UC can't pull rank on Duke

Tuesday, December 1, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Bearcats made certain college basketball's No. 1 team dropped - but maybe not as far as they might have liked.

UC rose to No. 6 in the Associated Press poll released Monday, but that still put the Bearcats (4-0) two spots behind Duke, the team they beat Saturday night for the championship of the Great Alaska Shootout.

Connecticut is the new No. 1 team, followed by Maryland, North Carolina, Duke and Stanford.

UC shooting guard Melvin Levett said he was not surprised to still be ranked behind Duke, despite UC's 77-75 victory on an ostensibly neutral court that felt, because Duke's Trajan Langdon is an Anchorage native, like a Blue Devils home game.

"No, not at all," Levett said. "They were the No. 1 starting off, and those guys are a very good team. I think it's more about tradition than anything. If they were going on pure talent and ability, we matched up pretty well, and they still shouldn't be ranked ahead of us."

UC has not been ranked this high by AP since the Jan. 13, 1997 poll, when it was No. 4. The Bearcats lost their next game, to Temple, and went on to finish at No. 9. They are one of three teams to conclude each of the past three seasons in the AP poll top 10, along with Kansas and Kentucky.

Those two teams are also in the top 10 this week, with Kansas at No. 7 and Kentucky (5-1) at No. 8. Michigan State and Temple complete the top 10. Miami (4-0) advanced two spots to No. 22 this week, and Xavier (4-2) fell to No. 23.

The Bearcats won the Shootout despite playing without point guard Michael Horton, who returned to practice Monday.

UC began its season at No. 15 in the AP poll. Its nine-position climb from the start of the year to this point is the largest for any team. North Carolina was ninth at the start and is up to No. 3 after winning the Preseason NIT title.

Levett said he generally does not pay a lot of attention to the Bearcats' ranking.

"It's just numbers, man. It's good for bragging rights to look int he paper and see your team ranked high, but it's just numbers. Any given night, it doesn't matter if you're 14th, seventh, 20th or No. 1. You can get beat if you don't do the right things."

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