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Gonzaga isn’t going to be top dog … at least not yet

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 15, 2017, 9:09 p.m.

Gonzaga forward Zach Collins (32) blocks a shot by Saint Mary's forward Dane Pineau (22) during the first half of Saturday’s game. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Zach Collins (32) blocks a shot by Saint Mary's forward Dane Pineau (22) during the first half of Saturday’s game. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Baylor’s stint at No. 1 barely outlasted a 30-second shot clock.

The Bears were promoted to No. 1 for the first time in program history last Monday. One day later, Baylor was flogged 89-68 by No. 10 West Virginia in Morgantown.

That leaves a vacancy at the top to be filled by … not Gonzaga. A convincing 79-56 home win over No. 21 Saint Mary’s does a ton for the Zags’ national profile but rising four spots over three teams that also had 2-0 weeks isn’t going to happen.

Not yet, anyway. Check back in a few weeks and that could change.

The new No. 1 will almost certainly be Kansas. The second-ranked Jayhawks have won 16 straight after dropping their season opener to Indiana in overtime, but it won’t be easy Monday night at Iowa State in Ames.

No. 3 Villanova is on the rise with three straight double-digit wins after stumbling against Butler. No. 4 UCLA took a pair of Pac-12 road wins but the Bruins have a showdown with Arizona next Saturday in Pauley Pavilion.

Baylor’s loss creates the possibility of upward wiggle room for No. 5 Gonzaga (17-0), but the Bears rebounded nicely with a road win over No. 25 Kansas State.

There’s a road to No. 1 for Gonzaga but it could take awhile. The 2013 Zags didn’t hit the top spot until March, but they had two regular-season losses. They put together a 12-game winning streak and waited for Indiana, Duke, Miami and Michigan to absorb conference losses.

Rankings are a peculiar entity. They don’t influence the field of 68 or seedings. Zag fans understand this, having watched Selection Sunday in 2002 when sixth-ranked Gonzaga inexplicably received a sixth seed.

None of which prevents hardcore fans across the country from refreshing their Twitter feeds at work every Monday to see where their favorite team stands in the latest AP and USA Today polls. As ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said of the rankings during a Saturday broadcast, “Good conversation, doesn’t mean much.”

Of more importance to the Zags is keeping that zero attached to the loss column. The nation’s lone unbeaten is getting endless national attention from that designation.

TV pregame shows can’t sign off without debating GU’s potential for an unblemished regular season, a No. 1 seed and reaching its first Final Four. Writers from NBCsports.com, CBSsports.com, ESPN.com didn’t attend Saturday’s game but still posted articles about the Zags.

Gonzaga has five games left in January in which they’ll probably be double-digit favorites every time they take the floor. There is an added wrinkle, however, with the rescheduling of the Portland game for Monday, Jan. 23, in Portland, two days after the same teams tangle in Spokane.

Doesn’t sound daunting with Portland hanging out at .500, but the additional game makes for a taxing stretch. The Zags will now play five games in a 10-day span, with plane trips to Santa Clara, Portland and Los Angeles sandwiched around home games against Portland and San Diego.

Handle that and there just might be a “1” next to Gonzaga’s name. Not in the loss column, but in the national rankings.

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