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February 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments


The Morning Dish – Wednesday, February 5th, 2003

by Michael Ermitage

And down goes another top team. Just one day after Florida
reached the top of the Hoopville poll, it was thoroughly thrashed by
7th-ranked Kentucky, 70-55. It turns out that the only players mentally
prepared to play a road game as the nation’s top team was Florida’s fabulous
freshmen duo of Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson. Those two were the only
Gators to score in double figures as the Kentucky defense was stifling all
night long. The Wildcat defense held the usually offensively potent Gators
to just 22 points in the first half. The Gators shot just 34 percent from
the field for the game.

The win by Kentucky really shakes up the national picture. Prior to the
Gators’ ascension to the top of the poll, many college hoops fans were in
agreement that the Arizona Wildcats were the nation’s best team. But a
shocking home loss to Stanford has sent doubts spiraling through the college
basketball world. Now, with Florida’s loss, it appears that that the nation
is without a dominant top team. Well, perhaps, there is one team everyone
is overlooking for the nation’s top spot – the Louisville Cardinals. Rick
Pitino’s squad did not receive one first place vote among the Hoopville
pollsters despite its gaudy 16-1 record and 15-game winning streak. Also
keep in mind that the Cardinals have not lost since transfer Marvin Stone
became eligible six games into the season. Certainly voters are gun-shy to
vote a Conference USA team as the top team in the nation, but it may be time
to elevate the Cardinals.

Side Dishes

A Texas-sized collapse: With less than two minutes left in
Boulder, Colo. Tuesday night, the Texas Longhorns were tied with the
Colorado Buffaloes. It is at times like these that sensational Longhorn
point guard T.J. Ford is supposed to put his team on his back and carry them
to victory. Instead, it was Colorado’s Michael Morandais that took over the
game, leading the Buffs on a game-ending 13-0 run to win 93-80. Morandais
finished the game with 24 points, helping Colorado topple its second Top 10
team in 13 days. Morandais received high praise from Texas coach Rick
Barnes. “He’s the most underrated player in our league, maybe the country,”
Barnes said after the loss.

A tough Pitt win: Pittsburgh missed its chance to become Hoopville’s
top ranked team when it dropped a nail-biter to Syracuse over the weekend.
Coming back home, the Panthers figured to have little trouble with visiting
Providence. But that was not the case. The Friars made a furious
second-half rally to erase a 14-point deficit and tie the game with four and
half minutes left. But Pitt was solid down the stretch at the free throw
line and prevailed 68-61.

First to 20: The surprise team of college basketball continues to be
the Creighton Bluejays. Creighton woke up from a sluggish first half
Tuesday night to cruise to its 20th win on the year, an 84-75 victory over
Northern Iowa. The Bluejays are the first team in the nation to hit the
20-win plateau. There was no celebration, however, as the cold-shooting
Bluejays were lectured by coach Dana Altman in the locker room after the
game. Creighton currently sits at 13th in the Hoopville poll.

Xavier too hot to handle: It seems that just like Louisville, that
Xavier has not been given the proper amount of respect this season. The
19th-ranked Musketeers rolled to an 80-68 win at George Washington Tuesday
night to better their record to 16-4. Xavier had just dismantled conference
rival Richmond three days earlier. Point guard Lionel Chalmers has returned
from an injury and this has made Xavier a much better team. The absence of
Chalmers allowed freshman Dedrick Finn to develop and now Xavier has two
capable scoring point guards.

Tonight’s Menu:

• Whenever North Carolina and Duke meet, it has to be on the top of any list
of must-watch games. Despite the records, these games usually turn into
hard-fought close contests. This version pits Duke, looking to get back into
the ACC race after its 4-3 start, against the Tarheels, who are just trying
to qualify for the NCAA tournament, sitting at 11-9 overall and 2-5 in the
ACC.

• A huge Big Ten matchup in West Lafayette, Ind., where the
Purdue Boilermakers host the Wisconsin Badgers. Neither of these teams is
ranked in the Hoopville Top 25, which is a crying shame, but face off
tonight with first-place in the Big Ten on the line.

• After Cincinnati’s losses to DePaul and Marquette, Coach
Bob Huggins announced that he no longer will let his team use the home
locker room to get dressed for daily practice. Huggins said that only
champions are allowed to use that locker room. It is doubtful that little
motivation ploy will do much to get the Bearcats over the hump against
Louisville in Louisville tonight.

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