Gonzaga is the nation’s preseason No. 1-ranked basketball team for the first time – by the slimmest of margins.
The Zags edged Baylor to achieve another program milestone as the top dog in the preseason AP poll released Monday. Gonzaga received 28 of 64 first-place votes and 1,541 points from the media panel. Baylor had 24 first-place votes and 1,540 points in reaching its highest preseason ranking in school history. The Zags and Bears collide Dec. 5 in Indianapolis.
Gonzaga’s highest preseason ranking previously was No. 3 in 2018.
“It’s a great honor to be selected No. 1,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We understand that it is more a reflection of what our program has accomplished over the years and hope to play up to that standard as we start our season.”
Villanova, with 11 first-place votes and 1,501 points, was third followed by 2019 national champion Virginia with 1,364 points and one first-place vote.
The Zags will need to get off to a fast start to stay in the top spot. GU opens the season Nov. 26 against No. 6 Kansas and Nov. 27 versus Auburn at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida.
Kansas was No. 1 in the final AP poll last season and was projected by most as the top overall seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Auburn, which made the 2019 Final Four and is 81-24 the last three seasons, received eight points.
GU also has games lined up against No. 5 Iowa (Dec. 19 in South Dakota) and No. 12 Tennessee. The latter matchup is expected to be Dec. 5 in Indianapolis.
Iowa features center Luka Garza, favorite for national player of the year honors, and seven returners with starting experience. Tennessee, coming off a 17-14 season, returns forwards John Fulkerson and Yves Pons and added Sacred Heart grad transfer forward E.J. Anosike and five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer.
No. 6 Kansas is followed by Wisconsin, Illinois, Duke and Kentucky to round out the top 10. No. 18 Arizona State is the highest rated Pac-12 team.
BYU, a projected top-five seed in last year’s tournament, received four points.
Gonzaga isn’t a newcomer to the No. 1 ranking. Counting the preseason poll, GU has held the top spot in five of the last nine seasons.
The Zags, No. 8 in last year’s preseason poll, spent four weeks at No. 1 before finishing No. 2. GU had two stints at No. 1 in 2019, climbing to the top after defeating Duke to win the Maui Invitational and returning to No. 1 late in the regular season.
Gonzaga first reached No. 1 late in the 2013 regular season.
The Zags moved to No. 1 after a 22-0 start in 2017. They eventually lost to North Carolina in the national championship game.
GU has been ranked in the preseason AP poll 11 consecutive seasons and it’s the 20th straight season they’ve been in the rankings at some point. The Zags are in the preseason top 10 for the seventh time.
The USA Today rankings, voted on by coaches, are typically released a few days after the preseason AP poll.
The Zags will hold Numerica Kraziness in the Kennel at 8 p.m. Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Fans won’t be allowed to attend, but the event will be televised on KHQ and ROOT Sports.
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