Zags make No. 1 pitch

The door to the No. 1 ranking is open and second-ranked Gonzaga can state its case with a victory over BYU on Thursday in Provo

No. 1 Indiana lost to Minnesota on Tuesday, which leaves a couple of viable contenders for the top spot: Gonzaga, No. 3 Duke and possibly No. 5 Miami, which tangles with Duke on Saturday. No. 4 Michigan became the latest top 10 team to endure an upset loss, falling to Penn State on Wednesday.

It's possible there could be two different top-ranked teams when the AP and USA Today polls are released Monday. The guess here is if GU and Duke have 2-0 weeks, AP will vote Duke No.1 while the coaches go with Gonzaga.

We address the No. 1 ranking and potential No. 1 seeding in the preview and also have a few notebook items below.


GU-BYU glance

GONZAGA

RECORD: 27-2, 14-0 WCC

COMING UP: Thursday at BYU, 8 (ESPN2); Saturday vs. Portland, 2, KAYU/Root

OUTLOOK: No. 2 Gonzaga will be the highest ranked opponent to visit the Marriott Center since it opened in 1971. BYU entertained No. 2 UCLA in March, 2005, and No. 2 St. Joseph’s in December, 2005, at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars (20-9, 9-5) are just 6-5 in their last 11, including two losses at the Marriott Center, where they’re 115-10 under eighth-year head coach Dave Rose. BYU had dropped two straight home games prior to GU’s visit last season but the Cougars led by as many as 19 and won 83-73. Tyler Haws (20.9 ppg) has scored at least 20 points in 19 games. Brandon Davies (18 ppg, 7.7 rebounds) has eight double-doubles this season and 21 in his career.

Gonzaga Prep grad Ryan Nicholas leads Portland at 12.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

Notebook items for Four Corners 

Stitched up

Gonzaga forward Elias Harris suffered a nasty cut on his nose during Monday’s practice and needed a handful of stitches to close the wound.

Harris practiced Tuesday with a band-aid on his nose. He probably won’t require additional protection for tonight’s game.

Fluid environment

Walk-on guard Rem Bakamus noticed something different after drawing a drink from the coolers at Gonzaga’s practice Monday.

 “You know you’re the No. 2 team in the country when you’ve got Gatorade,” the affable Bakamus said to nobody in particular. For at least one day, the sports drink replaced water.

Wonder what will be on the liquid menu if Gonzaga climbs to No. 1 in next week’s poll?

 Untied

Gonzaga coach Mark Few has altered his game-day attire. For years, he sported a tie with, uh, few exceptions, but he’s gone tie-free in perhaps 35-40 percent of games this season.

“Some days I’ll feel it, some days I don’t,” he said. “Usually it’s about an hour before the game when I decide. I’m getting burned out on the tie. I’m not ready to go to Huggy Bear’s deal yet.”

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins often wears a WVU sweat suit and occasionally a golfer’s rain-resistant pullover jacket.

GU-BYU preview  

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

SALT LAKE CITY – There are no guarantees in men’s college basketball this season, as demonstrated by an upset-filled last month.

That applies to No. 2 Gonzaga, which has adeptly sidestepped the Top 10 upset craze to reach the highest AP ranking in program history. After No. 1 Indiana lost to Minnesota on Tuesday, the natural assumption was that Gonzaga was next in line for the top spot.

It’s entirely possible, though the Bulldogs (27-2, 14-0 WCC) first must deal with a serious challenge against BYU (20-9, 9-5) Thursday inside the 20,900-seat Marriott Center. Even with wins Thursday and Saturday against Portland, Gonzaga could get passed by No. 3 Duke, which has dates with Virginia on Thursday and No. 5 Miami on Saturday.

Some have suggested Miami could even climb to No. 1 with a spotless week. Indiana lost to Illinois in early February and remained No. 1, but that seems doubtful this time.

“We’ve had a great run over these last 14 years,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few told ESPN. “There really isn’t that much left that we haven’t done. That (No. 1 ranking) would certainly be something to cross off the list.”

A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament would be another milestone for Gonzaga, which was a second seed in 2004 and went 1-1. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has GU as the third No. 1 seed and most believe the Zags will remain a top seed if they win out. However, USA Today bracket guru Patrick Stevens suggested GU could end up a No. 2 seed, partly because of the perception of the WCC as a weaker conference.

“There’s not a whole lot they can do the rest of the way,” Stevens said. “Gonzaga will probably wind up very solidly on the 2-line. There’s not a whole lot you can quibble with them. They’re 5-2 against the Top 50, 10-2 against the Top 100, 13-1 in road/neutral settings. At the same time, for most of the last two months of the season, there’s only so much they could gain.”

One certainty Thursday: A Gonzaga win clinches an outright WCC championship. The Bulldogs handled BYU 83-63 a month ago, limiting 6-foot-5 guard Tyler Haws (20.9 ppg) to just one point and All-WCC forward Brandon Davies to 14 points, two during a first half that ended with Gonzaga on top 40-21.

The Cougars have dropped three of their last five and could use a marquee win to get back on track as they pursue their seventh straight 25-win season.

“The level of desperation and intensity is going to be at an all-time high,” Few said of facing the Cougars. “We’re going to have to match that. That’s a physical team and they run a couple different types of zone (defenses) that we have to get comfortable against.”

Also in this section

At No. 2, GU matches best ranking

Gonzaga has reached new heights in the AP college basketball poll, checking in at No. …


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