BuffCountry.com Men's Top 25 - 02/16/04

Yet another crazy weekend of college hoops, and yet another reason to let our weekly Top 25 sort it all out for you. Kentucky makes its first appearance this season in our top spot as the lesser of all evils of sorts after numerous top 10 teams suffered Valentine's Day Massacres of their own Saturday. Meanwhile, our mid-major top 10 took nearly as much of a hit as the big poll, with three teams making their first appearances of the season and two more moving up at least two spots.

1. Kentucky (17-4)
The Wildcats make their first appearance atop our poll as the lesser of all evils this week following a disappointing 74-68 loss to Georgia Saturday. Levi Stukes bounced back from a miserable first half to finish with 12 points - all on 3-pointers - and led the Bulldogs to a season sweep of KU for the second time in three years. Kentucky clearly missed leading scorer Gerald Fitch, who sat out his third straight game with a sprained right index finger. His team committed 22 turnovers, including five by reserve guards Josh Carrier and Brandon Stockton, and shot only 41 percent in the second half.

2. Duke (21-2)
North Carolina guard Scooter Sherrill's "gay" remark about Duke star J.J. Redick was "uncharacteristic and unfortunate," North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler said Friday. In a statement, Fowler said Sherrill had apologized for Thursday's comment, when Sherrill said, "you see him hit a 3, and he's running down the court hollering. He's got his hand up like he's gay or something," Sherrill said, then laughed. Duke lost its first game since the first week of December Sunday when they were knocked out of our top spot with a 78-74 loss to North Carolina State.

3. Oklahoma State (19-2)
OSU's impressive win streak continued Saturday with a 91-58 thumping of Baylor in Stillwater. The Cowboys won coming off an 80-60 win over Kansas and looking ahead to Monday's matchup against archrival Oklahoma, and didn't waste much time in turning their ninth straight victory into a rout. Oklahoma State opened the game with a 17-2 run and extended that into a 43-14 halftime lead. In the second half, the Cowboys led by as many as 39 points and rested many of their starters in the game's final minutes.

4. Mississippi State (21-1)
Mississippi State continued its near-perfect play in their seven-point road victory over Arkansas Saturday. Bulldogs jumped out to a big lead behind Winsome Frazier's five 3-pointers and then held off a late charge by the Razorbacks with his four free throws for a 77-70 victory. "When they started coming back, the basket gets bigger and bigger and their crowd commenced to yelling," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said after his team's 19th win. "I was very pleased with the way we played. I thought we controlled the game and we found a way to hold on at the end."

5. UConn (19-5)
The Huskies lost their crucial second second-straight loss Sunday in a shootout with Pittsburgh. Jaron Brown led a decisive second-half surge with his scoring and physical play and the Panthers relied on their depth and strength to stay on top of the Big East in beating Connecticut 75-68. Brown scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, four during a pivotal 11-0 run that started just before UConn star Emeka Okafor drew his fourth foul with 9:19 remaining. Okafor, averaging 19.6 points, had only four of his 16 points in the second half.

6. Pittsburgh (23-2)
The Panthers refused to let a one-point loss to Seton Hall mark the beginning of the end of their season, as a resilient Pittsburgh team shot better than 50 percent from the field in upsetting UConn Sunday. "They played great, physical defense," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said of Pitt's effort. "In the second half, they were able to take us out of our (transition) offense. They were able to do maybe the best job of anybody on Emeka, but he didn't respond the way he usually responds."

7. Stanford (21-0)
The Cardinal continues to ride its stifling defense to a perfect effort as the college hoops season officially begins its stretch run. Stanford has big-time talent, but their confidence comes more from having to compete in the very demanding Pac-10. Their team is set up with a decided balance, and they are winning with great all-around play. They have five guys averaging double figures and 10 guys playing at least 10 minutes per game. That kind of depth is needed to continue the streak and will bode very well for them come tournament time.

8. Georgia Tech (18-6)
"When you're losing, there's a lot of grumblings and stuff," Virginia guard John Billet said after his 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left gave the Cavaliers an 82-80 victory over Georgia Saturday, stopping a five-game losing streak.. It's a concept Tech has grown uncomfortably accustomed to. With their loss on Valentine's Day, the Jackets have now lost three of their last five in ACC play, and have sacrificed their conference lead and top spot in our poll in the process.

9. Saint Joseph's (22-0)
Jameer Nelson scored 20 points and Delonte West added 14 points and nine assists to help Saint Joseph's to a 73-59 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday. The Hawks plodded along for most of the first half and finished the game outrebounded by 22. Martelli said the Hawks appeared mentally tired during practice on Friday and it seemed to carry over. Even in the midst of their current perfect season, the Hawks refuse to let themselves get caught up in the hoopla. "Everything that's going on can go away with a snap of a finger," Nelson said after the win. "We don't want to let that happen."

10. Syracuse (16-5)
Troubled Syracuse point guard Billy Edelin did not practice Thursday and will be out indefinitely, coach Jim Boeheim said last week. Edelin, a sophomore, sat out games against Virginia Tech and Connecticut before returning Saturday and playing 23 minutes in a loss at Providence. After he missed Tuesday's game against Rutgers, Boeheim refused to discuss the matter. Boeheim, on his radio show Wednesday, said that Edelin's troubles had nothing to do with playing time or his role on the team.

11. Texas Tech (18-6)
A 4,660-square-foot home that once belonged to Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight has been put up for auction on the Internet. The home, spread across nearly five acres of secluded land in Bloomington, Indiana features five walk-in closets, a 546-square-foot study, skylights and a nearly 300 square-foot master bathroom equipped with a "jetted tub" and steam room for two. A posting on the Internet auction site seeks $397,500 for the home, or more than three times the median value of a home in the area.

12. Gonzaga (21-2)
Gonzaga beat St. Mary's 79-60 Saturday night at a sold-out McKeon Pavilion to clinch the regular-season West Coast Conference title. "It's a great win in a tough environment against a good basketball team," Zags coach Mark Few said. "I couldn't be more proud of our guys." The Gaels shot just 32.8 percent from the field, compared with 52.7 percent for the Zags, and were outrebounded 41-32.

13. Arizona (16-6)
The Wildcats' up and down ride continued this past week as ‘Zona posted victories over USC and UCLA on the tail end of a four-game California series which saw ‘Zona drop the opening two at the hands of Cal and Stanford the previous week. Arizona is four and a half games behind undefeated Stanford in the Pac-10 standings, while averaging a conference high 98-point per game.

14. Texas (17-4)
During the frantic closing moments of Iowa State's 78-77 triumph over Texas Saturday, Iowa State players were diving for the basketball, fans leaped from their seats and coaches stood frozen on the sidelines. The Longhorns missed two free throws and two desperate shots from the floor as the final seconds ticked away. Iowa State didn't secure the win until Jared Homan grabbed the last rebound, prompting a throng of supporters to rush onto the court in celebration. "We got a break," senior guard Jake Sullivan said. "We were due for a break."

15. Wisconsin (17-4)
Wisconsin guard Maurice "Boo" Wade pled not guilty Thursday to a charge of choking a woman at her apartment. At the hearing, Dane County Circuit Court Commissioner Todd Meurer ordered Wade to stay away from the area where the woman lives in an off-campus apartment. The 19-year-old alleged victim accused Wade of attacking her last week off campus. She said the player choked her twice. She was treated at a hospital and released.

16. Utah (19-5)
Rick Majerus said last week that he will not coach the University of Utah again this season, ending his 15-year association with the school he brought to national prominence. "No. I won't come back this year, and I won't coach next year for sure," Majerus told the media last week. The veteran coach also dissolved any hope he would ever return to the university, saying "they need to hire a coach; I've divorced myself from this."

17. Kansas (15-6)
Measures have been taken to rediscover the shooting touch of Keith Langford, but they're far from drastic. After each Kansas practice, the junior guard spends additional time shooting jumpers under the tutelage of assistant coach Norm Roberts. "After practice, I put up 100 shots and free throws, nothing that's not normal," Langford said in an interview this weekend. "Any basketball player who wants to be good does that."

18. Iowa State (14-7)
When Texas' Brian Boddicker told Iowa State guard Curtis Stinson, "We got y'all now," as the Longhorns brought the ball up with a four-point lead and just less than five minutes left in Saturday's renewal of a Big 12 rivalry, there emerged an opportunity for delicious comeuppance. Boddicker, the Longhorns' top free-throw shooter at 81.1 percent, would not make good on his taunts. The senior forward missed both foul shots and teammates Brandon Mouton and P.J. Tucker each missed putbacks in the final seconds as ISU rallied for a 78-77 upset victory, sending the crowd of 12,696 rushing the court.

19. Air Force (18-3)
How did the Falcons respond to first loss last week? Quite nicely, actually, with wins over Wyoming and Colorado State at home. The Falcons beat their Mountain West rivals by a combined nine points, using a second half rally to come out on top in both.

20. South Carolina (20-5)
Something was bugging South Carolina's Michael Boynton Jr. this week. Turns out, it might have been a spider. Gamecocks coach Dave Odom says Boynton, his senior point guard, had an abscess surgically removed from his right calf following South Carolina's 79-75 overtime loss to Mississippi State. The bite took place Tuesday night and the calf swelled. But any procedures Wednesday would have left Boynton unavailable to play against the Bulldogs Saturday.

21. Illinois (16-5)
A month ago, the Illini were ranked fifth in the Big Ten in scoring defense, giving up 65.9 points a game. They were sixth in field-goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 41.3 percent. Seven games and six victories later, Illinois coach Bruce Weber can put a finger on what has made his team successful: defensive improvement. The Illini are now third in the Big Ten in scoring defense (63.0 points a game) and first in field-goal defense (40.1 percent).

22. Boston College (15-8)
BC bused home after Sunday's win in New York before flying to Florida prior to their game against Seton Hall Monday. It's a tough schedule, but with three starters - Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall – originally from Southern California, it's a welcome trip to the warm weather.

23. North Carolina State (16-5)
True basketball fans should be happy to see the success North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek is enjoying in Raleigh. Think about all the heat this guy has taken as he operates in the shadows of North Carolina and Duke.

24. Memphis (18-4)
Memphis fell behind by nine against Louisville last week but rallied, mostly because it held the Cardinals to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half and used that defensive effort to spark a 15-6 run down the stretch. "This was about defense," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "Don't mistake it. It wasn't about making shots and all that. It was about guarding, and we did."

25. Louisville (17-4)
Forget about the reports that came out Thursday that Louisville coach Rick Pitino is going to St. John's. Pitino is happy with his situation at Louisville. He's excited about the future of Louisville basketball, as well he should be with a solid recruiting class coming in, led by New York City phenom Sebastian Telfair.

Keep an eye on…

LSU (16-4)
LSU's 6-3 SEC mark was the program's best start in league play since the 1991-92 squad started 7-1.

West Virginia (14-8)
D'or Fischer played a solid game last week when he matched up against UConn's Emeka Okafor. He had 10 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.

Colorado (13-8)
The Buffs have dropped two of their last three after mounting a four-game win streak early this month which had fans in Boulder looking ahead to where their team would be in March.

Southern Illinois (20-2)
The last time the Salukis were ranked? Jimmy Carter had been sitting in the Oval Office for two years.

Illinois-Chicago (18-7)
The Flames win streak sits at six after an impressive road victory over Cleveland State on Saturday.

Caught flopping…

Creighton (18-4)
The Blue Jays have lost two of their last three after being ranked 25th in our poll last week. Creighton had climbed towards the top of the Missouri Valley Conference with five victories in six games.

Mid-Major top 10…

1. Gonzaga (12th)
2. Memphis (24th)
3. Southern Illinois
4. Illinois-Chicago
5. DePaul
6. Creighton
7. Lafayette
8. Dayton
9. Manhattan
10. Vermont

On the bubble…

Michigan State (13-9)
Sophomore center Paul Davis is the Spartans' leading scorer, averaging 15.5 points and shooting better than 53 percent from the field on the season.

Central Florida (19-4)
The Golden Knights have three players averaging better than 10 points per game on the season, including senior Dexter Lyons; who has dropped a combined 48 points in Central Florida's last two games.

Michigan (13-8)
The Wolverines' chances for a birth at the big dance are about to pop. Michigan has lost three of its last four dating back to a 67-52 loss at Illinois.

Washington (12-9)
How much room for error is there in the Pac-10 this year? With two or three spots on rumored to be available in the conference, fifth-placed Washington has some work to do.

Across the board…

The Big 12
Oklahoma State (3rd), Texas Tech (11th), Texas (14th), Kansas (17th), Iowa State (18th), Colorado (28th), Nebraska (29th), Oklahoma (53rd), Missouri (102nd), Kansas State (121st), Texas A&M (236th), Baylor (265th)

Air Force (19th), Colorado (28th), Denver (139th), Colorado State (142nd)

CU's schedule
Utah (16th), Northwestern (93rd), Cal (105th), Oregon State (136th), Pepperdine (152nd), Richmond (173rd), Cal-Poly (242nd), Tennessee State (283rd), Savannah State (320th)

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