Rankings get reshuffled after upsetting week
Posted: Monday December 1, 2003 5:03PM; Updated: Monday December 1, 2003 5:04PM
By David Vecsey, SI.com
Think of the early season rankings as a big tower of Legos. They are easily knocked down, and they are easily restacked. And what's more is that every failed effort results in a sturdier structure with the next blueprint.
Why a metaphor involving a child's toy? Because to put any stock in the polls this time of year, you would have to be that naïve. Just remember where voters had eventual national champion Syracuse at the start of last season.
That's right. They didn't.
The entertainment value of seeing the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 teams take a loss this week is high, but it's hardly the calamity it would have been had it happened in football. However the voters reshuffle the rankings this week is merely a token gesture to show respect for the teams that haven't coughed one up yet. Because they all will eventually, and in a few weeks we'll know who truly belongs where.
In the meantime, here are some quirky notes regarding top-ranked UConn's loss to unranked Georgia Tech:
The past five preseason No. 1s have suffered their first loss at the hands of an unranked opponent.
Of the 215 all-time losses by the top-ranked team, 110 have been to unranked opponents.
UConn was the preseason No. 1 in 2000, but lost it after one week and never regained it the rest of the season. Only six other teams -- South Carolina in 1970, North Carolina in 1978, Kentucky in 1981, Georgia Tech in 1986, Syracuse in 1988 and UNLV in 1990 -- have done that. UConn can be the first to do it twice. Good luck, Huskies.
Georgia Tech has seven victories against the top-ranked team, which ties Oklahoma for sixth on the all-time list. Last week was the first time in more than 10 years, however, that the Jackets had knocked off a No. 1. That's notable because in a 13-month span between Jan. 10, 1993, and Feb. 12, 1994, Tech posted four wins against No. 1 teams.
And what about unranked Georgia Tech? The Jackets, 5-0 and Preseason NIT champs, are certain to land high in the Top 25 this week, perhaps even the top 10. The highest ranking given to a previously unranked team was No. 4 (Kansas, 1989). And the only team to ever rise to No. 1 after starting unranked was the Larry Bird-led Indiana State squad in 1978-79. Go down the Tech schedule, and a 12-0 start is not far-fetched leading into the Jan. 3 game against intrastate rival Georgia. Then Tech begins its brutal ACC schedule.
Who should you peg next to knock off No. 1? UCLA is always a good bet. The Bruins have done it four times in the past four years to take the all-time lead with 10 such wins. But the schedule is not favorable. The Bruins play Kentucky on Saturday, but the Wildcats are not likely to be No. 1 this week. UCLA also plays Michigan State next Saturday and Arizona twice during conference play.
Illinois-North Carolina, Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Last week, this looked like an appetizer to Duke-Michigan State. This week, it's the main course. Illinois won this game 92-65 last year, but it's a whole new situation at Carolina. This is a battle of two fabulous backcourts, held on a neutral court in Greensboro, N.C.
Duke-Michigan State, Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's always going to be good when the 2001 NCAA champion visits the 2000 NCAA champion. It's even better when both teams already have a loss and are looking to put a shine on their place in the national pecking order.
Kentucky-UCLA, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Can you squeeze any more tradition onto one court? UCLA may not be in Kentucky's class these days, but it shouldn't take long Ben Howland to get there. UCLA is 5-1 at the Wooden Classic, including an 82-81 victory over Kentucky in the inaugural game in 1995. And, by the way, it's Stanford-Kansas in the second game.
Honorable Mention: Notre Dame at Marquette, Monday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2; Oklahoma at Michigan State, Saturday, noon, ESPN; Missouri at Indiana, Saturday, 4 p.m.; Gonzaga at Maryland, Saturday, 3 p.m
More accurately, it's a big two weeks for the Indiana Hoosiers (2-1), who play four of their next five against ranked teams. And the fifth game is against scrappy Butler, an NCAA team from last season that took Michigan to overtime on Sunday. But first things first. This week, the Hoosiers play at Wake Forest on Tuesday as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and at home Saturday against Missouri.
The Hoosiers are a team looking for an identity. To understand that, one needs to look no further than the first sentence of Bob Kravitz's column in Sunday's Indianapolis Star: "This is what a bubble team looks like." The Hoosiers will go only as far as sophomore Bracey Wright will take them. Wright leads the team in scoring (22.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg), and head coach Mike Davis moved Wright to the point for Saturday's victory over Xavier.
Lute Olson picked up his 500th victory at Arizona with a 107-73 rout of Northern Arizona last Monday. Coincidentally, Olson's first victory at Arizona came at the expense of the Lumberjacks. Olson will soon bring home another ball for the trophy case, since he is eight victories shy of 700 for his career. ... Temple's John Chaney also is closing in on 700, needing seven more. ... Meanwhile, Louisville's Rick Pitino needs four wins to give him 400 for his career. Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson is five shy of 400. ... The nation's longest home-court winning streak ended at 39 on Saturday, when Western Kentucky lost 81-75 to Mississippi State. Duke inherits the title with 29 straight home wins going into Saturday's game with St. John's at Cameron. Southern Illinois has won 28 straight at home. Syracuse also had a home win streak end at 17 with a season-opening loss to Charlotte. Butler lost at "home" to Michigan on Sunday, but it was at Conseco Fieldhouse, which means that the Bulldogs' 18-game win streak at Hinkle Fieldhouse is still alive. ... Colorado senior Michel Morandais became the 21st Buffalo to score 1,000 career points. ... Sophomore F Ike Diogu is Arizona State's first ever AP Preseason All-American. ... With three home victories to open the season, the Washington Huskies have 768 wins at 76-year-old Edmundson Pavilion, more than any other team in its current arena. The Huskies play host to Gonzaga on Wednesday. ... Don't get used to it because of the mass defections to the Big East, but Conference USA has changed its format this season to a one-division, 14-team alignment. Each school will play each other for a total of 13 games, with three rematches scheduled based on natural rivalries. ... UCLA freshman F Trevor Ariza will miss the next two weeks after suffering a collapsed lung. ... Kansas junior G Michael Lee will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken right collarbone. Lee started the Jayhawks' first two games, averaging 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 25.5 minutes. ... Kentucky's Tubby Smith wasn't too thrilled with his bench after the reserves shot 1-for-12 and had to be taken out before they blew a big lead against Tennesee Tech. The UK starters scored 99 of the team's 108 points.
We'll provide the topic, you provide the chatter. Let's work together to answer life's mysteries ... or at least college basketball's mysteries.
For openers, let's talk conference realignment. Of course, it was born out of football's interests, but it will have widespread effects on the basketball scene, as well.
The ACC, Big East and Conference USA all will undergo drastic makeovers.
Tells us what to make of it. Who's getting better? Who's getting worse? Who will lay claim to the best basketball conference in the country in future years?
There are very few certainties in life, but here's one: If your letters come in too long or all in capital letters or laced with obscenities ... they won't even get read.
We don't care if you've written the sequel to the Gettysburg Address, it has to come in bright and tight if you want it to appear here.