Villanova No.1? It could happen

South Carolina fans swarm the court after their team knocked off top-ranked Kentucky, 68-62.
South Carolina fans swarm the court after their team knocked off top-ranked Kentucky, 68-62.
Posted: January 30, 2010

1. Who's No. 1?

There's much excitement on the Main Line over the possibility of Villanova beginning next week ranked No. 1 in the regular season for the first time in its history. The Wildcats would need a loss tonight by Kansas at Kansas State to be elevated to the top spot. Then there's a case to be made for Syracuse, which has a higher RPI (1) than 'Nova (4) and the fifth-toughest schedule (compared with No. 39 for the Wildcats), according to collegerpi.com.

2. The Orange will take it

Contrary to what you might believe, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is entirely fine with his team being ranked No. 1 during the season. "I don't think the rankings affect the players that much," Boeheim said. "I think they just want to go out and play and try to win the game. That's the one good thing about being high in the rankings, it means you're winning a lot of games." Boeheim just recorded his 32d 20-win season in his 34 years at the helm.

3. Tough at the top

Kentucky's euphoria being ranked No. 1 lasted barely 24 hours after the Wildcats lost at South Carolina. The setback came despite the warnings of President Obama, who had called coach John Calipari to thank him for raising more than $1 million in UK's "Hoops for Haiti" drive and tell him, "There is a tendency once you get to No. 1 to let down a little bit." Maybe the president is looking at a career after he leaves the White House; the Kentucky job pays much better than his current one.

4. Star power

Kentucky netted $98,100 during its fund-raiser on one item alone - dinner at Calipari's home with the coach and one of the university's most famous graduates, actress Ashley Judd.

5. Usually the big dog . . .

. . . of the Sunflower State, Kansas has had its star eclipsed somewhat this season by Kansas State. And that's just fine with Jayhawks coach Bill Self, whose team takes on the Wildcats tonight. He said K-State's success "generates interest. It gets people talking about our league. It gets people talking about our area." Prep Charter grad Marcus Morris is third on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg.) and second in rebounding (5.8). His twin brother, Markieff, is averaging 6.4 points and 5.2 boards.

6. Costly rush

South Carolina's victory over No. 1 Kentucky cost its athletic department $25,000 because students stormed the court in violation of Southeastern Conference rules. But it didn't seem to bother Gamecocks athletic director Eric Hyman, who joked he had messaged SEC commissioner Mike Slive to see if defeating a top-ranked team could get him a discount. In fact, he said fans who saw him after the game gave him $1 bills to help defray costs.

7. The murky ACC

It's not your typical season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Entering the weekend, Duke was the only ACC team ranked better than 20th in the RPI, and the Blue Devils joined Georgia Tech as the only teams in the top 25. Virginia and Maryland were the two most recent No. 1 teams in the standings, and North Carolina was in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. "To look at the 12 teams, you'd say, 'I really don't see a clear picture here at all,' " ACC television analyst and former Sixer Mike Gminski said.

8. Lovin' the Pac-10

The ACC hasn't sunk to the depths of the Pacific Ten, but that doesn't reduce our enthusiasm for the folks out west. Five Pac-10 teams entered Thursday's action with 4-3 conference records, and four of them lost. First-place California won its game to get to 6-2, with Arizona second at 5-3. Certainly, it's a one-bid league but the competition for that spot is going to be fierce.

9. Some numbers

South Florida's Dominique Jones scored 46 points - the second-highest total in a Big East game - in a win over Providence. That was the sixth game of 35 or more points this season by a Big East player, matching last year's total for an entire season. . . . Penn State is having a disappointing year, but 6-foot junior guard Talor Battle has distinguished himself as one of two players in the nation to lead his team in scoring (19.1), rebounding (5.4), assists (3.8) and steals (1.1).

10. Shout out to coaches

Members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches will participate in the Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers awareness weekend today and tomorrow. Coaches such as Fran Dunphy of Temple, John Giannini of La Salle, Phil Martelli of St. Joseph's and Bruiser Flint of Drexel will wear sneakers with their game attire on the sidelines. For more information on this drive and the accompanying Suits vs. Sneakers Challenge for fans, visit coachesvscancer.org.


College Football Report

Games of the Week

Today

La Salle at Temple, noon, ESPN2, WHAT-AM (1310): Needing something - anything - to give themselves a boost, the Explorers hope to catch the Owls reeling from their loss at Charlotte.

Duke at Georgetown, 1 p.m., CBS3: Just what the Hoyas needed following a crushing loss at Syracuse, and before their rematch next week with Villanova.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 4 p.m., ESPN: Who'd have thought the Commodores would hold a one-game lead in the SEC East over the Wildcats at the start of the week?

Kansas at Kansas State, 7 p.m., ESPN: Fans of the Wildcats (Villanova) will be fans of the Wildcats (K-State) since a Jayhawks loss could move 'Nova to its first-ever No. 1 ranking in the regular season.

Harvard at Cornell, 7 p.m.: The two Ivy League heavyweights square off for the first time this season.

Tomorrow

Maryland at Clemson, 5:30 p.m.: The Terrapins replaced Virginia atop the ACC standings, proving that parity in the conference extends beyond Durham and Chapel Hill.

Monday

Texas at Oklahoma State, 9 p.m., ESPN: The Cowboys, who have been knocking on the door of the national rankings all season, can kick the door in with a win over the Longhorns.

Tuesday

Seton Hall at Villanova, ESPNU, ESPN-AM (950): Both teams could be in the 90s if the Wildcats don't stay close to Jeremy Hazell, who lets shots fly early and often.

Michigan State at Wisconsin, 9 p.m., ESPN: The Spartans, whose 8-0 Big Ten start topped the previous best set in Magic Johnson's day, need to match the Badgers' physical play.

Wednesday

Pittsburgh at West Virginia, 7 p.m.: These two Big East heavyweights are having some consistency issues, so the edge goes to the Mountaineers in their loud house.

Duquesne at Temple, 7 p.m.: The Owls appear to have a favorable schedule for the final five weeks of the regular season.

Richmond at St. Joseph's, 7 p.m.: The Hawks hope to regain the mojo they had against Dayton as they try to topple another of the A-10's prospective NCAA teams.

UAB at Memphis, 8 p.m.: The Blazers haven't received much national respect despite an 18-2 record entering the weekend but can pick up some with a win at a tough venue.

- Joe Juliano


College Football Report

The Real Top 10

1. Kansas

2. Villanova

3. Syracuse

4. Kentucky

5. Michigan State

6. Texas

7. West Virginia

8. Purdue

9. Duke

10. Kansas State


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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