Gonzaga is No. 1 for a second straight week in The Associated Press college basketball poll following a week in which all but four of the top 10 teams lost at least one game.
The Bulldogs (24-0), the only remaining unbeaten team in Division I, received 59 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel on Monday. Villanova (22-2) moved from fourth to second after receiving the other six No. 1 votes.
Kansas, which saw its 51-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse end over the weekend, held at third while Louisville jumped from sixth to fourth.
Oregon, coming off its impressive win over Arizona, went from 13th to fifth. Baylor, which lost twice last week, dropped from second to sixth.
Wisconsin was seventh followed by North Carolina, Arizona and UCLA.
Xavier and SMU are the week’s newcomers, replacing Notre Dame and Northwestern.
Cincinnati, riding a 14-game winning streak, went from 14th to No. 11 and was followed by Virginia, West Virginia, Florida State, Kentucky, Purdue, Florida, Duke, South Carolina and Saint Mary’s.
The last five ranked teams are Maryland, Butler, Creighton, Xavier and SMU.
Xavier returned to the poll after being out for one week. The Musketeers (17-6), who dropped out after losing four of five games, have won three straight.
SMU (20-4) is ranked for the first time this season. The Mustangs, who were ranked for all but one week last season, have won six straight and 16 of their last 17.
Notre Dame (17-7) was ranked for the last nine weeks, reaching as high as 14th, but the Fighting Irish dropped out from 20th after losing five of their last six.
Northwestern (18-5) lost to Purdue in its only game last week and fell from 25th after one week in the poll.
Here is the full poll:
1. Gonzaga (59 first-place votes)
2. Villanova (6)
8. North Carolina
13. West Virginia
14. Florida State
19. South Carolina
20. Saint Mary’s
CBT Podcast: Jeff Goodman is back to talk about this weekend’s insanity
This weekend was utter insanity in college basketball. To help me parse through what it all means, I brought Jeff Goodman of ESPN onto the podcast again. We also played #AskGoodman, where I allowed fans a chance to ask Goodman the most important questions.
Marcus Paige knows the pain of the Atlanta Falcons better than anyone.
Just ten months ago, Paige saw one of the most iconic shots in college basketball history get thrown to the wayside when Kris Jenkins hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three as Villanova won the national title over North Carolina.
That game was played in NRG Stadium in Houston, the same stadium where Julio Jones’ unbelievable catch went for naught in Tom Brady’s fifth career Super Bowl win.
At this point, it doesn’t really make sense to have anyone other than Gonzaga sitting in the top spot in the top 25.
Part of it is because they’ve earned it. We’re sitting here the day after the Super Bowl and Gonzaga has yet to lose a game. Yes, they play in the WCC, but they also played a tough non-conference schedule, one that includes wins over Arizona, the Florida team that just beat Kentucky by 22 points, the Iowa State team that just won at Kansas, the Tennessee team that beat Kentucky and, while I know it doesn’t work this way, they beat Washington who beat the Colorado team that has wins over Xavier and Oregon.
Should I mention that 23-point win over Saint Mary’s or no?
Perhaps the most telling part of Gonzaga’s season is that they’ve yet to throw out an awful performance. Kansas blew a 15-point lead at home on Saturday and lost by 16 at West Virginia. Baylor dug themselves a 19-point hole at home against Kansas State and lost by 21 points at West Virginia. Louisville got smoked by Virginia at home. Wisconsin needed a miracle to avoid losing to Rutgers. Villanova blew a 13-point lead to Marquette.
The list goes on and on and on.
Granted, much of that has to do with the fact that the Zags do play in a weaker league. It’s easier to avoid losing to Pacific and Pepperdine than it is Kansas State and Marquette.
If it was going to happen, Thursday night was the prime candidate, as the Zags faced off with a talented BYU team in a building that holds 19,000 fans. And every time BYU made a run, Nigel Williams-Goss, who finished with 33 points, had an answer. That was the other concern about Gonzaga, by the way. Do they have a go-to guy? Do they have a player that can end a run or take over at the end of a game?
The answer seems to be yes.
So while it’s hardly going to be a consensus that Gonzaga is the best team in the country – hell, I’m not even sure that I can buy that – at this point there really is no reason to have them ranked anywhere other than No. 1.
They have just as much right to that spot as anyone.
Louisville announced that Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang have been suspended for Monday night’s game at No. 9 Virginia after breaking curfew on Saturday night.
“After we returned to Louisville, I boarded the team bus and told them how proud I was of them, but the most important thing now is to get their rest as we had an early morning practice and had to travel,” said UofL Coach Rick Pitino. “For some reason, Mangok and Deng chose to break curfew and were out very late. This is an extremely big game for our basketball team and it would be an understatement to say that I am extremely disappointed in both young men. That being said, we will move forward and put forth a great effort with a depleted team. Mangok is no longer a captain of our team. Donovan Mitchell has now been inserted in that role.”
Louisville is down to seven scholarship players for Monday’s game, as point guards Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks are both out of the lineup.
Adel is Louisville’s third-leading scorer at 11.1 points, while Mathiang has averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field over the last five games.
Virginia is 4-1 against Louisville since joining the ACC and blew out a full-strength Cardinals team in the Yum! Center earlier this season.
Five things we learned this week: Oregon’s peaking, Kentucky’s struggling and Gonzaga’s statement
1. Gonzaga may not be the best team in the country, but they’re the most consistent among the elite: I don’t think there is a “best team in college basketball” because I don’t think there is any team in the country that is without noticeable and exploitable flaws. Kansas has no depth on the interior and can’t guard anyone. Kentucky can’t score in the half court and lacks a measure of toughness inside. UCLA can’t guard anyone. Baylor’s guard play and been shaky in recent weeks. Arizona is heavily reliant on inconsistent freshmen. Duke is Duke.
You get the point.
The only possible exception to that is Gonzaga, the last remaining undefeated team in the country. The knock on this team earlier is the season was that they didn’t have a go-to guy. They didn’t have someone that could take a game over, that could be relied upon to demand the ball and make a play at the end of a clock or to quell another team’s run.
But isn’t that exactly what Nigel Williams-Goss has been doing? Take Thursday night, for example. Williams-Goss had 33 points as Gonzaga went into the Marriott Center and knocked off BYU. That many point is always going to come in an impressive performance, but perhaps what stood out the most is that he always had an answer. The Zags took control early and held a pretty significant lead for much of the game, but every time BYU made a run and looked like they were ready to make this thing interesting, Williams-Goss had an answer. BYU isn’t great, but they’re talented and play in one of the rowdiest environments in the country; 19,000 screaming Mormons pack that building every game.
The Zags are balanced, they are deep, they are big, they defend and they have their go-to guy. They also have yet to put together the kind of ugly performance we’ve seen out of every other title contender this season.
Saturday’s trip to Moraga to take on No. 18 Saint Mary’s can’t get here soon enough.
2. Kentucky is going through growing pains: Right now, Kentucky is a mediocre basketball team loaded with talented basketball players. Part of it is that Malik Monk has been struggling with his shooting stroke the last two weeks, and when Monk is off, the Wildcats simply cannot score in the half court. Part of it is that De’Aaron Fox has been battling a bum ankle and an illness that held him out of a game and seemingly sapped him on injury in another. Part of it is that Bam Adebayo just isn’t the kind of force on the block that Kentucky needs him to be.
The biggest reason for their recent struggles, however, is that teams are starting to figure out how to have success against them. Keep Fox from turning the corner going left, stay attached to Monk as much as possible, get physical in the paint, attack the glass, limit transition. That’s exactly what Florida did in their 88-66 win over the Wildcats on Saturday.
Most good teams go through something like this. The issue isn’t midseason struggles, the question is what the response will be. When teams figured out they could beat up Kansas in the paint, Kansas started playing zone. When Duke struggled playing lineups with two big men, they moved Jayson Tatum to the four. In 2014, John Calipari famously “tweaked” his offense to get his 10-loss team to the national title game. What will this year’s tweak be?
3. Oregon’s best can beat anybody’s best: I’m not sure Arizona fans can be all that upset about what happened in Eugene on Saturday, because I’m not sure that any team in the country could’ve gone into Matthew Knight Arena and beaten Oregon that day. Hell, I’m not sure anyone could’ve kept it close.
At one point in the first half, Oregon had made 10 threes and Arizona had scored 11 points. The Ducks hit 16 of their first 21 long-range bombs. Their defense, which has been underrated all season long, held Arizona to one tough spot per possession, and the Ducks were able to beat Arizona down the floor in transition when they secured the rebound.
I say all that to say this: When Oregon is playing like that, they are damn-near unbeatable. They aren’t always going to play that way – hell, two days earlier, they needed Dillon Brooks to score 12 straight points in the final minutes to avoid losing at home to Arizona State – but Saturday served the rest of the nation with notice: The Ducks belong in the conversation with the rest of the nation’s elite as national title contenders.
4. Duke is all-in on small-ball: The Blue Devils got Coach K back on Saturday in a win over Pitt, but that wasn’t the story of their weekend because what the Blue Devils did on Saturday didn’t differ all that much from what they did on Monday, or last Saturday. Duke has fully bought into the idea of playing small-ball, of rotating Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones and Frank Jackson through the three back court spots while allowing Jayson Tatum to spend as much time as possible at the four.
This is the best lineup that Duke can put on the floor. It allows Tatum to take advantage of mismatches against bigger defenders while keeping the floor spread for Allen and Kennard, who can create off the dribble and help to nullify Duke’s point guard issues. The issue is going to be how the Blue Devils adjust to the fact that it is going to cut into some player’s minutes. Harry Giles III is going to struggle to crack 10 minutes a game if Amile Jefferson isn’t in foul trouble. Marques Bolden is going to be firmly planted on the Duke bench.
And if that’s what it’s going to take for the Blue Devils to win, they’re just going to have to live with it.
5. The Big 12 title race is going to be a roller coaster ride: On Wednesday night, Kansas beat Baylor in Phog Allen Fieldhouse which, essentially, gave the Jayhawks the inside track to their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title … until they went and they lost in that same building on Saturday to Iowa State. That loss opened up the door for Baylor to pull even with the Jayhawks, which was massive because the Bears still get to host Kansas later on this season … but then Baylor lost at home to Kansas State. That meant that the big winner of the day in the conference was West Virginia, who could pull within a game of first place and draw even with Baylor in second place in the conference … until they lost at home to Oklahoma State.