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January 18, 2007
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Kentucky must go to the computers to get respect these days.
Despite putting together an 11-game winning streak and starting out 4-0 in the SEC, the No. 25 Wildcats (14-3) didn't enter the AP poll until Monday. They are not ranked in the latest coaches' poll.
If that bothers the Wildcats, it isn't showing.
"We are not worried about the rankings," Kentucky senior forward Bobby Perry told Rivals.com. "I feel people out there know about us. We lost three games early on and that set us back, but we are putting ourselves in position to put a r?m?ogether that will get us a bid to the NCAA Tournament."
Perry and his teammates have a good reason not to be concerned. It's called the Ratings Percentage Index (which is important in determining bids and seeding in the NCAA Tournament).
The Wildcats are ranked No. 4 in the RPI, ahead of North Carolina (No. 5) and Wisconsin (No. 7), and eight spots ahead of the next-highest SEC team - Alabama (No. 12).
How do you explain such a disparity?
It starts with the Wildcats' strength of schedule (a major factor in the RPI), which is ranked third toughest in the nation. Their three losses have come to a pair of top-five teams (No. 3 UCLA and No. 4 UNC) and another ranked in the top 25, No. 17 Memphis. They have beaten three teams out of conference with legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes: DePaul, Indiana and Massachusetts.
The Wildcats have also made significant strides since the Maui Invitational in November - where they gave up an average of 78 points a game.
Opponents are also shooting a league-low 36 percent from the field and averaging just 62.1 points a game against the Wildcats. The Wildcats are also shooting 48 percent from the field, a bump of six percent over last year's club.
Perry credits those improved stats to team chemistry. The team never seemed to jell last season with point guard Rajon Rondo at the helm. Rondo left school early and was drafted in the first round.
"We are really communicating well right now," Perry said. "The chemistry on this team is wonderful. We really bonded over the summer and we've stayed together. Everything seems to be clicking just right and everybody seems to be finding the right spots."
The steady improvement of junior center Randolph Morris has also played a major role in UK's recent success. Morris has emerged as one of the nation's top big men, averaging 16.4 points and 8.1 rebounds a game. He has already racked up seven double-doubles.
"Randolph has really come into his own," Perry said. "It's a great asset to have a big man who can go out each and every night and give you big numbers. He opens things up on offense and defense."
If Morris continues to post those numbers - and if the players keep displaying solid teamwork ? the wins should keep coming and the team will climb in the polls.
Two Eagles Grounded
The 6-10, 235-pound Williams led the league with an average of 5.0 blocks a game, which ranked third nationally. He was also averaging 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds a game.
McClain only saw action in one game.
Williams and McClain had both been suspended twice earlier.
The Eagles (13-4) are off to a 5-0 start in the ACC.
McDermott put together a triple-double in a 101-92 win over Harvard, scoring 12 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists.
Stat Line of the Week: Washington State's Kyle Weaver put together the first triple-double in school history in the Cougars' 71-68 loss at Stanford. Weaver scored 14 points, grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds and added 10 assists.
Trivia Answer: Duke's Bobby Hurley (1,076 assists), N.C. State's Chris Corchiani (1,038), North Carolina's Ed Cota (1,030) and Maryland's Steve Blake (972).
Rivals.com college basketball writer Andrew Skwara answers your questions every week in his Friday Mailbag. Click here to send him a question.
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