- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2007

Sure, there’s a bunch of bowl games remaining in college football’s interminable postseason (sure, it’s just as long as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but really, who needs to see Cincinnati and Western Michigan meet in Toronto?), but it’s time to finally shift the bulk of attention to college basketball.

It’s not much of a surprise UCLA, North Carolina and Florida have emerged as entrenched top-five teams. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker is making a nice run at national player of the year with his explosive play for the Badgers.

But it’s still early. And starting in the next week — when conference play begins in earnest in most leagues — it will start getting easier to shake out the contenders from the pretenders.

Still, all teams have created enough of a resume for solid evaluations. Here’s my ballot for this week’s Associated Press men’s basketball poll. It’s safe to say Notre Dame, Oregon and Butler were nowhere to be found back in early November.

1. UCLA (13-0)

2. North Carolina (12-1)

3. Florida (12-2)

4. Wisconsin (13-1)

5. Alabama (12-1)

6. Arizona (11-1)

7. Kansas (12-2)

8. Ohio State (11-2)

9. Texas A&M; (11-2)

10. Duke (12-1)

11. Pittsburgh (12-2)

12. Louisiana State (10-3)

13. Oklahoma State (13-1)

14. Tennessee (12-2)

15. Notre Dame (12-1)

16. Air Force (13-1)

17. Butler (13-1)

18. Oregon (13-0)

19. Nevada (12-1)

20. Washington (10-3)

21. Memphis (10-3)

22. Connecticut (11-1)

23. Southern Illinois (10-2)

24. Marquette (13-2)

25. Texas (9-3)

It’s also worth mentioning a baker’s dozen on the fringe, 13 teams worthy of strong consideration for a spot in the rankings at this juncture: Maryland (13-2), Clemson (14-0), Wichita State (9-3),

Georgetown (10-3), Michigan State (13-2), Florida State (12-2), Georgia Tech (10-3), Drexel (9-2), UNLV (13-2), West Virginia (11-1), Appalachian State (11-3), Northern Iowa (11-2), Kentucky (10-3).

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