Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Nothing certain this college basketball season

The Tennessean

The latest college basketball polls came out Monday. For the third straight week, there is a change at the top.

I would advise Arizona not to get too comfy. This is their third trip to No. 1. It's no longer basketball. This has turned into dodge ball.

Before we continue, it must be noted for the record that college basketball polls are as worthless as a gigolo's marriage proposal.

They mean nothing. Unlike the BCS machinations of determining a college football champion, college basketball teams endure a 65-team playoff that leaves one team standing.

That being said, I think a clear pattern in hoops is developing.

Arizona was thought to be the best team in the country from preseason through the first five weeks of the season.

'Zona was replaced by Alabama, which started 9-0 and now is in real danger of becoming the first top-ranked team to not even make the NCAA Tournament. Coach Mark Gottfried simply hasn't been able to stop his team's slide and admits having no answers as to why the bottom dropped out.

'Bama stayed on top two weeks, replaced by Duke.

The Dookies held on for two weeks, before Arizona reappeared for yet another two-week run.

Florida floated to the top and may have stayed there for the shortest time in history, before Kentucky floored them with a Rupp Arena uppercut merely hours after Florida took over No. 1.

While Billy Donovan's Gators have enough talent to wind up in New Orleans during Final Four week, they have shown a fragile side when Matt Bonner isn't at the top of his game and the outside shooting eyes stray.

The latest RPI is equally confusing. Collegiate Basketball News' RPI has Arizona No. 4, trailing Louisville, Texas and Georgia.

The teams with a bullet on the AP and coaches' polls are Louisville and Kentucky.

The Cards are No. 2 this week, followed by the 'Cats at No. 3.

It marks the first time since Dec. 15, 1981 that both Kentucky teams have been ranked in the Top 5.

This is as exciting a story line as you'll find in college sports.

Pontiff Rick Pitino returning to the Commonwealth to coach Kentucky's most bitter rival. Turning the Cards into a national contender in two short seasons. Beating his old UK assistant coach, Tubby Smith, in convincing fashion earlier in the season.

To add insult to injury, one of Pitino's top players is center Marvin Stone. Stone, a high school All-American, began his career at Kentucky, underachieved and transferred to Louisville. He is now the Cards top rebounder and second in scoring.

Don't think it doesn't grate on Big Blue faithful, seeing Stone flourish under Ricky P., after struggling for playing time under Tubby.

It's just a part of what promises to be a season in which the national champion may well emerge from a pool of teams that could number 15 deep.

If I didn't know better, I would suspect the NCAA Basketball Committee of stealing the NFL's parity formula.

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