Tennessee’s loss to Kentucky opened the door for a new No. 1 when the AP men’s college basketball poll is released Monday.
It’ll almost certainly be a former No. 1. Second-ranked Duke will likely ascend to the top spot. That’s where the Blue Devils were in November until they lost to Gonzaga in the championship game of the Maui Invitational.
The victory over Duke bumped the Zags up to No. 1, but their stay lasted just a couple of weeks before they fell to Tennessee in Phoenix.
The question now becomes how high will No. 5 Kentucky climb after an impressive 17-point win and how far will the Volunteers fall after four weeks at the top? Gonzaga figures to be at No. 2 with Kentucky, Tennessee and fourth-ranked Virginia among the possibilities for the third spot.
Gonzaga, riding the longest winning streak (16) in the country, did climb up to No. 1 in CBSsports.com’s latest poll.
Regardless of where teams stand in the next AP poll, the rise of Kentucky, which was No. 2 in the preseason poll but dropped to 18th after a 10-3 start, could make it tougher for Gonzaga to retain a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Zags were the No. 1 seed in the West Region when the selection committee released its bracket preview on Feb. 9. Gonzaga, Duke, Virginia and Tennessee boast strong resumes. Duke has an edge over the Cavaliers with a sweep of the regular-season series, but the Blue Devils still face two showdowns with rival North Carolina, the first on Wednesday.
Kentucky and Tennessee collide again on March 2 in Knoxville. That outcome and a potential meeting in the SEC Tournament could weigh heavily into both teams’ pursuit of a top seed.
The Zags need to take care of what they can control, winning their last four regular-season games and the WCC Tournament, to strengthen their resume for a No. 1 seed.
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