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January 3, 2007

Dominating win sends Gator players on the rise

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The old adage about the victor getting the spoils also happens to apply to the latest version of Rivals.com's College Basketball Power Rankings.

After No. 3 Florida (11-2) rolled to an 86-60 rout over No. 6 Ohio State (11-2) on Dec. 23, it comes as no surprise to see a pair of Gators move up to the No. 2 spots at their respective positions.

But which Gators are making the climb is a bit surprising. There were doubts whether Corey Brewer and Al Horford would be able to play in what was the most anticipated game during Christmas Break.

Brewer was diagnosed with mononucleosis in late November. Horford missed the two games leading up to the clash with the Buckeyes with a sprained ankle, an injury that was reportedly going to keep him from playing against Ohio State.

But both veterans managed to play major roles in the dominating performance. Brewer flashed his trademark versatility, scoring 18 points, grabbing five boards, handing out three assists and making three steals. Horford put together his fifth double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down 11 boards while helping hold Greg Oden to a season-low seven points.

Brewer and Horford weren't the only Gators to benefit in the rankings due to their performances against the Buckeyes.

Florida's Taurean Green was one of three new additions to the top five of the point guard rankings. Green, who sits at No. 5, scored a game-high 24 points against the Buckeyes. The UF standout went 9-for-12 (75 percent) from the field.

UCLA's Darren Collison (No. 3) and Arizona's Mustafa Shakur (No. 4) have steadily risen up the rankings all season.

Collison has proven to be much more than an adequate replacement for Jordan Farmar. Collison is averaging 13.2 points, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals a game. Those numbers have kept the Bruins (13-0) unscathed and atop the polls.

Shakur has led the No. 7 Wildcats (11-1) to 11 consecutive wins since they dropped their season opener to Virginia. The senior is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 13.3 points and a Pac-10-high 7.7 assists a game. Shakur also has posted a 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Syracuse's Demetris Nichols and Washington's Spencer Hawes made two of the more significant jumps in the rankings.

Nichols went from No. 15 to No. 12 in the small forward rankings. The senior has been on an offensive tear over the last month, averaging 25.8 points in his last six games.

Hawes moved up three spots to No. 8 in the center rankings. The freshman started a string of four 20-plus point games with a 23-point, nine-rebound performance that led the Huskies to a convincing 88-72 win over LSU.

There were also three new additions to the rankings - Nevada point guard Ramon Sessions, Kansas State small forward Bill Walker and Connecticut center HaSheem Thabeet. Walker and Thabeet are both freshmen.

The most recent changes to the power rankings reflect games from Dec. 19 to Monday. We will update the rankings weekly throughout the rest of 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.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.



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