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April 8, 2011

Closing run lifts Calhoun in power rankings

Rivals.com Power Rankings: PG | SG | SF | PF | C | Freshman | Head Coach

This wasn't the most talented team that Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun has coached in his storied career, but it may have produced the most satisfying result.

Calhoun won the third national title of his career with a team that finished ninth in the Big East during the regular season. But the Huskies capped an ordinary regular season with an extraordinary postseason run, as they won five games in five days at the Big East tournament to take the crown, then won six games in a row in the NCAA tourney to win the national championship.

That remarkable finish helped Calhoun close the year as the No. 1 coach in the Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.

Calhoun, 68, became the oldest coach to win a national title, and joined John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only coaches to win at least three national championships. This latest title was particularly noteworthy because it capped a year in which Calhoun faced plenty of turmoil (NCAA sanctions that will force him to serve a three-game suspension next season) and tragedy (the deaths of his sister-in-law and his college roommate).

"This group will always be incredibly special,'' Calhoun told reporters Monday after Connecticut's 53-41 victory over Butler in the national championship game. "They're all special in their own way, but I needed this team. Very rarely does a coach say that."

Calhoun's rise represented one of two changes at the top of the 2010-11 season's final edition of the power rankings. In the other move, Purdue's JaJuan Johnson overtook Ohio State's Jared Sullinger as the nation's top center.

Johnson averaged 20.5 points, 15 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in two NCAA tournament games. Sullinger averaged 16.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in three NCAA tournament contests.

Sullinger remained the nation's top freshman in our season-ending power rankings. Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker, Duke shooting guard Nolan Smith, San Diego State small forward Kawhi Leonard and Arizona power forward Derrick Williams also remained atop their respective positions.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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