Posted: Thursday December 8, 2005 11:28AM; Updated: Thursday December 8, 2005 5:03PM
Denham Brown is UConn's second-leading scorer, with 13.3 points per game.
This is my second year as a voter in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, and just as I must reevaluate my rankings each Sunday night, so too must I constantly reevaluate my criteria. For example, if I feel I've been overrating a team, is it fair to move that school down in my rankings, even if they didn't lose that week? Or do I base my vote purely on what happens on the court?
I used to think that teams should hold their spot until they lose, but I've gradually come to believe that I should allow some flexibility and sometimes go with my gut instincts, especially this early in the season. That is why last week I voted UConn No. 1 and moved Duke down to No. 2. (For the record, only eight other AP voters gave third-ranked UConn a first-place vote, compared to 53 for the Blue Devils. It should also be noted that SI.com's Luke Winn, ahead of the curve as usual, bumped the Huskies to No. 1 in his Power Rankings last week.)
My change at the top has less to do with Duke's flaws and more to do with UConn's strengths. Yes, the Blue Devils have not looked like champs in the making -- we all know they deserved to lose to a mediocre Virginia Tech team on Dec. 4 -- but they'll get progressively better as their freshmen become more comfortable. And don't forget, Duke has been playing without sophomore guard DeMarcus Nelson, who is out for at least another month with a broken ankle.
For me, it comes down to this: UConn, like North Carolina last year, has the best upside of any team in America. The Huskies might not play up to their potential every game, but if they do, nobody will beat them. I love the toughness they showed in winning the Maui Invitational without junior point guard Marcus Williams (who will return in early January) and with Rudy Gay a non-factor in the last two games. And you want a scary thought? This could end up being the best defensive team Jim Calhoun has had in Storrs.
I believe we "experts" should stick by our picks, but not past the point where we don't believe in them anymore. So it now says here that UConn, not Duke, will be your 2006 national champ. That's what I believe, and until the Huskies show otherwise, that's how I'm going to vote.
Other Hoop Thoughts
As much as I was impressed with Nevada's win at Kansas, I was more impressed that the Wolf Pack avoided a letdown and won at Pacific two days later. That's what a tough, veteran team does.
It's a good sign for Washington that freshman Justin Dentmon has emerged as a solid starter at the point. That allows Brandon Roy to spend more time on the wing, where he's much more effective.
I'm hearing that most officials do not like the semi-circle under the basket that was put in place on an experimental basis this fall. The refs generally feel the circle takes their eyes off the contact.
Two books that should be on the bookshelf of any hoop thinker: Heaven is a Playground by RickTelander, and The City Game by Pete Axthelm.