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Kansas moves to No. 7 in AP college basketball poll; Larry Brown’s SMU checks in at No. 23

No college basketball team has played better in the month of February than the one coached by a man who was 11 when Kansas won its first of three NCAA Tournament titles.

Larry Brown was 48 and coaching the Jayhawks when Kansas won its second NCAA tournament in 1988. He was in the stands in San Antonio when KU won its third title, in 2008.

Now, at the age of 73, Brown has his SMU team in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll, ranked 23rd, and playing so well that it’s not out of the question he could reach a third Final Four with his third team in a span of 35 years. SMU had not been ranked for longer than that. The most recent ranking came in the second-to-last week of the 1985 poll.

By the way, Brown’s second school, Kansas, is ranked seventh.

Brown, 73, coached UCLA to the national-title game in 1980, when the Bruins lost to Denny Crum’s Louisville Cardinals, then known as the “Doctors of Dunk,” led by Dr. Dunkenstein himself, Darrell Griffith.

Brown was head coach of six different ABA teams and nine different NBA squads. And here he is now resuscitating a basketball program that had not scored a victory over a ranked opponent since 2003.

Brown’s Mustangs defeated No. 7 Cincinnati, 76-55, Saturday, their third victory in four tries against ranked opponents. They have won their three February games by an average margin of 19.7 points, the first a 15-point victory against then-No. 22 Memphis.

SMU (19-5, 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference) has won 8 of 9 and three of its losses this season (Virginia, at Cincinnati, at Louisville) have come against teams now in the top 25.

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Feb. 9, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

         Record Pts Prv
  1. Syracuse (65) 23-0 1,625 1
  2. Arizona 23-1 1,525 2
  3. Florida 21-2 1,477 3
  4. Wichita St. 25-0 1,445 4
  5. San Diego St. 21-1 1,373 5
  6. Villanova 21-2 1,288 6
  7. Kansas 18-5 1,234 8
  8. Duke 19-5 1,130 11
  9. Michigan St. 20-4 1,025 9
  10. Cincinnati 22-3 970 7
  11. Iowa St. 18-4 925 16
  12. Saint Louis 22-2 908 13
  13. Louisville 19-4 866 14
  14. Kentucky 18-5 769 18
  15. Michigan 17-6 702 10
  16. Iowa 18-6 686 17
  17. Virginia 19-5 608 20
  18. Creighton 19-4 552 12
  19. Texas 18-5 417 15
  20. Memphis 18-5 333 24
  21. Wisconsin 19-5 242 NR
  22. Ohio St. 19-5 214 NR
  23. SMU 19-5 205 NR
  24. UConn 18-5 194 22
  25. Pittsburgh 20-4 175 25
    Others receiving votes: Oklahoma 99, Gonzaga 44, UCLA 43, New Mexico 23, Oklahoma St. 10, George Washington 6, Southern Miss. 6, Stephen F. Austin 3, Arizona St. 1, Kansas St. 1, North Carolina 1.

My top 25 AP ballot:

1 - Syracuse: Teams in foul trouble often shift to zones to slow down their rate of fouls, so it’s no surprise that Syracuse, which plays a 2-3 zone, averages just 15.9 fouls per game, eighth-lowest number in the country.

2 - Arizona: Power forward Brandon Ashley (11.5 points per game, 5.8 rebounds) suffered a broken foot that sidelined him for the season, a big loss, but not as big as it would be for less talented teams. Not many schools could replace Ashley with a freshman as talented as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a McDonald’s All-American averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds in two starts since the injury.

3 - Wichita State: Trivia question: What does Shockers coach Gregg Marshall have in common with Jud Heathcote, who coached Michigan State team led by Magic Johnson to 1979 national title, and Phil Jackson, coach of 11 NBA champions? They all are members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Or would calling them fraternity “brothers” be the correct terminology? Or do they have to live in same house to be considered “brothers?” It’s all Greek to me.

4 - Florida: Coach Billy Donovan bringing along slowly 6-10 freshman Chris Walker, ineligible the first 12 games for receiving impermissible benefits. Two games into his college career, he has played 11 minutes and totaled eight points, three rebounds and two blocked shots and has made 4 of 5 shots. He’s doing his best to speed up the coach’s plan.

5 - San Diego State: Point guard Xavier Thames big reason Aztecs, winners of 20 in a row, close games so well. For one thing, he makes his free throws and has made 30 of 32 of late.

6 - Villanova: Four of the top seven schools on my ballot have either an Ennis or Wiggins in the rotation. Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and Villanova’s Dylan Ennis of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, combine to average 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists. KU’s Andrew Wiggins and Wichita State’s Nick Wiggins of the same Canadian province combine to average 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

7 - Kansas: In the 14 games since his rough performance at Florida, freshman Frank Mason has 33 assists and 11 turnovers and for the most part has played tough defense.

8 - Michigan State: Games lost to injury by top four players: Adreian Payne (seven), Branden Dawson (six), Gary Harris (three), Keith Appling (two).

9 - Duke: Quietly, Blue Devils playing terrific basketball. Only loss in past eight games came at Syracuse in overtime. Last six victories by average margin of 22.3 points.

10 - Iowa: Roy Devyn Marble made 6 of 10 three-pointers to lead rout of Michigan.

11 - Michigan: Spike Albrecht averaged 2.2 points a game last season, 3.5 this season and neither number can change his remarkable storybook moment. He played 11 minutes and scored 17 points in the first half vs. Louisville. Nobody can ever take that away from him.

12 - Cincinnati: Bearcats suffered 21-point loss to SMU, but can take comfort in knowing they won’t face coaching legend every time they lace up their sneakers.

13 - St. Louis: Once upon a time, this wasn’t such a shocking sentence: Five senior starters.

14 - Kentucky: Best victory: Louisville. Second-best: At Missouri. Needs another big victory to ensure high seed.

15 - Louisville: Best victory: At UConn. Second-best: Home game vs. SMU. Needs another big victory to ensure high seed.

16 - Creighton: No shame in losing to very talented, just-now-jelling St. John’s team that has won six of past seven games.

17 - Texas: Jonathan Holmes left Kansas State loss with knee injury after just nine minutes of action.

18 - Iowa State: UCLA’s Bill Walton in 1973 national-title game vs. Memphis: 21 of 22 field goals, 2 of 5 free throws, 44 points, 13 rebounds. . Melvin Ejim 41 years later in Big 12 game vs. TCU: 20 of 24 field goals, 6 of 6 free throws, 2 of 2 threes, 48 points, 18 rebounds.

19 - Oklahoma: Give sophomore Buddy Hield any breathing room and he’ll give you three reasons to regret that. Has made 17 of 34 threes in Sooners past five games, increasing his season accuracy rate to .399.

20 - Virginia: Two leading scorers are three-point marksmen: Malcolm Brogdon (12. 1 points, .405 from three), Joe Harris (11.3, .424). Their coach, Tony Bennett, shot .497 on 584 long-ball attempts in four years playing for his father, Dick Bennett, at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

21 - Ohio State: Toss out January and Buckeyes might be No. 1. Record by month: November: 6-0; December: 8-0; January: 2-5; February: 3-0.

22 - SMU: Nick Russell, in his second season playing for Brown after two seasons at Kansas State, scored season-high 15 points in blowout victory vs. Cincinnati.

23 - UCLA: Coach’s son Bryce Alford shoots better percentage from three (.400) than two (.393). He plays 22.3 minutes per game.

24 - New Mexico: Australian Cameron Bairstow, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior forward from Australia who scored 24 points in loss to KU, averages 20.2 points and 7.1 rebounds and shoots .561 from the field, .740 from the line. He never averaged double figures in scoring before this season, which makes him one of the nation’s most improved players.

25 - Wisconsin: Traevon Jackson, the junior point guard who hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds left to defeat Michigan State, is son of Ohio State two-time All-American Jim Jackson, who now does color commentary for the Big Ten Network. The elder Jackson wore the uniform of 12 different NBA organizations. Father and son would have made a good backcourt tandem since son is a pass-first guard, father a gunner.

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Marcus Smart needs professional help

Let's hope Marcus Smart, spiraling dangerously out of control, gets the suspension he deserves and the counseling help he clearly needs.

Something — perhaps the decision to turn down probable guaranteed millions by returning to Oklahoma State for a sophomore season back-firing with each missed three-point shot that easily could have been an assist for a better shooter — clearly is eating at the projected lottery pick of a year ago.

Smart's decision to shove a Texas Tech fan in the stands, supported by nobody in the building, maybe even the planet, will qualify as the bottom for the point guard who is hurting his team and his draft stock in a louder way every day.

The saddest aspect of Smart's night came after his unbelievable shove of a man who appeared to be in his late '50s or so. He barked at teammate Markel Brown, who tried to restrain him, yelled at the ref and his coach and everyone else in his path, hoping to hear words of support from somewhere.

He was escorted off the court by a man from the Oklahoma State bench who clearly was concerned Smart was capable of making a horrible situation worse. Smart probably feels as if he doesn't have a friend in the world right now. It's his No. 1 enemy who should concern him most. That would be himself.

Smart needs professional help. After he gets it and is allowed to return to the court at some point, his road map back to a spot in the NBA draft is not all that difficult to follow: 1. Break down the defense with drives to the hoop and pass the ball to one of three more skilled scorers on the floor with him: Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Phil Forte; 2. Stop flopping; 3. Stay on the court.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFUj4YCKMyM

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Kansas ranked No. 8 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Parity was the big winner in college basketball last week, when 15 of the 25 teams ranked in the Associated Press college basketball poll lost at least once. Top 25 teams combined for a 27-20 record. Voters didn't punish Kansas too badly for its first Big 12 loss, 81-69, at Texas. The Jayhawks moved down two spots, to eighth.
Teams that defeat Kansas usually take a big leap in the poll and the Longhorns were no exception. They moved from 25th to 15th after the KU victory, the fourth in a row against a ranked opponent.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Feb. 2 and total points, based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

          Record Pts Prv
  1. Syracuse (65) 21-0 1,625 2
  2. Arizona 21-1 1,517 1
  3. Florida 19-2 1,482 3
  4. Wichita St. 23-0 1,447 4
  5. San Diego St. 19-1 1,370 5
  6. Villanova 19-2 1,252 9
  7. Cincinnati 21-2 1,182 13
  8. Kansas 16-5 1,141 6
  9. Michigan St. 19-3 1,136 7
  10. Michigan 16-5 949 10
  11. Duke 17-5 940 17
  12. Creighton 18-3 790 20
  13. Saint Louis 20-2 728 19
  14. Louisville 18-4 723 12
  15. Texas 17-4 719 25
  16. Iowa St. 16-4 717 16
  17. Iowa 17-5 669 15
  18. Kentucky 16-5 653 11
  19. Oklahoma St. 16-5 420 8
  20. Virginia 17-5 364 NR
  21. Oklahoma 17-5 361 23
  22. UConn 17-4 252 NR
  23. Gonzaga 20-3 237 NR
  24. Memphis 16-5 114 22
  25. Pittsburgh 18-4 110 18
    Others receiving votes: Wisconsin 79, Ohio St. 45, VCU 44, SMU 15, New Mexico 12, California 9, UCLA 9, Harvard 4, George Washington 3, LSU 3, Tennessee 2, American U. 1, Southern Miss. 1.

My top 25 AP ballot:

1 - Syracuse: Orange senior C.J. Fair (28 points) was a lot better than Duke freshman Jabari Parker (15 points), but in the overtime, Syracuse Jerami Grant was the best player on the floor in a classic matchup between the game’s two winningest coaches in Division I history.
2 - Arizona: Superstar guard Nick Johnson (1 for 14, 0 for 5 from three) couldn’t get anything to drop and neither could Aaron Gordon (4 for 14), yet the Wildcats still almost remained undefeated, losing to Cal, 60-58.
3 - Wichita State: If the Shockers can win two tough road games this week, only a big upset could keep them from finishing the regular season undefeated. They play at Indiana State on Wednesday and at Northern Iowa on Saturday.
4 - Florida: Gators have won 27 in a row at home and have the same record (19-2) that they had after 21 games when they won back-to-back national titles last decade.
5 - San Diego State: Think Steve Fisher’s experience might give him an advantage late in games? The Aztecs have won 110 consecutive games when leading with five minutes remaining.
6 - Villanova: Bounced off the deck after blowout loss to Creighton by picking up three consecutive road wins.
7 - Kansas: Quick, feisty Longhorns made Jayhawks look slow by comparison. They’ll make a lot of teams look slow.
8 - Michigan State: Not the same team without injured forwards Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson.
9 - Cincinnati: Sean Kilpatrick moved to third on Bearcats career scoring list, trailing only the great Oscar Robertson and Steve Logan. UConn visits Thursday in what should be an interesting one.Parity was the big winner in college basketball last week, when top 25 teams combined for a 27-20 record. Fifteen of the 25 teams, including Kansas, lost during the week.
10 - Michigan: Nik Stauskus’ three-point shooting in five losses: 6 for 22 (.272); Stauskus’ three-point shooting in 16 victories: 44 for 87 (.506).
11 - Duke: Blue Devils had impressive week on the road, pounding Pittsburgh and then taking Syracuse to overtime in a two-point loss. With more weeks like that out of sophomore center Amile Jefferson (averaged 14 points and 8.5 boards, made 11 of 15 field goals), Duke will continue to climb back up rankings.
12 - Iowa: Eleven players average double-figures minutes in the running, pressing Fran McCaffery system.
13 - Kentucky: Young Wildcats split road games, losing to LSU and defeating Missouri. In the victory at Missouri, freshmen combined for 77 of Kentucky’s 84 points. Mizzou, by the way, started 41-1 at home under Frank Haith, but are 2-2 in the last four.
14 - Louisville: Don’t blame Russ Smith for Cardinals’ inconsistent play. He has scored in double figures every game and in nine American Athletic Conference games is shooting .548 from three.
American who, what, when, where, why?
Who: Cincinnati (10-0), Louisville (7-2), Memphis (6-3) SMU (6-3), Connecticut (5-3), Houston (3-6), South Florida (2-7), Central Florida (1-7) and Temple (1-7) form the first-year conference.
What: A geographic hodgepodge of schools seeking a temporary home. When: Formed in July 1, 2013, although its official roots reach to May 31, 1979, when the Big East was formed.
Where: It’s headquarters are in Providence, R.I., and its members come from eight states, but not Rhode Island. After this school year, Rutgers will depart for the Big Ten, Louisville for the ACC. East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane will join the conference next year.
Why: Seven catholic universities departed the old Big East to join Butler, Creighton and Xavier to form what is called the Big East.
15 - Texas: Junior Jonathan Holmes coming up huge for Longhorns. He does a little bit of everything. He leads team in scoring (13.4), is second in rebounds (7.3), is third in blocks (1.4), third in field-goal percentage (.517), first in free-throw pct. (.793) and tied for first in three-point pct. (.385). He runs the floor hard and plays unselfishly, so do his teammates.
16 - Creighton: Team’s three top scorers — Doug McDermott (25.0), Ethan Wragge (12.0) and Jahenns Manigat (8.4) — combine for stunning .469 three-point percentage. The three Blue Jays combine to average 17.5 three-point attempts per game. All but six of Wragge’s 163 field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc.
17 - Iowa State: The loser of tonight’s game in Stillwater falls to seventh place with a losing record midway through the Big 12 season and qualifies as the biggest first-half disappointment and leading contender for most-improved team in the second half of conference play.
18 - Oklahoma: Sooners have five players averaging in double figures and center Ryan Spangler is averaging a double-double (11.1 points, 10.2 rebounds). When I lived in California (1981-89), I averaged roughly a double-double per day, frequenting various In-’N-Out Burger locations.
19 - St. Louis: Almost suffered what would have been one of the biggest upsets of this college basketball season. But the Billikens prevailed in overtime against George Mason, which is seven games behind SLU seven games into the Atlantic 10 season. Now comes the tough stretch of the schedule: At St. Joseph, at Lasalle, at home against second-place VCU.
20 - Virginia: Cavaliers woke up after getting slapped silly at Tennessee, 87-52, in final nonconference game. Only ACC loss was at Duke in a game Virginia led with 20 seconds remaining. Aside from that, Cavs are 4-0 in conference road games with an average margin of victory of 15.3 points.
21 - Oklahoma State: Efforts to trace the origin of Marcus Smart’s family name to shot selection were unsuccessful. In the Cowboys’ past four games, Smart has made 3 of 28 three-pointers. Repeat: 3 of 28 three-pointers. Wow.
22 - UConn: DeAndre Daniels, the 6-foot-9, 195-pound junior who considered Kansas, is averaging 13.4 points and shooting .478 from three.
23 - UCLA: Point forward Kyle Anderson has reached double figures in assists three times. Not many players who have a wingspan of 7-2 can say the same.
24 - New Mexico: Cameron Bairstow, the 6-9, 250-pound forward who dropped 24 points in loss to Kansas, is averaging 20 points and 6.9 rebounds for Lobos, winners of 10 of last 11.
25 - Ohio State: Buckeyes had lost 5 of 6 before winning at Wisconsin, which has lost 5 of 6.

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Kansas moves to No. 6 in AP college basketball poll, eyes fifth No. 1 seed in eight years

Kansas moved up two spots to No. 6 in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll, released Monday.

The Jayhawks are gunning for a remarkable fifth No. 1 seed in the past eight seasons. They are ranked No. 1 in the nation in the flawed RPI, which puts far too much weight on schedule, At this rate, KU will have enough going for it on Selection Sunday that it will merit a top seed without even looking at the RPI, a crutch that bad selection committee members use.

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which two schools from the state of Kansas earn No. 1 seeds, Wichita State being the other.

The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 26 and total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, plus last week’s ranking:

        Record Pts Prv
  1. Arizona (63) 20-0 1,623 1
  2. Syracuse (2) 19-0 1,561 2
  3. Florida 17-2 1,436 6
  4. Wichita St. 21-0 1,435 5
  5. San Diego St. 18-1 1,337 7
  6. Kansas 15-4 1,272 8
  7. Michigan St. 18-2 1,251 3
  8. Oklahoma St. 16-3 1,067 11
  9. Villanova 17-2 1,063 4
  10. Michigan 15-4 1,050 21
  11. Kentucky 15-4 896 14
  12. Louisville 17-3 891 12
  13. Cincinnati 19-2 793 15
  14. Wisconsin 17-3 763 9
  15. Iowa 16-4 722 10
  16. Iowa St. 15-3 684 16
  17. Duke 16-4 549 18
  18. Pittsburgh 18-2 517 20
  19. Saint Louis 18-2 464 19
  20. Creighton 17-3 445 NR
  21. UMass 17-2 353 13
  22. Memphis 15-4 262 23
  23. Oklahoma 16-4 203 25
  24. Ohio St. 16-4 143 17
  25. Texas 16-4 142 NR

Others receiving votes: UConn 67, Gonzaga 51, UCLA 39, Virginia 18, George Washington 5, Green Bay 5, Kansas St. 5, Minnesota 5, SMU 3, American U. 1, Harvard 1, Louisiana Tech 1, New Mexico 1, Southern Miss. 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Arizona: Sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-footer who chose the Wildcats over Kansas, is coming along nicely. He’s averaging 9.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. If Tarczewski had gone to Kansas, that might have deterred Joel Embiid from coming a year later, so it’s worked out well for everybody.

2 - Syracuse: The stereotype of a zone defense — pack it in and make the opponent try to beat you from the outside — never has fit Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and certainly doesn’t this season. Orange are tied for fifth in the country with 9.5 steals per game.

3 - Wichita State: I don’t believe in letting undefeated teams climb the rankings while others that play in tougher conferences knock off each other. That doesn’t apply to Wichita State. The Shockers are just that good, as they showed a year ago by their winning four NCAA tournament games by double-digits en route to Final Four, where they gave Louisville more trouble than anybody else.

4 - Florida: Whether forcing Kansas into 24 turnovers or frustrating Tennessee into 1-for-19 three-point shooting, Gators certainly know how to bring out worst in visitors in the O’Connell Center, where they have won 26 in a row.

5 - San Diego State: I’m not of the belief that the Aztecs beating Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse was all about KU playing poorly. The Aztecs know how to make teams play poorly. Were all 17 games during San Diego State’s active winning streak because they happen to catch teams on bad days? Best illustration of how clutch and composed Steve Fisher teams are lies in 15-1 record in past 16 overtime games.

6 - Kansas: Brannen Greene in his last three games: 21 minutes, 14 points, three rebounds, 5 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from three. That’s very bad news for the rest of the Big 12.

7 - Michigan: An amazing 7-0 in the Big Ten with the last three victories coming against top 10 teams, Wolverines doing it all without Mitch McGary, lost for season with back injury. Nik Stauskas averaging 18.5 points, shooting .462 from three and a perfect fit for coach John Beilein’s system, strong All-American candidate.

8 - Michigan State: At the moment Spartans aren’t best team in the state, but when all the games have been played they might stand alone as the best team in the country.

9 - Kentucky: Former Olathe Northwest wide receiver/center Willie Cauley-Stein, aka Billy Idol, leads Wildcats in blocked shots and steals and ranks second to Julius Randle in rebounds. Cauley-Stein seventh in nation with 3.37 blocks a game.

10 - Villanova: Where oh where has the ’Nova defense gone? Cats surrendered average of 66 points in first five Big East games, 90.5 in past two.

11 - Iowa: Michigan State visits for a 6 p.m. Tuesday can’t-miss game on ESPN.

12 - Wisconsin: Trip to West Lafayette to beat up on Purdue was just what Badgers needed to end three-game losing streak.

13 - Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart in his past two games: 4 of 21 from the field, 0 for 10 from three-point range.

14 - Cincinnati: Bearcats make short trip to Louisville to face Cardinals on Thursday. Wonder who Pete Rose likes and by how many in that one?

15 - Louisville: Two 39-point victories (South Florida and Houston) in past three games. Talented reserve Wayne Blackshear made a combined 8 of 10 threes in the blowouts.

16 - Pittsburgh: Two losses all season, to Cincinnati and Syracuse by a combined six points and still no respect. Chance at first victory against ranked opponent comes today at 6 p.m. vs. Duke in Pittsburgh.

17 - Duke: Freshman Semi Ojeleye from Ottawa High, has played 65 minutes. His stats: 25 points, 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, .909 from the line, 14 rebounds, two assists, four blocked shots, three steals, five turnovers.

18 - Iowa State: Georges Niang and Matt Thomas buried four three-pointers apiece vs. Kansas State to end losing streak at three games.

19 - Memphis: A Saturday trip to Dallas to play SMU won’t be an easy one because the amazing Mustangs coach Larry Brown is working his magic again. Brown’s team takes five-game losing streak to Tampa to face South Florida on Tuesday.

20 - Creighton: Ethan Wragge scored all 27 points in 96-68 drubbing of Villanova on three-pointers. He hit seven of the threes in the first 6:03 of the game. Bobby Nightengale, the Lawrence Journal-World’s lead high school reporter, played the role of Wragge on the scout team for Jefferson HIgh in Bloomington, Minn. Nightengale never made five threes in six-plus minutes against the starters. So much for Scout Team Player of the Week honors.

21 - St. Louis: Billikens coach Jim Crews played for and coached under Bob Knight at Indiana. Crews has his team playing the sort of suffocating man-to-man defense for which Knight’s teams were noted. SLU ninth with .429 effective field goal percentage (national average .494) and 16th with .223 turnovers-per-possession percentage (.185 national average), according to kenpom.com.

22 - Oklahoma: Big Monday Bedlam in the Noble Center, 8 p.m. today, a huge game in the race for second place in the Big 12.

23 - UCLA: Kyle Anderson, a 6-foot-9 point-forward, has 11 double-doubles, one of which was a triple-double (13 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists vs. Morehead State).

24 - Ohio State: Loss at Nebraska was fourth in a row, a streak that ended with home victory against Illinois. Wish I could credit the first person to notice amazing fact, but it went viral so quickly it’s tough to say who came up with it first: Iowa State, Ohio State, Oregon and Wisconsin started season a combined 58-0 and then went 0-14, a nice little lesson in the dangers of reading too much into anything until conference play starts.

25 - Texas: Victories against three consecutive ranked teams a school first and establishes legitimate contender in crowded race for second place in Big 12.

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KU’s Joel Embiid, Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet shafted by Wooden watch list

I box my ears and make the motor-boat sound every time someone gripes about an athlete being excluded from a Hall of Fame, mid-season watch list, etc., without first making room for him or her by citing who deserves to be removed. Don’t just say who belongs, say who doesn’t, then I’ll unbox my ears and stop motor-boating.

The Wooden Award released its 25-man mid-season watch list and in general did a nice job with it.

There were two egregious omissions, however. It’s time to take one out, put one in, take another out, put another in to call attention to the deserving dissed duo.

Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, just about every announcer’s favorite point guard, hustles his way to big defensive plays, crashes into basket standards, scorer’s tables, etc. According to what teammate Lenzelle Smith Jr. once told me, Craft steals more than the basketball.

“I’ve seen him steal so many souls out there on the court,” Smith said two years ago, the day before Kansas faced Ohio State in a national semifinal.

OK, but he hasn’t been one of the 25 top players in the nation in the first half of his senior season.

Craft doesn’t keep defenders honest enough with his three-point shooting, which can lead to extra attention being paid to the Buckeyes’ big men. Unlike most college basketball players, Craft’s three-point shooting touch gets worse by the year: .377, .359, .300, .286.

Craft’s solid 2-to-1 assists/turnover ratio pales in comparison to that of Fred VanVleet, sophomore point guard for undefeated Wichita State. VanVleet has a 4.4 ratio, slightly more rebounds and assists than Craft, higher shooting percentages overall, on three-pointers and from the line. Craft has a slight edge in steals.

Ohio State has lost four in a row. VanVleet has been the Shockers’ best clutch performer.
Kansas basketball fans don’t need another reason to resent Missouri star Jordan Clarkson.

First, he plays for Missouri. Second, he didn’t give Danny Manning a chance to talk him into staying at Tulsa when Manning took his first job as a head coach. Clarkson transferred to Missouri and ranks second on the Tigers with an 18.7 scoring average. His free-throw touch (.804) made the trip from Tulsa, but his three-point shooting (.281) did not.

After a loss to Georgia, Clarkson’s coach, Frank Haith, said: “Jordan’s got to pass the ball more.”

Exit Clarkson, enter Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid. Compare what Clarkson’s coach said about him to what Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said about KU's stellar center: “I think Embiid’s the best player in the country.”

The nice thing about mid-season watch lists: It helps the folks making them correct their mistakes by the time the next one is released.

The Wooden Award watch list:

Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Keith Appling, Michigan State; Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico; Jordan Clarkson, Missouri; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Sam Dekker, Wisconsin; Cleanthony Early, Wichita State; Tyler Ennis, Syracuse; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Rodney Hood, Duke; Nick Johnson, Arizona; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Shabazz Napier, Connecticut; Jabari Parker, Duke; Adreian Payne, Michigan State; Casey Prather, Florida; Julius Randle, Kentucky; Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State; Russ Smith, Louisville; T.J. Warren, North Carolina State; Andrew Wiggins, Kansas; Chaz Williams, Massachusetts; Joseph Young, Oregon.

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AP college basketball poll: Kansas No. 8, first among six ranked Big 12 schools

Kansas moved up to No. 8 in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll, released Monday.

The Big 12 has by far the biggest presence of any conference in the rankings, with six of its 10 teams making an appearance, a remarkable 60 percent of its members. The only other league with half as strong a penetration as that is the newly formed American Conference, which has 30 percent (Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis) of its members in the top 25.

The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 19 and total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

         Record Pts Prv
  1. Arizona (61) 18-0 1,621 1
  2. Syracuse (4) 18-0 1,559 2
  3. Michigan St. 17-1 1,497 4
  4. Villanova 16-1 1,377 6
  5. Wichita St. 19-0 1,368 5
  6. Florida 15-2 1,303 7
  7. San Diego St. 16-1 1,211 10
  8. Kansas 13-4 1,117 15
  9. Wisconsin 16-2 1,074 3
  10. Iowa 15-3 1,041 14
  11. Oklahoma St. 15-3 971 9
  12. Louisville 16-3 804 18
  13. UMass 16-1 781 16
  14. Kentucky 13-4 769 13
  15. Cincinnati 17-2 736 19
  16. Iowa St. 14-3 644 8
  17. Ohio St. 15-3 549 11
  18. Duke 14-4 447 23
  19. Saint Louis 17-2 421 24
  20. Pittsburgh 16-2 419 22
  21. Michigan 13-4 362 NR
  22. Kansas St. 14-4 221 NR
  23. Memphis 13-4 201 17
  24. Baylor 13-4 170 12
  25. Oklahoma 14-4 111 25

Others receiving votes: Creighton 98, UConn 62, Gonzaga 59, California 44, Colorado 26, UCLA 23, Harvard 12, George Washington 8, Missouri 6, Texas 5, Xavier 4, SMU 2, New Mexico 1, Virginia 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Arizona: Former Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics great Dennis Johnson, who died of a heart attack in 2007 while coaching a D-League practice, was known as a great defender, good scorer and terrific leaper. Just about every time his leaping ability came up during telecasts, one of the announcers would bring up stories about the jumping ability of his brother, Joey Johnson, who played at Arizona State. Joey once had his vertical leap measured at 52 inches and once dunked on an 11-foot-7 hoop to win a contest. Nick Johnson, Joey’s son and Dennis’ nephew, leads the Wildcats in scoring, and like the rest of the team’s key players is known as an excellent defender.

2 - Syracuse: Having one of the top freshmen (point guard Tyler Ennis) and seniors (C.J. Fair) is such a nice place to start for any team. Ennis, Fair and sophomore Jerami Grant all played 40 minutes in 59-54 victory against Pittsburgh, a Big East retro game played in the ACC. The Orange bench scored just two points. Grant’s uncle, Harvey Grant, played 11 years in the NBA after playing at Clemson and then Oklahoma.

3 - Michigan State: The most interesting numbers column on the Spartans' statistics page is GP, games played. That might be the first time anyone has ever typed that sentence, but it happens to be true. Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine are the only Spartans to appear in all 18 games, thanks to injuries and illnesses. Yet, the Spartans keeping winning, their only loss coming at the hands of giant-killer North Carolina.

4- Wichita State: Indiana State entered Saturday’s road game against Wichita State unbeaten in Missouri Valley League play and Sycamores guard Dawon Cummings had a big day, scoring 19 points. Good thing Cummings made the trip because the rest of the team made 9 of 37 field goals (.243) and 2 of 13 three-pointers (.154).

5 - Villanova: Coach Jay Wright is one of the most universally well-liked college basketball coaches by alumni, students, strangers who recognize him in public, etc. Not only that, he dresses like a sportswriter.

6 - Florida: Victory against Kansas started Gators on a nine-game winning streak next put to test Thursday at Alabama.

7 - San Diego State: Legitimate national-title contenders, the Aztecs have won 15 in a row after suffering lone loss, to Arizona.

8 - Iowa: Fran McCaffery was 26 when he became head coach at Lehigh University. He left there to become an assistant to Digger Phelps at Notre Dame (1988-99) and has been a head coach ever since leaving ND. I tried interviewing him after the press conference announcing Digger’s ouster, or was it a "resignation" or "retirement"? McCaffery was too ticked to talk. Couldn't blame him. Notre Dame forced Phelps into retirement too early. As if to honor the son of an undertaker, my car died on the way back to Chicago that day.

9 - Kansas: Strangest play during a 2-0 week: Conner Frankamp, blessed with best shooting range on the team, has the ball 25 feet from hoop with shot clock dwindling and passes it to a center 22 feet from the hoop in the Oklahoma State game. He’ll have a nice career for KU and some day he’ll be able to look back on that play and laugh.

10 - Kentucky: Julius Randle, team’s leading scorer and rebounder, has not had a turnover-free game, averages 3.3 a contest and 4.8 in Wildcats’ four losses.

11 - Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart won’t miss any time with wind burn caused by the breeze of Wayne Selden’s elbows swinging close to Smart’s face.

12 - Wisconsin: Great unbeaten ride while it lasted. Losses at Indiana and at home to Michigan have the Badgers on a streak of another kind.

13 - Cincinnati: Sean Kilpatrick is one of those college basketball players who seems as if he’s been playing for his school for 10 years. Maybe that’s because Kilpatrick has hit 10 years worth of big shots. His scoring averages, starting with freshman season: 9.7, 14.3, 17.0, 18.6.

14 - Louisville: The nice thing about the name Richard is it comes with so many options. Cards coach Pitino goes by Rick. His son, distinguishing himself as a separate person and coach, goes by Richard, a nice touch. But the full name just doesn’t seem the right fit for outspoken NFL Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He could choose from one of the many of the nicknames that stem from Richard: Dick, Rich, Richie, Rickey. Any suggestions on which might be most fitting?

15 - Pittsburgh: Throw-back Panthers play at slow pace and seldom shoot three-pointers. That might frustrate some ACC teams.

16 - Duke: As Jabari Parker hit the freshman wall, Rodney Hood continued to shoot great: .517 overall, .847 from the line, .457 from three.

17 - Michigan: Since Mitch McGary’s season-ending injury, Wolverines have gone 7-0, making John Beilein candidate for national coach of the year honors. Why should this year be any different?

18 - Ohio State: Buckeyes take three-game losing streak into Lincoln, Neb., tonight.

19 - Iowa State: Cyclones try to end three-game losing streak Saturday in Hilton Coliseum against Kansas State.

20 - Massachusetts: Year of living dangerously continues. Minutemen have average margin of victory of five points during active six-game losing streak.

21 - St. Louis: Billikens doing it all without a single player from the state of Missouri on the roster.

22 - Memphis: Ten-point home loss to UConn not the Tigers’ finest two hours.

23 - Kansas State: Since taking over for departed Frank Martin, Bruce Weber has a 20-2 record against Big 12 schools located outside the state of Kansas.

24 - Oklahoma: The only coach ever to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament, Kruger has Sooners on course for second consecutive tourney appearance.

25 - UCLA: Bruins lost at Utah despite monster game from 6-foot-9, 230-pound sharp-shooter Kyle Anderson (28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, 5 for 5 three-point shooting).

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Kansas, ranked 15th in AP college basketball poll, fourth among five Big 12 schools

In the wake of impressive victories at Oklahoma and in Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas State, Kansas moved up three spots to No. 15 in the weekly Associated Press college basketball poll, released Monday.

Still, KU is no better than fourth among five ranked Big 12 schools, standing behind No. 8 Iowa State, No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 12 Baylor. Kansas State, ranked No. 25 last week, dropped out of the rankings and was replaced by Oklahoma, which is tied with UCLA for the last spot. So 60 percent of the Big 12 schools have been ranked in the past two weeks.

The AP top 25 , with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 12, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

          Record Pts Prv

1 - Arizona (61) 17-0 1,621 1
2 - Syracuse (4) 16-0 1,560 2
3 - Wisconsin 16-0 1,482 4
4 - Michigan St. 15-1 1,442 5
5 - Wichita St. 17-0 1,300 6
6 - Villanova 15-1 1,289 8
7 - Florida 13-2 1,205 10
8 - Iowa St. 14-1 1,048 9
9 - Oklahoma St. 14-2 1,046 11
10 - San Diego St. 14-1 1,020 13
11 - Ohio St. 15-2 979 3
12 - Baylor 13-2 952 7
13 - Kentucky 12-3 912 14
14 - Iowa 14-3 831 20
15 - Kansas 11-4 686 18
16 - UMass 14-1 579 19
17 - Memphis 12-3 536 24
18 - Louisville 14-3 525 12
19 - Cincinnati 15-2 405 NR
20 - Creighton 14-2 329 NR
21 - Colorado 14-3 328 15
22 - Pittsburgh 15-1 299 NR
23 - Duke 12-4 193 16
24 - Saint Louis 15-2 148 NR
25t - Oklahoma 13-3 103 NR
25t - UCLA 13-3 103 NR

Others receiving votes: Missouri 42, Oregon 39, UConn 35, Kansas St. 25, Gonzaga 17, Michigan 11, California 10, Virginia 6, Louisiana Tech 5, Harvard 3, Illinois 3, New Mexico 3, Xavier 3, George Washington 2.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Arizona: Nation’s best defensive team joined in unbeaten ranks only by Syracuse, Wisconsin and Wichita State.

2 - Syracuse: Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and his brother Dylan, a sophomore for Villanova, average a combined 20.1428 points per game, which makes them the second-leading Canandian brother tandem in Division I. Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Nick Wiggins of Wichita State combine to average 20.1875. This race will go down to the wire.

3 - Wisconsin: The Badgers have logged double-digit victories against quality competition by scoring as few as 48 (Virginia) points and as many as 95 (Illinois). So if the Badgers are hitting their shots, which they usually are, they’re very, very tough to beat, not matter what approach opposing teams take.

4 - Michigan State: Having a veteran point guard with as much talent as Keith Appling helps Spartans win close ones, but nagging injuries and inconsistent play elsewhere have resulted in too many close games. Playing both at home, Spartans needed overtime to defeat Ohio State and Minnesota.

5 - Wichita State: Fred VanVleet scored 11 in row for Shockers, a stretch that started late in regulation and ended late in overtime.

6 - Villanova: JayVaughn Pinkston not only knows how to draw fouls (108 free-throw attempts) he knows how make the shots (.778 from line).

7 - Florida: Excellent defensive team has underrated firepower. Five Gators, led by Casey Prather (17 ppg) average in double figures.

8 - San Diego State: Aztecs have three victories vs. Top 25 teams, none at home.

9 - Iowa: Fran McCaffery, suspended from Thursday’s blowout victory against Northwestern because of ref-aimed temper tantrum during loss to Wisconsin, returned to the bench Sunday for huge road victory vs. Ohio State. ESPN’s Andy Katz reported that the Northwestern game originally was supposed to be Fran McCaffery Bobblehead Doll Night. Iowa has moved the promotion to Jan. 19 vs. Minnesota. Normally a very thorough reporter, Katz had a gaping hole in sharing that news with viewers. He did not say whether the doll comes with a lid that flips. McCaffery’s fiery style works with his players. Hawkeyes make 38 percent of three-point shots and 6-9 junior Aaron White is a threat to dunk on every play.

10 - Ohio State: Rough week for Buckeyes, one of the nation’s top defensive teams, but not equipped to win shootouts. Entered the week undefeated, lost in overtime in East Lansing, Mich. to Spartans and lost at home to Iowa.

11 - Iowa State: Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane have generated most of the buzz surrounding Cyclones quick start, but KU coach Bill Self cited 6-7, 240-pound sophomore Georges Niang, a three-point threet, as about as tough a matchup as there is in the Big 12. Niang averaged 15.7 points in three games against KU last season. Kane, who injured his ankle late in the loss at Oklahoma, had a huge week, which started with him falling two rebounds and one assist short of triple-double vs. Baylor. In two games, Kane averaged 26.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 6.5 turnovers and three steals.

12 - Oklahoma State: Shot-blocking sophomore Kamari Murphy, who played 39 minutes in one-point victory at West Virginia, has softened blow of Michael Cobbins as far as starting lineup. But Murphy gave Cowboys strong bench. Now that he’s playing full-time, team lacks a little in reserve up front.

13 - Kansas: Two games into their Big 12 schedule, Jayhawks are lone undefeated team.

14 - Baylor: Bench scored 52 points and Bears made all 21 free-throw attempts in 88-62 bounce-back victory against TCU after loss in Ames.

15 - Kentucky: Dakari Johnson, behind whom Joel Embiid sat their junior year in high school, averaging 3.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 9.6 minutes.

16 - Memphis: Huge week for Tigers with big victories at Louisville and Temple. Shaq Goodwin averaged 19 points and 9.5 boards.

17 - Cincinnati: Banking heavily on senior star Sean Kilpatrick (18.4 ppg), Bearcats riding eight-game winning streak, during which Justin Jackson has contributed two of his five double-doubles.

18 - Pittsburgh: Three games into their first ACC season, Panthers have thre double-digit victories.

19 - Louisville: Loss to Memphis and scare from SMU made for a nerve-wracking week for Cards. Mustangs pulled within four points with 49 seconds left. Amazing the progress Larry Brown has made already at SMU, both on the court and in recruiting.

20 - Colorado: Buffs nervously await results of MRI on Spencer Dinwiddie’s left knee, injured in Sunday’s 17-point loss at Washington. Tad Boyle told reporters after the game that his gut told him “not good.”

21 - Creighton: Giving hope to seniors everywhere who are busy taking care of their fathers, Doug McDermott (25 points per game, .902 from the line) leads player of the year race.

22 - Duke: Clemson hammered the Blue Devils on the board, 48-30, and in the second half outscored them 41-22 to win 72-59. Duke doesn’t defend well and might not have beefy enough personnel to significantly improve in that area.

23 - Massachusetts: Minutemen aren’t blowing out any Atlantic 10 foes, but keep winning.

24 - St. Louis: Only two losses came against teams ranked in the top five on this ballot, Wisconsin by six, and Wichita State by five. Coming off an eight-point victory at Dayton and riding a nine-game winning streak, Billikens playing in a way that would have made late great Rick Majerus proud.

25 - Oklahoma: Sooners tend to say later when it comes to playing rugged defense, but star Cameron Clark playing great in Lon Kruger’s new offense, based more on driving than in the past. Clark has a lethal mid-range pull-up jumper.

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Updated KU basketball stats for dunks, floor burns

Reader Steve Zimmerman requested of KUsports.com this season's dunk stats for the Jayhawks. Here they are, Steve:

1 - Joel Embiid (16)
2 - Andrew Wiggins (12)
3 - Perry Ellis (8)
4t - Tarik Black, Wayne Selden (5)
6 - Jamari Traylor (4)
7t - Landen Lucas, Frank Mason, Andrew White III (1)

That’s a total of 53 dunks, 14 games into the season, an average of 3.8 slams per game. We’ll have periodic dunk updates as the season progresses.

KU also tracks floor burns:

1 - Selden (24)
2 - Embiid (20)
3 - Ellis (18)
4 - Mason (15)
5 - Wiggins (12)
6 - Traylor (10
7 - Naadir Tharpe (6)
8 - Black (5)
9t - Brannen Greene, White (3)
11t - Lucas, Justin Wesley (1)

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Kansas drops from 16 to 18 in Associated Press college basketball poll; San Diego State soars from 21 to 13

The outcome of Sunday’s basketball game played in Allen Feildhouse dropped Kansas from 16th to 18th in the Associated Press college basketball poll and lifted San Diego State from 21st to 13th. Nobody who objectively watched San Diego State’s 61-57 victory against the Jayhawks could argue that the Aztecs don't deserve to be ranked higher than KU at this point in the season.

The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 5, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:

          Record Pts Prv
  1. Arizona (60) 15-0 1,620 1
  2. Syracuse (5) 14-0 1,550 2
  3. Ohio St. 15-0 1,470 3
  4. Wisconsin 15-0 1,427 4
  5. Michigan St. 13-1 1,378 5
  6. Wichita St. 15-0 1,203 8
  7. Baylor 12-1 1,169 9
  8. Villanova 13-1 1,141 11
  9. Iowa St. 13-0 1,076 13
  10. Florida 11-2 1,052 12
  11. Oklahoma St. 12-2 934 6
  12. Louisville 13-2 825 14
  13. San Diego St. 12-1 823 21
  14. Kentucky 10-3 808 15
  15. Colorado 13-2 752 20
  16. Duke 11-3 745 7
  17. Oregon 13-1 715 10
  18. Kansas 9-4 367 16
  19. UMass 12-1 364 23
  20. Iowa 12-3 261 22
  21. Missouri 12-1 247 25
  22. Gonzaga 14-2 241 24
  23. Illinois 13-2 178 NR
  24. Memphis 10-3 126 18
  25. Kansas St. 11-3 112 NR

Others receiving votes: Cincinnati 103, Creighton 82, North Carolina 79, UCLA 79, Pittsburgh 44, Harvard 41, UConn 41, Saint Louis 19, Oklahoma 15, Michigan 11, George Washington 9, SMU 9, Notre Dame 3, Xavier 3, Toledo 2, Arkansas 1.

My AP ballot:

1. Arizona: Washington State has no quarrel with No. 1 ranking for ‘Cats. Playing without two injured starters, the Cougars scored their fewest points since 1938, a year before Bill Snyder was born. Arizona stormed to a 21-2 lead and was ahead 28-7 at the half. Ex-Jayhawk Royce Woolridge (averaging 10.4 points) scored with 6:42 left in first half to improve Cougars to 1 of 17 from field. Afterward, Woolridge uttered the understatement of this young century when he said, “It’s hard to score on them.”

2. Syracuse: Half of 14 opponents have scored 60 or fewer points, including four who have scored 50 or fewer against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.

3. Ohio State: Bench scored 38 points in blowout victory against Nebraska, which always has been to college basketball what Kansas has been to college football. Buckeyes’ heavy reliance on bench not unusual this season. Nine players average double-figures minutes and just LaQuinton Ross (13.6 points) and Lenzelle Smith (12.7) score in double figures.

4. Michigan State: Tuesday’s home game against Ohio State at 8 p.m. on ESPN, a must-watch potential thriller.

5. Wisconsin: Bo Ryan, a great basketball coach, not a good one, kept his cool and that was the difference in comeback victory against Iowa.

6. Wichita State: Nothing this team does should Shock anybody anymore. Shockers keep opponents off offensive glass, don’t turn it over, play aggressive defense without fouling and take good shots. In other words, they don’t do anything to beat themselves.

7. Florida: Coach Billy Donovan one of four active coaches to win multiple national titles, joining Mike Krzyzewski (four with Duke), Rick Pitino (one with Kentucky, one with Louisville) and Roy Williams (two with North Carolina).

8. San Diego State: Josh Davis, fifth-year senior who played a year at North Carolina State and two at Tulane, is to college basketball what Dennis Rodman was to the NBA, a great rebounder and a good defender who doesn’t put a priority on scoring. Biggest difference: Davis does not project as somebody who ever will want to hang out with a mad dictator who executed his uncle by feeding him to 120 starving dogs. Does Rodman ever stop to think that if he utters one wrong word to Kim Jong Un he could be fed to hungry dogs as well?

9. Villanova: JayVaughn Pinkston, so active around the bucket, is tough to stop (.586 two-point pct.), unless he stops himself by shooting threes (.208).

10. Baylor: Three-point marksman Brady Heslip has two turnovers in 287 minutes and is shooting .479 from three.

11. Oklahoma State: Seventh on team in minutes per game, Michael Cobbins led Cowboys in blocked shots and played a physical style that made him a presence. He’s out for season with torn Achilles. Tough loss.

12. Iowa State: Cyclones average just 9.6 turnovers, a stunning figure for a team that scores 87 points a game. They also make 57.4 percent of two-point field goals, an indication they get great shots.

13. Colorado: Askia Booker, the junior guard who made long three-pointers at the end of each half against Kansas, led Buffs with 27 points in dealing Oregon its first loss, 100-91. Booker knows how to finish. Eleven of his points came in the final 4:40.

14. Oregon: Ducks improved to 3-0 in overtime with victory at Utah, but couldn’t get closer than five points in the waning moments in loss at Colorado.

15. Kentucky: Young college basketball players always think they are better three-point shooters than they really are and they shoot too many of them, so it’s no surprise that the youngest team in America has a low three-point percentage (.310), but Wildcats compensate by ranking first in the nation in offensive rebounding.

16. Louisville: Chane Behanan, dismissed from the team for violation of university policy, told ESPN.com he planned to head to Houston to work with former Maryland and NBA guard John Lucas, who runs a drug and alcohol treatment program for coaches and athletes. Here’s wishing Behanan, a terrific basketball player, success, one day at a time.

17. North Carolina: Opened ACC play with loss at Wake Forest, dad-gummit.

18. Kansas: Statsheet.com tracks plus-minus figures for college basketball players. KU’s: Andrew Wiggins (11.2), Joel Embiid (9.5), Perry Ellis (7.1), Frank Mason (6.0), Conner Frankamp (6.0), Wayne Selden (5.7), Tarik Black (5.3), Naadir Tharpe (4.9), Andrew White (1.1), Jamari Traylor (1.1), Brannen Greene (0), Landen Lucas (Negative-4.0).

19. Duke: Jabari Parker finally had a bad game. The freshman sensation made 2 of 10 shots and scored seven points in loss at Notre Dame. Irish zone led to a 20-4 run, showing Blue Devils need some work there.

20. Iowa: Hot-head coach Fran McCaffrey’s temper tantrum that drew him an ejection and gave Wisconsin four free throws, all makes, was the difference in this one. He lost his mind to the extent he had to be restrained by an assistant.

21. Cincinnati: A 16-point victory at Memphis vaults Bearcats, on six-game winning streak since losing by 17 to cross-town rival Xavier on Dec. 14, into rankings.

22. Illinois: We’ll find out if I have Illini overrated based on how they perform Wednesday night in Madison against undefeated Badgers.

23. Massachusetts: Derek Kellog played point guard for the Minutemen during the glory years under John Calipari. Kellog also was an assistant to Calipari for eight seasons at Memphis. Clearly, he paid attention. In his sixth season at UMass, Kellog’s teams steadily have improved, as evidenced by victory totals: 12, 12, 15, 20, 20. Taking leap to 30 this season isn’t out of the question.

24. Pittsburgh: Panthers opened ACC play with 12-point victory at North Carolina State. Lone loss in soft nonconference schedule came by one point against Cincinnati.

25. Creighton: Duke’s Parker is making a strong case, but nobody in better position to win national player of the year honors than Doug McDermott, who originally signed with Northern Iowa because his father, Greg McDermott, then coaching at Iowa State, didn’t think his son was good enough to play in the Big 12. His father moved to Creighton, then of the Missouri Valley Conference, and Doug followed him. Now the son won’t be satisfied to just win Big East player of the year honors. Greg McDermott is unlike 99 percent of fathers in that they think their sons are way better athletes than they actually are and he underrated his.

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Kansas stays at No. 16; Toledo among others receiving votes in AP college basketball poll

After a quiet week for college basketball, idle Kansas remained No. 16 in the Associated Press poll released Monday. Tonight’s opponent, undefeated Toledo, received the 30th-most points and surely would move into the top 25 with an upset tonight in Allen Fieldhouse.

The AP's top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Dec. 22, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

           Record  Pts Prv
  1. Arizona (60)­—­­­ 13-0— 1,620— 1
  2. Syracuse (5)— 12-0— 1,550— 2
  3. Ohio St.— 13-0— 1,462— 3
  4. Wisconsin— 13-0— 1,408— 4
  5. Michigan St.— 11-1— 1,364— 5
  6. Oklahoma St. — 11-1— 1,278— 7
  7. Duke— 10-2— 1,144— 9
  8. Wichita St.— 13-0— 1,067— 10
  9. Baylor— 10-1— 1,013— 11
  10. Oregon— 12-0— 987— 12
  11. Villanova— 11-1— 943— 8
  12. Florida— 10-2— 915— 13
  13. Iowa St.— 11-0— 869— 14
  14. Louisville— 11-2— 812— 6
  15. Kentucky— 10-3— 753— 18
  16. Kansas— 8-3— 666— 16
  17. UConn— 11-1— 647— 15
  18. Memphis— 9-2— 625— 17
  19. North Carolina— 9-3— 413— 19
  20. Colorado— 11-2— 373— 21
  21. San Diego St.— 10-1— 371— 20
  22. Iowa— 11-2— 258— 22
  23. UMass— 11-1— 160— 23
  24. Gonzaga— 11-2— 78— 24
  25. Missouri— 11-1— 76— 25
    Others receiving votes: Illinois 57, Texas 40, George Washington 37, Oklahoma 36, Toledo 32, Florida St. 24, UCLA 19, Harvard 10, Michigan 7, Creighton 5, Kansas St. 3, Pittsburgh 2, LSU 1.

My Top 25 ballot:

1. Arizona: Sean Miller has to be included in any conversation about best college basketball coaches seeking first Final Four, along with Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, Marquette’s Buzz Williams and the sleepers of the group, Colorado’s Tad Boyle and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg.

2. Syracuse: Unfazed by a 25-7 deficit, the Orange blitzed Villanova with a 20-0 run and won by double digits.

3. Ohio State: Buckeyes have won 24 of past 25 games, the lone loss coming at hands of Wichita State, 70-66, in Elite Eight.

4. Wisconsin: Deliberate pace and strong man-to-man defense have enabled Badgers to keep last nine opponents under 70 points.

5. Michigan State: Spartans have three McDonald’s All-Americans in starting lineup: Sophomore Gary Harris, junior Branden Dawson, senior Keith Appling. High-flying Dawson (10.3 points, 9.3 rebounds) has eight double-digit rebounding games and five double-doubles. Sat out last game with shin bruise as a precautionary measure.

6. Oklahoma State: What’s a defense to do? Collapse on Marcus Smart driving to the hoop and he’ll dump off to Le’Bryan Nash inside (.562 overall) or three-point marksmen Phil Forte (.469) and Markel Brown (.419).

7. Duke: Freshman wall? Jabari Parker took one look at it, jab-stepped it and the wall fell down and crumbled. Parker has scored 21 points or better in 10 of 12 games.

8. Wichita State: Senior Cleanthony Early, averaging 22 points and 8.3 rebounds the past three games, has scored in double figures all 13 games this season.

9. Oregon: On your marks, get set, go! If you can handle the neon uniforms, Ducks worth staying up late at night to watch.

10. Florida: Two must-watch games late in the season pit the Gators against Kentucky: Feb. 15 in Lexington at 8 p.m. and March 8 in Gainesville at 11 a.m. By then, both teams loaded with talent at every position should be playing great basketball.

11. Villanova: Josh Hart scored seven points in 94-second flurry that gave 'Cats 25-7 lead with 11 minutes left in first half. Orange handled the game, 71-37, rest of way.

12. Kansas: In past four games, Perry Ellis shooting .667 from field but has been to line just seven times.

13. Baylor: The closer opponents get to the basket, the better the Bears defend, thanks largely to 7-foot-1 sophomore center Isaiah Austin, who is averaging 3.1 blocks in 24.4 minutes. Baylor ranks 12th with .413 two-point percentage defense and 272nd with .370 three-point defense, per kenpom.com.

14. Iowa State: On top of everything else he does well, which is pretty much everything, Melvin Ejim shoots 86 percent from the line. He’s the most popular Melvin in Ames by a long shot.

15. North Carolina: Jan. 11 represents another shot at knocking off a giant when the Tar Heels visit the Carrier Dome to play No. 2 Syracuse. Heels already have beaten Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky.

16. Kentucky: Twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined for 28 points in 73-66 victory against Louisville. The only way they can lay claim to best twin recruits of 21st century is by winning national title before heading to pros. Marcus and Markieff Morris never played in a Final Four but played key roles for three Big 12 champions.

17. Louisville: Best victory, by far, came against potential bubble team Southern Miss, 69-38, in November. Time to punish the Cardinals for sneakily soft scheduling. Lost only two true tests, vs. North Carolina on a neutral court, and at Kentucky.

18. Connecticut: Senior point guard Shabazz Napier playing like All-American, averaging 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

19. Memphis: There’s a good reason the Tigers don’t settle for threes. They don’t make very many of them (.295).

20. Colorado: Boyle doing nice job of mixing Los Angeles-area recruits with Colorado talent to build Pac-12 powerhouse.

21. San Diego State: After his team lost to the Aztecs, 118-35, Saint Katherine College coach Scott Mitchell looked at the bright side: “Well, I can thank God nobody got decapitated." An orthodox Christian school in Encinitas, Calif., with a cool nickname (Firebirds), St. Kat also have lost to Weber State, 107-36, and Utah Valley, 88-39. Saint Katherine is in its first year of competing in basketball. The Firebirds have two victories and no decapitations thus far.

22. Florida State: Seminoles rank 11th in nation with 6.9 blocks per game. Three 7-footers combine for 4.9 blocks a game.

23. Massachusetts: Has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. The highest? Nevada. In Las Vegas, it’s not uncommon for couples to marry and the next day barely remember tying knot. Once their hands stop shaking, they untie the knot. Generally, they agree to split the remaining bottle and go their separate ways.

24. Iowa: Average Hawkeyes possession lasts 14 seconds, third-shortest in the nation (BYU, Northwestern State).

25. Texas: Longhorns (15.6 seconds, 25th) like to get up shots in a hurry as well.

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