005, just in time for the 2005 football season.
Streaking Western Michigan continued to play well last week, posting victories over IPFW on Wednesday and Eastern Michigan on Saturday to run its winning streak to 11 straight, the school's longest in 28 years. In its 77-48 stomping of non-conference (and independent) foe IPFW in Kalamazoo, the Broncos took advantage of a career-high 19 points from reserve senior Reggie Barry, as well as atrocious shooting from the thoroughly outclassed Mastadons.
Once again this season the Air Force Falcons have earned national attention – except this time it's not going away with the start of the Mountain West Conference season. Their upset of BYU Saturday, the worst loss by a Cougar team in MWC regular-season play, lifted the Falcons to a 4-1 record this year against teams who'd played in the NCAA Tournament last year. Those Air Force victims are now the Cougs, Colorado State, Milwaukee-Wisconsin and Cal.
On The Rise…
UCONN may still be the most talented team in the country, but the Blue Devils are by far the hottest. Duke went on a 27-5 run to close out their first half effort in their win over Georgetown, and held the Hoyas to only eight shots in that span; Duke made 11 of the 16 it attempted, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc. Two guys: Chris Duhon and Sheldon Williams. "Those two guys work together," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Duhon hit a couple of threes that gave us a working margin, and then all of a sudden, he'd go right into Sheldon, and Sheldon produced. He was really strong with the ball, and he finished. You should shoot a high percentage if you get the ball around the basket."
After starting the season 7-1, the Cougars have dropped three of their last five including defeats at the hands of Mountain West foes San Diego State and Air Force. Meanwhile, the play of senior center Rafael Araujo has declined proportional to that of his team. Still averaging close to 20 points per game on the season, the big man scored 12 in both of BYU's conference losses, and has scored more than 20 just once (24 vs. Wyoming) since the first of the year.
On The Bubble…
American (10-9; 4-1 Patriot League)
The red white and blue have won two straight with three players scoring better than 10 points per game on the season.
Georgia State (13-4; 8-2 Atlantic Sun)
The Panthers extended their win streak to seven with a 93-62 thumping of Stetson Saturday.
Belmont (11-5; 6-3 Atlantic Sun)
A shaky team all season; the Bruins need the play of senior Adam Mark (21.1. ppg) to make a run for a conference title.
Across The Board…
Air Force (29th), Colorado (72nd), Denver (89th), Colorado State (136th)
Texas Tech (2nd), Kansas (14th), Oklahoma State (15th), Iowa State (17th), Texas (36th), Colorado (72nd), Nebraska (95th), Oklahoma (131st), Missouri (157th), Kansas State (170th), Texas A&M (250th), Baylor (287th)
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