Gazette's College Basketball Notebook - UMass Athletics

Gazette's College Basketball Notebook

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Matt Vautour has his weekly college basketball notebook in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

He writes about seniors dominating the game this year as well as the winless and perfect teams in the nation.

College hoop dominated by seniors

Since the NBA started preventing high school players from entering its draft, college basketball has been dominated by younger players. But with the season past the halfway point, 2010-11 might be considered the year of the senior.

A senior hasn't won either the Naismith or Wooden Player of the Year awards since Duke's J.J. Redick captured both in 2006. But that streak could end this year.

In a poll of 55 college basketball writers around the country, conducted by, Connecticut's Kemba Walker was, not surprisingly, the runaway leader for national player of the year. The UConn guard's scoring has been both clutch - he has made game-winning shots against Texas and Villanova - and prolific - his 25.5 points per game are second in the country.

He has led a Huskies team that was picked 10th in the Big East in the preseaon to No. 8 in the country. No small feat.

But it's more than just Walker. The Ann Arbor poll asked its voters to rank the top three players in the nation. Of the 13 players to receive at least one first-, second- or third-place vote, nine are seniors. Six of the seven players to earn a first-place vote were seniors.

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State's star freshman center, was picked second, followed by five straight seniors: Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler of Duke, Kenneth Faried of Morehead State and E'Twaun Moore of Purdue.

EMPTY COLUMNS - The number of winless and unbeaten Division I teams dwindled drastically this week. Alcorn State, Arkansas Pine Bluff and UNC Greensboro each won last week, leaving Centenary, which is transitioning out of Division I, as the only winless team in the nation.

Losses by Duke and Syracuse left San Diego State, Ohio State and Kansas alone in the perfect record club. All three will be challenged shortly.

The Aztecs host Air Force tonight and are off until traveling to No. 9 BYU (17-1) on Jan. 26. Kansas, which had close calls with Iowa State and Nebraska, crushed Baylor Monday and will host No. 11 Texas on Saturday. Ohio State hosts a weak Iowa squad tonight before traveling to No. 22 Illinois, Saturday.

ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK: Temple at Xavier, Saturday at 3 p.m.,ESPN2 - Two teams that figure to be competing for the conference regular season title down the road, square off in Cincinnati. Temple is coming off a surprise loss to Duquesne and could use a big win to offset it.

NEW TOURNAMENT DESTINATION - Tournament games at resort locations are a staple of college basketball's calendar in November and December. The Atlantis Resort Nassau, Bahamas is adding an event hoping to rival, Maui, Honolulu, Puerto Rico and Cancun, Mexico.

It will tentatively be called "The Battle 4 Atlantis."

MORE DICKY V - While some viewers have grown weary of his high-volume enthusiasm, there's no greater ambassador of college basketball than Dick Vitale.

He loves the game and the people involved in it, and those affections have been infectious for over 30 years. On top of that, his work with kids and charities has been abundant. So it was good news for the sport that Vitale, who battled vocal chord lesions in 2007, doesn't appear to be leaving any time soon.

The 71-year-old broadcaster extended his ESPN contract through 2014-15 last week.

"There is nothing greater than walking into an arena and feeling the excitement and energy of a big-time college basketball game. I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing me to be a kid at heart by giving me the opportunity to sit courtside for games I would pay top dollar to see," Vitale said in an ESPN press release. "I'm living a dream. I've been extremely blessed to work with so many beautiful people and to talk about the game I love."

Information from personal interviews, newspaper articles and sports information releases was used in this report.

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