BuffCountry.com Men's Top 25 – 02/24/04

In the wake of scandal accross the campus, the CU basketball team quietly slipped back into this week's Top 25 after an absence of nearly two months. Meanwhile, Kentucky retains the top spot in our weekly look around men's college basketball, but with even more competition than last week as Syracuse, among others, benefited from momentus wins over the weekend.

1. Kentucky (19-4)
Kentucky has learned that it doesn't take much to earn a bad rep. "Anytime you see a team like us lose, you're going to watch the tape and see what the other teams did to beat us," said UK sophomore walk-on Ravi Moss after a 68-59 victory at Auburn on Saturday. "That's what all the other schools are doing right now. They're thinking the best way to get to us is to be physical with us." Since UK got manhandled by a physical Georgia team more than a month ago, the whispers started. They sounded something like, UK isn't tough so all you have to do is bump them and it will crumble. Just remember, it's a tactic that worked for Georgia. Last Week: Unchanged

2. Oklahoma State (21-2)
OSU standout John Lucas III is putting bad memories behind him at his new school after transferring from Baylor this past year. Just months after abandoning the befuddled Bears, the wispy 5-foot-11, 152-pound junior has emerged as arguably the Big 12's best player - and the ringleader of an Oklahoma State rebirth that has pushed the Cowboys to the brink of their first conference basketball title. Last Week: 3rd

3. Stanford (23-0)
Sports Illustrated worked all week to set up a photo with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and Stanford's silky 6-7 junior forward Josh Childress prior to Saturday's game between the Bruins and the Cardinal at Pauley Pavilion. The shot would have been a perfect look at the past and the present if it had come off. Wooden coached UCLA to five unbeaten seasons in 1964, 1966, 1968, 1972 and 1973. Stanford is a perfect 23-0 after bouncing the Bruins, 73-60, to clinch the Pac-10 regular season title. Last Week: 7th

4. UConn (21-5)
UConn had payback on its mind when Notre Dame came calling Saturday. The Huskies shot just 35.6 percent from the field, with guards Ben Gordon and Taliek Brown combining to go 2-for-18. But UConn won. Why? Emeka Okafor, that's why. The center had 14 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists. The 22 boards matched the third-highest total ever in a Big East game. Last Week: 5th

5 Pittsburgh (24-2)
A subtle change has been made to the Pitt lineup in recent games. Junior guard Yuri Demetris has overtaken freshman Antonio Graves as the first reserve guard off the bench. The change might not represent a season-changing moment for the Panthers, but for Demetris it represents a significant turn of events. Two months ago, Demetris didn't know if he wanted to continue his career at Pitt. He left the team for a couple of days and missed the Dec. 22 game against Florida State. Last Week: 6th

6 Duke (22-3)
Don't try to convince Maryland that Duke's J.J. Redick isn't a dangerous player, even though he came into Sunday's game against the Terps after going 0-for-5 from the field in a loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday. In the course of the Blue Devils' 86-63 victory over Maryland, Redick simply waited the Terrapins out. Last Week: 2nd

7 Saint Joseph's (24-0)
Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's senior star, was named the Atlantic Ten Conference's player of the week for the seventh time this season yesterday. Nelson tied a conference record held by David West, a former Xavier star who was chosen seven times last season. Last Week: 9th

8 Georgia Tech (19-7)
Cast about raging Alexander Memorial Coliseum like a piece of driftwood, Wake Forest weathered a fearsome second-half storm and sailed into third place in the ACC last night with a clutch 80-76 victory over Tech Saturday. Last Week: Unchanged

9 Mississippi State (21-2)
Led by a career-high 31 points from Kennedy Winston, hot-shooting Alabama held off a persistent MSU rally to leave town with a 77-73 victory before 10,437 at sold-out Humphrey Coliseum. The defeat, which came before a national television audience on CBS and the fourth-largest crowd in school history, ended an eight-game winning streak for the Bulldogs, who were threatening to lap the Southeastern Conference field. Last Week: 4th

10 Syracuse (17-6)
Gerry McNamara, after shooting just 1-for-8 in the first 34 minutes of Saturday's game at Georgetown, hit all three of his attempts in the game's final six minutes - all from 3-point range - including the buzzer-beating game-winner to give Syracuse a 57-54 victory over the Hoyas at the MCI Center. Last Week: Unchanged

11 Texas Tech (19-7)
Texas Tech senior Andre Emmett became the Big 12's all-time leading scorer Saturday. Emmett needed four points coming into Saturday's game against Texas A&M to overtake Nick Collison of Kansas (2,097 points). Emmett got his 2,098th point on a one-handed dunk in full stride with 7:54 remaining in the first half. Robert Tomaszek grabbed a rebound and passed to Emmett who was at about midcourt. Last Week: Unchanged

12 Gonzaga (23-2)
Tulsa lost 79-69 to Gonzaga on Wednesday in Spokane after falling behind 12-0 to open the game. The Bulldogs, capitalizing on their strong inside game, built a 32-16 lead before Portland cut it to 34-27, but Gonzaga finished the first half with a 10-2 run. Last Week: Unchanged

13 Arizona (17-7)
The Wildcats still have a spattering of believers, but it appears that their own coach isn't one of them. "We're frankly not a good team," head coach Lute Olson said last week. "We can be a good team one night, but we're not a good team when you look at consistency. We're very, very inconsistent, and that's been the story of our conference this year." With three games left, UA is in second place in the Pacific-10 Conference, 5 1/2 games behind regular-season champ Stanford. Last Week: Unchanged

14 Texas (19-4)
Brandon Mouton wasn't going to say he has become the Texas Longhorns' go-to guy. Not on a team that doesn't have a scorer among the leagues' top 15 and hasn't had a Big 12 Player of the Week this season. "I feel like I'm one of them," the senior wing said in the Longhorns' 68-63 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday. "I'm not a selfish player, but with the game on the line I like the ball in my hands." Last Week: Unchanged

15 Kansas (17-6)
With its starters hobbled much of the season by nagging aches, and a thin bench contributing just 13.5 points on average in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks are better off when they have lead time. Especially when they must hit the road to play the deepest squad in the Big 12. But when the national exposure of ESPN calls, the bags must be packed. Last Week: 17th

16 Illinois (18-5)
Illinois coach Bruce Weber has been saying Dee Brown was due for a breakout game. So has the flashy sophomore from Proviso East. Brown couldn't have picked a better time than Saturday to deliver. With Deron Williams and James Augustine in foul trouble and the Illini flirting with disaster, Brown made six consecutive shots to lead Illinois past Penn State 66-58. Last Week: 21st

17 Wisconsin (17-6)
Defense never failed the Wisconsin Badgers this season as much as it did Sunday afternoon. Michigan, which is making a late run for a spot in the NCAA basketball tournament, shot 58.1% in a 71-59 victory over the Badgers in front of 12,153 fans at Crisler Arena, using its length, athleticism and floor spacing to make life miserable for the Badgers' post defenders. The Wolverines made 75% of their shots in the first half on the way to the best shooting day for a UW opponent this season. The Badgers entered play leading the Big Ten by limiting conference teams to an average of 58 points per game and second in field-goal percentage defense (41.9%). Last Week: 15th

18 Boston College (18-8)
Boston College may be the most opportunistic team in the country. On several occasions in recent weeks, the Eagles were on the verge of sliding way down - or completely out of - the projected NCAA field. Each time they have responded with a significant victory. The past week was no exception. The Eagles lost a key home-court showdown versus Providence that might have all but guaranteed an at-large bid. They were then just one more loss from falling to 5-7 in the Big East and perhaps out of the NCAA field entirely. Last Week: 22nd

19 Iowa State (14-9)
Iowa State has lost six Big 12 Conference road games this season. Judging from the Cyclones demeanor after the game, you might have thought it was the first. After battling back from a 17-point deficit in the second half, the ISU players and coaches had to come to terms with the fact that their best road-game effort of the season still wasn't good enough to upset Kansas Saturday. Last Week: 18th

20 South Carolina (20-6)
Dave Odom's club is 7-4 in the SEC, and fans are packing posh 18,000-seat Colonial Center. Three of the past four games were sellouts. Last Week: Unchanged

21 Air Force (19-4)
It's going to take more than a loss at Texas Pan American to bump Falcons off this list. Like, say, losing at Utah and BYU over next 72 hours. Last Week: 19th

22 North Carolina State (17-6)
N.C. State coach Herb Sendek turned 41 on Sunday, but he said he didn't need a cake, didn't need a party, really didn't need any gifts. "I'll take the win," he said. "That's the best present I can have." Sendek wasn't joking. He was one happy coach after the 13th-ranked Wolfpack rallied in the second half to edge Washington 77-72. Last Week: 23rd

23 Memphis (19-4)
Players and eras change but Memphis coach John Calipari shoots for unselfish play and fresh legs and minds with March Madness approaching. Last Week: 24th

24 Colorado (15-8)
Strong defense and a collection of 3-pointers by Marcus Hall, Blair Wilson and Michel Morandais, plus inside stuffs by David Harrison, lifted Colorado to a 72-62 victory Saturday night over Kansas State. "I believe this was our best game of the year against a very, very good team that had gained some momentum. I'm excited for our guys," said CU coach Ricardo Patton, whose team beat Texas Tech 85-75 on Wednesday. "They really bought into the defense." Last Week: Unranked

25 Utah (19-7)
So now it comes down to this for the Utah basketball team - jockeying for position at next month's Mountain West Conference basketball tournament. Saturday's bad-bounce 59-57 loss to Air Force knocked the Utes out of the MWC race for all intents and purposes, along with BYU. Both the Utes and Cougars have 7-4 records, compared to the Falcon's 9-1 mark. Air Force would need to tank badly for the Utes and Cougars to have any chance of a title share. Last Week: 16th

Keep an eye on…

George Washington (16-8)
The Colonials have won five straight dating back to Jan. 31.

Florida (15-8)
Christian Drejer's decision to leave Florida midseason for a pro team in Spain is the selfish act that just might keep the Gators out of the Tourney.

West Virginia (14-9)
The Mountaineers came a lot closer to dethroning Pitt last weekend that the 67-58 score indicated.

Illinois-Chicago (20-7)
The Flames have won eight straight since dropping a one-point decision to Wright State on Jan. 21.

Caught flopping…

Louisville (17-6)
The Cardinal has now lost five of six and is all but out of the mix for the school's first C-USA regular-season title. Louisville's laundry list of problems got longer even before Saturday's game between the Cards and in-state rival Cincinnati started when senior forward Luke Whitehead, the team's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, was unable to go after suffering an ankle injury in the Cards' embarrassing 71-46 loss at Texas Christian on Tuesday. Cincinnati took advantage of Whitehead's absence and foul trouble by center Kendall Dartez by pushing Louisville around inside. The Bearcats had 13 second-chance points and outrebounded U of L 46-39.

Mid-Major Top 10…

1. Gonzaga (23-2)
2. Memphis (19-4)
3. Illinois-Chicago (20-7)
4. Troy State (19-5)
5. Charlotte (17-6)
6. Manhattan (21-4)
7. East Tennessee State (23-4)
8. Creighton (19-5)
9. Pacific (19-7)
10. Boston (21-4)

Across the board…

Air Force (21st), Colorado (24th), Colorado State (154th)

The Big 12…
Oklahoma State (2nd), Texas Tech (11th), Texas (14th), Kansas (15th), Iowa State (19th), Colorado (24th), Nebraska (52nd), Oklahoma (57th), Missouri (75th), Kansas State (122nd), Texas A&M (236th), Baylor (263rd)

CU's schedule…
Utah (25th), Northwestern (93rd), Oregon State (99th), Cal (120th), Pepperdine (138th), Richmond (139th), Cal Poly (258th), Tennessee State (268th), Savannah State (318th)

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