Coaches’ poll puts them at No. 1

Times Staff Writer

UCLA switched places with North Carolina to become the top-ranked basketball team in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, but even better news for the Bruins on Monday was that power forward Alfred Aboya was cleared to practice and to play in Wednesday’s game against George Washington at Pauley Pavilion.

USC also moved back into both major polls after its upset win over Southern Illinois Sunday night. The Trojans are ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press writers’ poll, where UCLA remained No. 2, and are No. 24 in the coaches’ poll.

It took a little prodding to get all the AP voters to look at the Trojans’ 70-45 win over the previously 19th-ranked Salukis.


Early Monday morning, AP voters received an e-mail requesting that those who voted before Sunday’s USC-Southern Illinois game -- which began at 11 p.m. in the East -- and Villanova-North Carolina State game to reconsider their votes.

Information from the original polling was not made available, but the assumption is that Southern Illinois and Villanova might have been ranked too high. An AP spokesman said that “nearly” all of the 72 members who had recorded an early vote did recast their votes and the final tabulation had USC and North Carolina State moving into the Top 25 and Southern Illinois and Villanova dropping out.

In the coach’s poll UCLA (6-0) got 12 first-place votes to 13 for North Carolina, but the Bruins have 749 points to 745 for the Tar Heels. North Carolina beat South Carolina State, Old Dominion and Brigham Young, but had to come from behind late in the game against BYU.

In the AP poll, the Tar Heels received 28 first-place votes -- two more than last week -- and recorded 1,725 points in the AP poll. UCLA had 26 first place votes -- down one from last week -- and had 1,716 points. Last week the Bruins had 1,727 points.

The Bruins beat Maryland and Michigan State to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic and also defeated Yale last week.

It was against Yale on Friday that Aboya sustained a fracture to the bone below his right eye. Had the injury required surgery the 6-foot-8 power forward might have been lost for as long as six weeks, but Aboya was cleared for non-contact practice Monday and for a full practice today. He will have to wear protective goggles.


After they play George Washington on Wednesday, the Bruins host eighth-ranked Texas Sunday as part of the Pac-10/Big 12 Challenge.

Kevin Love, forced out of the Yale game after turning his left ankle, also participated in a non-contact practice Monday and will play Wednesday.

Love was chosen Pacific 10 Conference player of the week, having averaged 18.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in the Bruins’ three games.

Point guard Darren Collison, swingman Michael Roll and forward James Keefe have yet to play a minute this season because of injuries.

Keefe, who had shoulder surgery last August, was doing shooting drills three hours before the Yale game and Coach Ben Howland has targeted mid-December for Keefe’s return.

Collison, who sprained his left knee in UCLA’s first exhibition, has had his return date pushed back twice.


Last Friday Howland said, “I don’t know,” when asked when Collison will return.

Roll suffered a foot injury in practice the day after that same exhibition and is also expected back in practice in about two weeks.