Sunday, January 4, 2004

Page Two power rankings



By Mike Ball
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Thumbs up

1. UC basketball. It wasn't the toughest of non-conference schedules, but the Bearcats made their point with nine straight impressive victories and the third undefeated November-December under coach Bob Huggins. This team plays hard and fast and should be entertaining well into March. (On a similar subject, there's still nothing cooler than Kentucky-North Carolina.)

2. Moeller basketball. The defending Division I state champions went 2-1 at an elite holiday tournament in Raleigh, N.C. The Crusaders played the nation's top-ranked team, Oak Hill Academy (Va.), closer than any of Oak Hill's previous 18 victims. A state title repeat could be in the cards.

3. Ken Shields. The Northern Kentucky University coach, in his final season, earned his 300th victory as Norse coach. Those came on the heels of a 460-win career at Northern Kentucky high schools.

4. The Bengals. Imagine, making it to the final week of the regular season without ever mentioning whom they might draft. Now, who are the top shut-down corners again?

5. The Reds. Cory Lidle will help the rotation. Ron Oester and Jayhawk Owens return to the organization's minor-league system with their hard-nosed attitudes. Baby steps admittedly, but steps nonetheless.

Thumbs down

1. Pete Rose saga. A major-league official reportedly has told the New York Times that the Hit King admitted to Bud Selig that he indeed had gambled on baseball while Reds manager. Could 2004 finally be the year this is resolved? Why are we skeptical?

2. NFL coaches. Oakland's Bill Callahan gets the ax a season after a Super Bowl appearance, thanks in no part to his players whining about him. In all, there are seven openings. Not a lot of job security. (And nice effort, Steve Superior. Just quit the Redskins.)

3. Olympic drug scandals. U.S. sprint champion Kelli White was among six more track athletes who have flunked doping tests, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee. This is going to do nothing but get uglier.

4. New Jersey Nets. They signed free agent Eddie Griffin, who was waived by the Rockets after two turbulent seasons. Griffin can't play immediately, pending legal proceedings for an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge and a separate marijuana charge.

5. New Year's Day. The Rose Bowl was awesome, and Florida State missing a field goal to lose to Miami again was cool. But it's just not the same with the major bowls stretched out all week.




COLLEGE BASKETBALL
XU finally gets complete effort
Myles' best weapon is experience
Maligned schedule suits UC
No. 8 Kentucky 61, No. 9 North Carolina 56
Unlikely duo helps seal win
No. 3-ranked Hanover shoots past Thomas More 83-78
No. 11 Louisville 91, Murray State 69
Top 25: No. 2 Duke cruises

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Fiesta farewell: 27 Bucks stop here
Sugar Bowl expected to be defensive battle
BCS mess overshadows Sugar Bowl

NFL PLAYOFFS
Retro Titans keep Super Bowl hopes alive
Bittersweet ending for Modell
Panthers trounce Cowboys
Two teams will reverse postseason struggles
Belichick landslide choice over Lewis as top coach
NFL insider: Playoff experience abounds
Curnutte's NFL power rankings
Cardinal king for a day courtesy of Green Bay

PETE ROSE
A breakthrough for Rose?

PREP SPORTS
Area stars waiting for college offers
Prep sports results, schedules

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