UCLA should hold at No. 2 after beating Michigan

PHOENIX (AP) UCLA coach Steve Alford brought in a stellar recruiting class to blend with the returning starters, a group that was expected to lead the Bruins at least back to the NCAA Tournament.

So far, UCLA has been even better than expected.

Led by do-everything freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, UCLA climbed to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 last week and should stay there after turning a close game against Michigan into a second-half rout on Saturday.

''As long as we defend, who knows what the limit is,'' Ball said after the Michigan win. ''We're going for a championship this year, that's our goal, and we don't expect to lose.''

The 6-foot-6 Ball has been superb so far this season, running UCLA's offense with the confidence and ease of someone much older. He averages 15 points, 8.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game, while allowing Bryce Alford the freedom to play off the ball.

Fellow freshman T.J. Leaf has provided a big lift, averaging 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds, and the Bruins have six players scoring in double figures.

UCLA (10-0) got off to a slow start against Michigan at Pauley Pavilion, but ran away from the Wolverines in the second half by making 12 of 16 shots. UCLA shot 62 percent overall, hit 15 3-pointers and had 23 assists to eight turnovers.

''That's how special offensively this team is,'' Steve Alford said. ''It's been, through 10 games, as close to a phenomenal offense as I can think of in my career as far as a team.''

The Bruins aren't likely to supplant No. 1 Villanova in Monday's AP Top 25, but could pick up a few more first-place votes after receiving two last week.

---

VILLANOVA SURVIVES

Villanova had some trouble with the pressure of being No. 1 for the first time in school history a year ago, lasting three weeks.

The Wildcats almost stumbled in their first game as No. 1 this season.

Villanova (10-0) struggled against Notre Dame (9-1), trailing by up to 11 points. Josh Hart saved the Wildcats.

Already a front-runner for national player of the year, the senior carried Villanova almost by himself, scoring a career-high 37 points in the 74-66 win .

''He's as good as any player in the country is and he's so complete,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright.

---

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

Duke's Grayson Allen has been mentioned among the favorites for national player of the year. He might be in the running for dunk of the year after this jam against UNLV.

---

FRESHMAN SPOTLIGHT

Markelle Fultz, Washington. Fultz has lived up to the hype of being called the most decorated recruit in school history. The 6-foot-4 guard leads the Huskies with 23 points per game, is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range, grabs 7.1 rebounds and dishes for 5.8 assists.

Now if he could get a little help.

Washington has struggled despite having one of the nation's top freshmen, dropping to 4-4 after losing three straight games.

---

GAEL FAIL

Saint Mary's was a trendy pick to make a deep NCAA Tournament run and climbed to No. 12 last week.

The Gaels (6-1) could take a big fall this week after losing at home to Texas-Arlington. Saint Mary's was never really in the game and lost 65-51 to a team that had gone 0-28 against Division I opponents.

The Gaels just missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago and this one could hurt their resume if they don't win the West Coast Conference tournament.

---

RISE AND FALL

This week's AP poll isn't likely to have many changes near the top with none of the top 10 teams losing.

There could be a few changes further down.

No. 13 Xavier could fall a bit after losing to Colorado and No. 16 Butler could as well after losing to Indiana State before a win over No. 22 Cincinnati . The Bearcats could fall out of the poll this week after their loss, possible clearing the way for Southern California to be ranked.

---

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.