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January 10, 2007

Williams has North Carolina back on track

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With the first half of the regular season nearly over, North Carolina coach Roy Williams finds himself right back where he started - at least when it comes to Rivals.com's College Basketball Power Rankings.

Williams moved back into the top spot in the coaching rankings for the first time since Week 1.

A double-digit loss to Gonzaga in the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off dropped Williams to the No. 2 spot. The Tar Heels have since reeled off 11 consecutive wins, including an 84-58 rout of Florida State in their ACC opener on Sunday. The streak carried the Tar Heels to the top spot in the AP poll this week.

Two other coaches are making their debuts in the power rankings thanks to their team's shocking starts.

Veteran John Beilein has guided No. 21 West Virginia to a 13-2 record and a 3-1 mark in Big East play. The Mountaineers were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big East after losing four starters from a team that reached the Sweet 16 last season.

No. 22 Washington State and first-year coach Tony Bennett are an even bigger surprise. The Cougars' upset over No. 10 Arizona on Saturday gave the program 14 wins, their most in a season since 1995-96.

The other big shake-up came in the point guard rankings where Arizona's Mustafa Shakur took over the top spot. The senior is putting together a breakthrough season, averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 assists a game - second in the nation. He even played well in a loss to the Cougars, scoring 19 points and dishing out eight assists.

Mississippi State's Jamont Gordon climbed up to No. 9 after coming one assist shy of a triple double in a loss at Tennessee. Gordon scored 25 points, grabbed 11 boards and piled up nine assists against the Vols. The performance led Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy to say Gordon may be the toughest matchup in the SEC.

The biggest jump any player made came in the shooting guard rankings, where Oklahoma State's JamesOn Curry went from No. 13 to No. 7. Curry played a pivotal role in the No. 9 Cowboys' 15-1 start, averaging 18.9 points and 4.7 assists a game.

Oklahoma State's Mario Boggan moved up to No. 3 in the power forward rankings. Boggan put together arguably the best game of his career in a hard-fought win over Baylor, scoring 26 points and snatching 13 rebounds.

Texas freshman Kevin Durant continues to climb the small forward rankings, moving to the No. 3 slot. Durant came through with the biggest performance of the week, scoring a career-high 37 points and pulling down 16 rebounds in a blowout win at Colorado. The performance earned Durant Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week honors.

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.

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



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