Gonzaga, the last unbeaten team in Division I, moved to No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll for the second time in school history.
The Zags (22-0) jumped up from third when Villanova and Kansas both were beaten in a week when seven of the top 10 lost.
Gonzaga received 46 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel Monday. The Zags were No. 1 for the last three weeks of the 2012-13 season.
Gonzaga is the fifth team to reach No. 1 this season joining Duke, Kentucky, Villanova and Baylor.
Baylor (20-1), one of the three top 10 teams to not lose, jumped from fifth to second. The Bears had six first-place votes and were one point ahead of Kansas (19-2), which dropped one place after losing at West Virginia before winning at Kentucky. The Jayhawks had nine first-place votes.
Villanova, which had been No. 1 for the last two weeks and six overall, dropped to fourth after losing at Marquette. The Wildcats (20-2), who also had a last-second win over Virginia, were No. 1 on four ballots.
Northwestern (18-4) is the week’s lone newcomer. The Wildcats were last ranked for one week in 2009-10.
Arizona, the other top 10 team to get through the week without a loss, moved from seventh to fifth and was followed by Louisville, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Wisconsin.
UCLA was 11th and was followed by North Carolina, Oregon, Cincinnati, Florida State, Butler, Maryland, Saint Mary’s, South Carolina and Notre Dame.
The last five ranked teams were Duke, Creighton, Purdue, Florida and Northwestern.
Xavier (15-6), which has lost four of six with all the losses to ranked teams, dropped out from 24th. The Musketeers, who had been ranked for the last 29 polls, were seventh in the preseason voting.
West Virginia, which beat Kansas and Texas A&M, had the week’s biggest jump from 18th to No. 7. Louisville, which beat Pittsburgh and North Carolina State by an average of 40 points, moved from 13th to No. 6.
Florida State’s fall from sixth to No. 15 followed the Seminoles’ losses to Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Kentucky also lost twice last week – to Tennessee and Kansas – and the Wildcats dropped from fourth to eighth.
Here is the full poll:
1. Gonzaga (46 first-place votes)
2. Baylor (6)
3. Kansas (9)
4. Villanova (4)
7. West Virginia
12. North Carolina
15. Florida State
18. Saint Mary’s
19. South Carolina
20. Notre Dame
Five things we learned this week: The Kansas zone, Luke Kennard and what’s up with the Pac-12?
1. So how much zone is Bill Self going to play moving forward?: In a year where Bill Self, who has been as wed to two-big lineups as Gregg Popovich, has fully embraced the idea of playing small-ball, the Kansas head coach faces another important decision regarding his team: Just how much zone should they play?
I ask because Self, who loves playing man-to-man more than I love New Haven-style apizza, went into Rupp Arena on Saturday night and knocked off No. 4 Kentucky thanks to the ability of his team to flip-flop between 2-3 zone and a triangle-and-two defenses. Using junk defenses like this isn’t necessarily new for Self – he loves tossing out wrinkles like that – but it’s usually his last-gasp effort to slow an opponent down.
On the one hand, that defense really does have some benefits for the Jayhawks. It saves the legs of Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, as they play close to 40 minutes in big games, and it protects Landen Lucas, who can focus on walling-up at the rim and rebounding in his area instead of having to risk fouls battling for position in the post and trying to defend 1-on-1 on the block; with Udoka Azubuike out, Lucas is really the only big man at Self’s disposal.
It’s also worth noting that, on paper, this is a team with a roster that should work well in a zone. Mason and Graham aren’t going to give up much penetration, and the wings – two of Josh Jackson, LeGerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk – have the length and athleticism to run at perimeter shooters and challenge shots when skip passes are thrown.
On the other hand, it’s important to note that this Kentucky team is not really built to play against a zone. We know how much trouble they have shooting the ball from the perimeter already, which isn’t exactly ideal against a zone, and their front court players aren’t known for their ability to pass the ball. Maybe it was less about the Kansas zone itself and more the result of a team that doesn’t have the pieces to break it down.
Whatever the truth may be, this is something to track moving forward.
After seeing what the sophomore guard did to Wake Forest in the second half on Saturday – 30 points, 10-for-10 shooting from the floor, a game-winning three – I think it’s time for the Blue Devils to embrace the obvious: Luke Kennard is the best player on their team even if he isn’t the best NBA prospect, and Duke will be at their best if they go ride or die with him leading the way.
Watch the performance here:
The big thing to take away from this isn’t just that Kennard went bonkers shooting the ball – that’s obvious – it’s how well he got others involved and how effective he was not only in isolation but in ball-screen actions. He had four assists, but not shown are the open shots he created that were missed or the hockey assists that he had, where his penetration moved the defense and the basket was scored after an extra pass was made.
Duke doesn’t need a point guard.
They need to understand that Kennard is the guy that can get them where they want to go.
3. Shout out to Josh Pastner: Think about this for a second: Memphis paid Josh Pastner to leave.
That’s how bad things got for him in Memphis. The university paid him to take another job.
That other job ended up being Georgia Tech, where Pastner took over for Brian Gregory and has proceeded to put together a team that looks like it will be in the NCAA tournament come Selection Sunday. Seriously. The Yellow Jackets don’t have a perfect résumé by any stretch of the imagination, but after this last week, where they blew out Florida State and beat Notre Dame, they have wins over three of the best teams in the ACC, including North Carolina.
4. Arizona is the best team in the Pac-12. Again: In the preseason, we thought that Oregon was the best team in the conference. After UCLA took the nation by storm over the course of the first two months of the season while Oregon struggled with Dillon Brooks’ returning from injury, the Bruins looked like shoe-ins to be the Pac-12 champs. Then UCLA forget how to defend and Brooks turned back into an all-american, meaning that the Ducks were, again, the favorites in the league.
All the while, Arizona was quietly winning, and winning, and winning. They put us on notice last weekend, when Allonzo Trier returned from his absence and they went into Pauley Pavilion and roughed up UCLA, but we got a firm answer regarding the Pac-12 hierarchy this weekend. With Oregon taking a loss at Colorado, who was 0-7 in the Pac-12 entering last week, it looks as if Sean Miller has himself yet another Pac-12 title favorite.
5. Just how good is the Big 12?: We know how good Kansas is. Baylor still has some doubters, but their 20-1 record, and the teams they’ve beaten to get there, speak for themselves. West Virginia has beaten those two teams by a combined 37 points.
So it’s probably safe to assume that all three of those teams are good.
What about the rest of the league? Well, it didn’t fare well in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Kansas State, who has looked like an NCAA tournament team this season, lost by 12 at Tennessee. Iowa State, who some thought would be the fourth-best team in the conference, lost at Vanderbilt. TCU, who is in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid, lost at home to Auburn. Oklahoma, who won at West Virginia, lost by 32 points at home to Florida.
The best win for the Big 12 outside the top three in the league? Oklahoma State, who is 2-6 in the conference whipping Arkansas. Those could end up being costly losses.
VIDEO: Watch Luke Kennard’s 30-point second half vs. Wake Forest
What Kennard did down the stretch here should not be overlooked. Not only did he have 30 points on 10-for-10 shooting, but he had four assists before you factor in the number of hockey assists that he had thanks to his penetration.
VIDEO: UMBC channels Laettner, pulls off the play of the year
Bill Self released a statement on Thursday night saying that the suspension did not have anything to do with that investigation, and, to a point, he’s right. But during the course of the investigation, according to court papers obtained by the Star, the KU police found “two glass smoking devices with residue.” The police also noted that there is nothing to indicate that those devices have anything to do with the alleged rape.
KU police have not released any information about the suspect in the rape investigation.
In December, Bragg was suspended for a game against Nebraska after an allegation of domestic violence made by an ex-girlfriend. That allegation was proven to be false, and the women has since been charged with battery. She was in court last week.