Tuesday, November 09, 1999

UC No. 2 in AP preseason poll


Trail UConn by 39 points and 2 first-place votes

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[satterfield]
Kenny Satterfield is one of UC's heralded freshmen.

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        The freshmen who will play such an important role this season for the Cincinnati Bearcats are beginning their careers precariously close to the top of the college basketball world. They're No.2.

        “I haven't really thought about it,” said point guard Kenny Satterfield. “It's early in the season. I'd rather be No. 1 at the end.”

        UC ranked second in the Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters released Monday evening, behind only defending national champion Connecticut. Michigan State was third, Auburn fourth and Ohio State fifth. Kentucky was 14th. Xavier and Miami were not ranked.

        In the ESPN/USA Today poll of coaches released last week, the Bearcats were ranked No.3, behind Connecticut and Michigan State. These accolades have not made a great impression on Satterfield, who admits to never being much of a poll-watcher and to having no idea how the rankings are compiled.

        “I would only see it if they flashed it on the screen before a game,” said Satterfield, one of three freshmen guards who will play for the Bearcats.

[johnson]
Freshman DerMarr Johnson.

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        The No.2 ranking is UC's highest since 1996-97, when it began the year No.1 after the team that figured to own the top spot, Kansas, was afflicted by an injury to All-American point guard Jacque Vaughn.

        There was a danger the foot injury that will keep Michigan State All-American Mateen Cleaves out nearly two months might again dump the top ranking onto UC. The Spartans were widely considered to be the preseason favorite for the national championship.

        Coach Bob Huggins correctly predicted two weeks ago the Bearcats would escape that fate, and also said then UConn would be the No.1 team. The choice of the Huskies was, nonetheless surprising, given that they were not picked to win it all by any of the major preseason publications.

        Last time the Bearcats opened the year No.1, they closed nine spots lower and lost their second game of the season to the Musketeers.

        “The thing that I thought hurt us more than anything that time was the distractions,” Huggins said. “And we haven't had that this year.”

UC'S RANKINGS
  How the Bearcats have fared in the AP poll since 1991-92, the first season during Huggins' tenure in which they earned a ranking:
Year Pre Fin Result
91-92NR12Final Four
92-93217Elite Eight
93-941925First round
94-9513NRSecond round
95-96217Elite Eight
96-97110Second round
97-98NR10Second round
98-991511Second round
        Although UC was only 39 poll points short of UConn and received 19 first-place votes to the Huskies' 21, it still is a long way from No.2 to No.1 in terms of public and media perception. That should permit the Bearcats to continue their preparations in an atmosphere of relative normalcy.

        However, they still could end up in the top spot before they play a game. UC's opener comes Nov. 20 at the Shoemaker Center against Youngstown State. UConn opens its season Thursday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at New York's Madison Square Garden.

        The Huskies play Iowa and, if they win, will meet the winner between No. 10 Duke and No. 13 Stanford in the championship game. If UConn loses either of its two games in New York, the Bearcats likely would advance to the top spot.

        “I don't think we're that good yet,” Huggins said. “I hope we do have that potential.”

        UC has been ranked in the preseason top 10 seven times since 1961-62, but only once before Huggins arrived.

        Although most of the players from the 1992 Final Four team returned, the 1992-93 squad opened the season ranked 21st. In 1995-96, when UC went on to finish in the NCAA Elite Eight, the Bearcats again entered the year ranked 21st.

        The Bearcats finished the 1997-98 season ranked No.10, but started outside the Top 25. Last year, they opened at No.15, rose as high as No.3 in the season's first month and landed at No.11 after a difficult February.

        So they've established a trend of overachieving in relation to their preseason poll rankings. That will be more difficult this season, if only because there's so little room to advance.

        “Personally, I don't think about it,” said senior center Kenyon Martin. “I know it can be gone any minute. I hope it doesn't get to any of the guys who are new. They haven't talked about it. That's a good sign, I think.”

        UC spent 10 consecutive weeks in the top five last season, which Martin cites as evidence the Bearcats were not affected by their poll ranking.

        “We stayed there a long time,” Martin said. “I don't think it hurt us. We just had a lapse. We can't have that again.”

       



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