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UCLA Heads Top 10, But Hardly Dominates Like UNLV, Duke Did

Column by Bo Light
and Brian Petersen
Sports Columnists

This week, though, we present you with a big College Hoops Extravaganza.

Pete's Top 10

1. UCLA

2. North Carolina

3. Kentucky

4. UConn

5. Kansas

6. UMass

7. Maryland

8. Arkansas

9. Michigan St.

10. Wake Forest

Wanted: A number one team.

Reward: A guaranteed loss.

The curse of the AP poll struck again this week as top-ranked Kansas lost less than 24 hours after being voted number one. This is the fourth time in four weeks that the number one team has been knocked off (UMass, North Carolina, and UConn were the others).

College basketball is more competitive than ever before. On any given night, a ranked team can fall. Last week, for example, 16 of the top 25 teams in the coaches' poll lost games, including eight of this week's top 10. It's easy for a weaker team like Mississippi to get up for a big game against a powerhouse like Arkansas and pull off the upset.

No longer is there one dominant team in the country, like UNLV in 1989-1991 and Duke in 1991-92, that can go into any arena on any given night and be guaranteed to provide a win. What separates those teams from the top-ranked teams today is a combination of talent and big-game experience.

UNLV had Larry Johnson. If he had a bad night, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, or Anderson Hunt could take over. Duke had Christian Laetner and Bobby Hurley, with a strong supporting cast that went to four consecutive Final Fours. Both teams just knew what it took to win.

Look at the teams today. Michigan would be in that position if Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose were still around. North Carolina has talent in Stackhouse, Wallace, and McInnis, but all three are sophomores. Kansas doesn't have enough talent nor the experience to be dominant. The same goes for Kentucky, UConn, and UMass. Don't get me wrong, they are very talented teams, but they are not as good as the Duke and UNLV teams.

Once again, UCLA is my top pick. They completed season sweeps of both Arizona and Arizona State last week. They followed those wins with an impressive 88-77 victory at Stanford, after Dicky V. predicted an upset by the Cardinal. Ed O'Bannon continues to make an impressive run at National Player of the Year honors. UCLA's only weakness is their inability to hit the trey, which could hurt come March. This could be the year that the Bruins break out of the Wizard of Westwood's shadow by winning their first title since 1975.

Also, don't count Arkansas out quite yet. Though they haven't lived up to the pollsters' expectations, the Hogs should still be considered serious contenders for the title. The squad, led by veterans Corliss Williamson, Scottie Thurman, and Corey Beck, have won four in a row. They are peaking at the right time and should continue to roll. I have them at number eight this week.

Big East Review

We begin a series of major conference wrap-ups this week by reviewing the Big East. The Big East is beginning to regain the form that made it the most dominant conference in the mid-eighties, when players like Ewing, Mullin, Pinckney, and Pearl Washington pounded away at each other night after night. Freshmen superstars Felipe Lopez and Allen Iverson, are making Big East games fun to watch again.

UConn has led the conference race since the start of the season, and with Villanova's 23 point loss at Georgetown on Monday, they look to have the inside track to the title. 'Nova has had a spectacular season, having won eleven in a row until the loss to the Hoyas.

All-Big East Team: Allen Iverson (Georgetown), point guard; Lawrence Moten (Syracuse), shooting guard; Jason Lawson (Villanova), center; Kerry Kittles (Villanova), small forward; John Wallace (Syracuse), power forward.

You may be asking where's UConn's Ray Allen. Well, the team needs a point guard, and Iverson is the best. Lawrence Moten, who broke Terry Dehere's all-time Big East scoring record this past week, is much better than Allen. Lawson, despite injuries problems, is currently the best big man in the league.

St. John's frosh Zendon Hamilton is a year away and Georgetown's Othella Harrington had a disappointing junior season. John Wallace beats out Boston College's Danya Abrams as the top power forward.

Player of the Year honors go to Kittles, who is averaging over 20 points per game, and single-handedly led the Wildcats to victory over the Huskies last Saturday by scoring 37 points.

Trivia Question

Since this is the College Hoops Extravaganza, and we've just done our Big East review, this week's question comes from the courts of the six-foul conference. What was the last Big East team to reach the Final Four? Send answers, along with comments and new names for the Shawmut Center to: easports@the-tech. One winner, chosen at random, will receive a really cool key chain that we found outside the Student Center.

Answer to last week's questions: No one could tell us that the first NBA All-Star game was held in Boston in 1951, and that Ed MacCauley of the Celtics was the MVP. In a similar disappointment, only our pals in Mudville knew that Tampa Bay and Seattle were the last two NFL expansion teams, way back in 1976.