Note to polls: Don’t cut Arizona

Nov 13, 2001 9:01 AM

The Arizona Wildcats proved that being snubbed from the national rankings for the first time since 1990 was pure stupidity.

The Cats took their anger out on third-ranked Maryland with a stunning 71-67 victory in the opening game of the college basketball season at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

It had been 202 ranking periods, dating back to Feb. 26, 1990, since Arizona had not been rated in the coaches poll. The Wildcats enjoyed a streak of 109 straight weeks in the AP poll.

Jason Gardner was the only returning starter from last year’s Final Four squad. Apparently that created the impetus for all those wise men to drop the Wildcats from the nation’s elite teams.

The victory over Maryland, rated No. 2 behind by AP behind defending national champ Duke, should carry more than enough weight to place Lute Olson’s boys back where they belong.

UNC LATTA-TUDE: South Carolina has allowed a gem to slip through its fingers into the hands of the “other” Carolina.

Raymond Felton, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard from Latta High School, has signed a national letter of intent to play with the Tar Heels next season.

Felton is ranked No. 3 in the nation by The website. He is the only South Carolina representative among the top 100 high school players.

The Gamecocks have always had a knack for overlooking top in-state talent while searching for national notoriety. Latta, located some 50 miles north of Myrtle Beach along Highway 9 is more South Carolina than Clemson recruiting country.

UNC does have a knack from luring top in-state players away from home. Vince Carter, now an NBA All-Star with Toronto, chose the Heels over Florida when attending Mainland High School in Daytona Beach.

OFF THE VINE: Murray State sophomore F Jamar Avant was charged with sending two e-mailed bomb threats and was suspended for an undetermined period. Last year, Avant missed the season due to insufficient grades”¦Texas Tech junior F Pawel Storozynski could miss up to eight games if the NCAA determines that he played with pro players prior to joining Bob Knight’s team. No comment from Knight”¦San Diego State swingman Brandon Smith will miss 2-to-3 weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery”¦Iowa edged the Harlem Globetrotters 79-76 in preseason play.

TOURNEY TIME: The trend is for a longer college basketball season and more early-year tournaments. There are a dozen tourneys on the docket this week. Odds were not available at press time.