Gonzaga remained atop the AP college basketball rankings, but red-hot Baylor is right on the Bulldogs’ heels.
Gonzaga (18-1) thumped two WCC opponents last week and still lost most of its lead over its closest pursuer. Baylor (13-1), after impressive road wins against then-No. 22 Texas Tech and then-No. 3 Kansas, climbed from fourth to second.
Duke slipped one spot to third. Auburn, Butler, Kansas, San Diego State, Oregon, Florida State and Kentucky rounded out the top 10.
The Zags were 62 points ahead of the Blue Devils and 221 in front of Baylor in last week’s poll. The Bears now trail by just 11 points and received more first-place votes (31) than Gonzaga (30). Duke received four first-place votes.
With the exception of No. 8 Oregon (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12), the Zags haven’t been getting much help from teams that account for their biggest wins. Washington dropped out of the top 25 weeks ago. The Huskies (11-6, 1-3 Pac-12) are tied with Washington State at the bottom of the conference standings. Arizona (11-5, 1-2) fell out of the poll after an 0-2 week against the Oregon schools.
North Carolina (8-8, 1-4 ACC) has dropped three straight, including its first home loss ever to Clemson.
Baylor’s win over the Jayhawks was its first in Lawrence in 18 attempts and the program’s first road win over a top-five opponent. The Bears boast wins over Villanova, Arizona and current No. 5 Butler.
Washington handed Baylor its lone loss in the second game of the season on a neutral floor in Anchorage. The Zags defeated UW 83-76 in Seattle.
“You could make a case for any of the top three at No. 1 – Gonzaga based on being there already, Duke based on the best Kenpom/NET combo or Baylor based on quality wins, but as I’ve always said I try to honor the consensus and Gonzaga certainly has done nothing to warrant getting leapfrogged,” wrote AP voter Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press.
Duke is No. 1 in Kenpom, Baylor No. 3 and Gonzaga No. 8.
Gonzaga returns home to face Santa Clara (15-3, 2-1 WCC) on Thursday and BYU (13-5, 2-1) on Saturday. Baylor entertains Iowa State on Wednesday and visits Oklahoma State on Saturday. Duke visits Clemson on Tuesday and entertains No. 11 Louisville on Saturday.
ESPN’s latest bracketology came out Friday, prior to Baylor’s victory over Kansas. Gonzaga remains the No. 1 seed in the West, projected to face Princeton. Baylor was seeded second in the East.
The Zags remained seventh in the NCAA’s NET rankings. Baylor took over the top spot, followed by Butler, Duke, San Diego State, Kansas and Auburn. San Diego State was No. 1 last Monday.
Four WCC teams join Gonzaga in the NET top 100: No. 32 BYU, No. 44 Saint Mary’s, No. 75 Santa Clara and No. 97 San Francisco. The 10-team Big 12 has Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia in the top 10, six others in the top 71 and Kansas State at 101. Twelve of the 15 ACC teams are in the top 100.
Texas A&M was No. 281 when the initial NET rankings were released on Dec. 16, but the Aggies (8-6) have climbed to No. 118. GU pounded the Aggies 79-49 in College Station.
Gonzaga held on to No. 1 in the USA Today poll with the surging Bears moving into the second spot. The Zags received 18 of 32 first-place votes and 775 points. Baylor earned 10 first-place votes and 764 points. No. 3 Duke had six first-place votes and 757 points.
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