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Academics more satisfying than ranking, Majerus says

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The Ute basketball team is undefeated, off to its best start in 54 years and has moved up to No. 3 in the national rankings, higher than anyone expected before the season began.

Yet ask coach Rick Majerus what the biggest accomplishment of the team is so far this season and he'll surprise you with the answer."Andre Miller getting a C+ in his statistics class," he says. "To me that is the biggest accomplishment of the year."

OK, maybe Majerus is being a little overdramatic in his talk about academics as usual. But you can't doubt his sincerity when it comes to his emphasis on the classroom.

Majerus says he is just as pleased with Miller's 2.5 GPA as he is with Drew Hansen's 4.0 because of where Miller came from and how much he has progressed.

"To come from Watts, from Verbum Dei High School . . . I'm just so proud of him," said Majerus. "Statistics is one of the hardest classes I ever took."

MORE ACADEMICS: Majerus loves to gloat about his team's academic performance and at one point this season even claimed his team would have the highest grade point average in the country last quarter. Actually most years the Utes probably aren't even tops in their state because the BYU basketball team has always had an extremely high GPA. But fall quarter was indeed a good one for Utah.

During the quarter 11 Utes made the honor roll (3.0 or higher) with six making the Dean's List (3.5 or higher). Three walk-ons who all made the Dean's List bolstered those numbers significantly. Still eight of the 12 scholarship players made the honor roll with three on the Dean's List.

For the record, here are the GPAs of the scholarship players who made the honor roll for fall quarter - Drew Hansen 4.0, Adam Sharp 3.78, Greg Barratt 3.66, Trace Caton 3.46, Alex Jensen 3.43, Michael Doleac 3.28, Jordie McTavish 3.23 and Jon Carlisle 3.16.

MORE MILLER: If you're wondering why Andre Miller is a listed as a junior for the second straight year, it's because of a change in NCAA rules, which grants an extra year of eligibility to players who had to sit out as freshmen because of Prop 48 regulations, as long as they are ready to graduate after four years.

Since Miller is on track to graduate by the end of this summer, the Ute coaches are confidently listing Miller as a junior. If he doesn't graduate by August, he can't play next year. If he does, he'll be taking graduate courses to stay in school.

"He's ahead of the game right now," said Majerus, who is planning on having Miller next year.

WHAT'S THAT LINE: Fans at the Huntsman Center Saturday night might have wondered about the NBA three-point line that suddenly appeared on the floor for the Rice game. And fans who saw the women's game earlier in the day and came back in the evening, might have really wondered what was going on since the line wasn't there for the Utah-New Mexico women's game.

It turns out Majerus insisted in having the line put down (by tape) to help his team with a certain aspect of the game, which he declined to reveal (some close to the scene said it had to do with defensive spacing, but Majerus wouldn't confirm that).

The fact that the Utes' two previous games were played in NBA arenas (Portland and Milwaukee) where the Utes also had practiced with three-point lines may have had something to do with the line appearing at the Huntsman Center.

So can we expect to see the NBA line in the Ute arena the rest of the season?

"I won't put it up again," said Majerus. "I think it was confusing to the refs."

UTAH NOTES: With the Tennessee men's team losing a pair of games this past week, Utah is now the only school in the country with both undefeated men's women's teams. Actually there are only five unbeaten men's team in the entire country and only a half dozen women's teams . . . The Ute men are ranked No. 16 in the latest Sagarin rankings in USA Today.