Gonzaga Men's Basketball Has Date With Top-Ranked Cincinnati
Nov. 16, 1999
CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) - The last time Cincinnati was ranked No. 1, a huge letdown followed. The Bearcats don't want it to happen again.
The campus celebrated and the players basked in the attention when Cincinnati was No. 1 in the 1996 preseason poll. The Bearcats hadn't been the nation's top-ranked team in 34 years, and they planned to enjoy it for a long time.
The party ended after two games. Crosstown rival Xavier beat the Bearcats on their home court, stripping away that No. 1 ranking, and the Bearcats ended up losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
That was on their minds Monday when they were voted No. 1 in The Associated Press poll for the first time since '96.
``It's just like in '96 when we were No. 1. It all comes down to producing in March,'' senior forward Ryan Fletcher said. ``If you don't win in March, people really aren't going to care that you were a preseason No. 1 or No. 1 sometime during the season.''
Players on the 1996-97 team later admitted they spent too much time reading the raves and let the attention go to their heads. Once they fell from the top, they never got back.
``I hope we're a little better prepared to handle it this time around,'' coach Bob Huggins said. ``I think we'll do a better job maybe of handling the things that come with it than we did the last time.''
Gonzaga, which made its first-ever appearance in the Associated Press Top 25 by checking in at 24th in the pre-season poll, dropped a notch to 25th this week. The Bulldogs open their season Sunday afternoon at Montana. The Bulldogs will play Cincinnati Dec. 4 in the Rock-N-Roll Shootout in Cleveland, Ohio.
So far, they're handling it much differently. They found no reason to read much into the ranking.
``We haven't played any games yet. We don't deserve that,'' senior center Kenyon Martin said. ``They just put us there. We've got to prove that we deserve it.''
The Bearcats play their final exhibition tonight against Athletes in Action, then open the season Saturday against Youngstown State. They were voted No. 1 because they have a deep and talented front line ? four returning regulars ? and three of the nation's top freshmen in the backcourt.
Huggins knows what to expect from his front line. The freshmen are another matter.
``I don't know how good we are and I don't know how anybody else does, either,'' Huggins said. ``I think we're in the mix somewhere, but we may not be in that mix until later in the year. I don't know what's going to happen when the freshmen have to tee it up.''
He'll get some answers pretty quickly. Cincinnati plays in the Big Island Invitational later this month, then faces Gonzaga in Cleveland and North Carolina in the Great Eight.
No one will be surprised if Cincinnati has some problems early.
``Right now, we're probably not even one-fifth as good as we could be at the end of the year,'' Fletcher said. ``We've got a lot of things to work on. That's why this No. 1 ranking is a bit of a surprise to me. Regardless of how talented they are, they're still freshmen.''
And they'll have to learn under some intense pressure. Cincinnati knows exactly what it's like to take the court as an unbeaten No. 1 team.
The Bearcats were the only team to beat No. 1 Duke in the regular season last year. Their 77-75 upset in the Great Alaska Shootout was the high point of a season that ended with another second-round NCAA tournament loss.
``There was a chance for us to go in there and prove to everybody that we were a better team than what people thought we were,'' Fletcher said. ``It made us the hunter rather than the hunted. I think we played better as the underdog.
``When you're the No. 1 team in the nation, everybody is shooting to knock you down. It just adds to the pressure to perform every night.''
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' men's college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 14, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and previous ranking:
Record Pts Pv
Others receiving votes: Miami 172, Maryland 146, Wake Forest 98, Georgia Tech 42, Oklahoma 38, Indiana 20, Louisville 17, Seton Hall 13, Tulsa 10, Valparaiso 10, Virginia 9, Oregon 7, Siena 7, Akron 6, Detroit 5, Murray St. 5, New Mexico 5, Michigan 4, Arkansas 3, UNLV 3, Alabama 2, Fresno St. 2, New Mexico St. 2, SW Missouri St. 2, Xavier 2, Georgetown 1, George Washington 1, Memphis 1, N.C. Charlotte 1, Southern Cal 1.
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