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December 6, 2006

James soars to top of power rankings

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Alabama's Ronald Steele didn't get much of a chance to maintain his position as the top point guard in Rivals.com's College Basketball Power Rankings.

The Crimson Tide didn't face any top 25 teams and racked up a handful of easy wins over small schools over the first month of the season. Steele also sat out two games because of tendinitis in his right knee.

Marquette's Dominic James took full advantage. Against Duke in the final of the College Basketball Experience Classic, the speedy floor general scored 25 points and dished out seven assists to lead the Golden Eagles to a 73-62 win. He was more impressive in the following game, scoring his team's final 18 points and hitting a pair of late 3-pointers to keep the Golden Eagles from getting upset by a scrappy Valparaiso team in a 65-62 win.

It was enough for James to jump Steele and take over the No. 1 spot - at least for this week.

Virginia's Sean Singletary did enough to move up to the No. 3 position. Singletary scored 25 points in a season-opening 93-90 upset of Arizona. Singletary is averaging 16.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists a game.

Nobody made a bigger leap in the point guard rankings than Gonzaga's Derek Raivio. The 'Zags were expected to take a big step back without top-five draft pick Adam Morrison. However, thanks in large part to Raivio, Gonzaga raced out to an 8-1 start and upset then-No. 2 North Carolina. Raivio scored 21 against the Tar Heels and is averaging a team-high 19.8 ppg. Gonzaga was upset by Washington State on Tuesday night, but Raivio scored 21 points and was 5-for-11 from 3-point range in the loss.

There wasn't nearly as much movement in the shooting guard rankings, but Ohio State freshman Daequan Cook did climb from No. 11 to No. 5. Cook is averaging 17.6 ppg despite not having started a game.

Butler's A.J. Graves debuts at No. 14 after leading the Bulldogs to upsets over Tennessee and Gonzaga in the NIT Season Tip-Off. Graves was named MVP of the tournament. Butler has been the nation's biggest surprise; the Bulldogs are off to a 9-0 start.

A pair of freshman highlight the small forward rankings.

Texas' Kevin Durant and Arizona's Chase Budinger moved up to No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, after impressive starts.

Durant has been a major offensive threat from the start, averaging 23.4 points. He's also leading the team in rebounding with 9.4 boards a contest.

Budinger has been a great fit for Arizona's up-tempo style. He has made big plays in transition and is averaging a team-high 18.9 points.

Nevada's Nick Fazekas, who might be off the best start of any player in the nation, moved into the top spot in the power forward rankings.

Fazekas posted four double-doubles in the first four games and is averaging 22.6 points and 13.7 rebounds. The Wolf Pack is off to a 7-0 start. If the versatile senior keeps putting up those type of numbers and the team stays hot, he'll be in the hunt for national player of the year awards.

The biggest rise of any player can be found in the center rankings where Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt (16.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) moved up to No. 4. The big man completely outplayed Tyler Hansbrough (who retained the No. 1 spot), holding the UNC star to nine points. Heytvelt's emergence - along with Raivio - has been another key reason for the Bulldogs' great start.

We will continue to update the power rankings weekly throughout the season. For our purposes, the power rankings will reflect those games played Tuesday through Monday.

The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week, but the power rankings measure their overall careers as well as their most recent performances.

By the end of the season, our power rankings should provide an accurate indicator of which players were the best at their respective positions.

Click here to check out the complete Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings.

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