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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Close call: Gonzaga back at No. 1 in AP poll, four points ahead of No. 2 Auburn

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 17, 2022

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) reacts after dunking the ball against the Santa Clara Broncos during the Bulldogs' 115-83 victory Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Leavy Center in Santa Clara, Calif.   (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) reacts after dunking the ball against the Santa Clara Broncos during the Bulldogs' 115-83 victory Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Leavy Center in Santa Clara, Calif.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga is back where it started the season in the AP college basketball poll.

The Zags moved up to No. 1 on Monday, the spot they held for three weeks, counting the preseason rankings, earlier this season.

Gonzaga (14-2) barely held off fast-rising Auburn (16-1), which was No. 9 just two weeks ago. The Tigers, riding a 13-game winning streak, climbed two spots to No. 2 after knocking off Alabama and Mississippi.

Auburn earned more first-place votes (36) than Gonzaga (25), but the Zags’ 1,846 points edged the Tigers by four. One voter’s ballot listed Auburn at No. 9. The Tigers have never been No. 1 in the AP poll. They reached No. 2 during the 1999-2000 season.

Baylor became the first No. 1 team to lose two home games in a week. The Bears, who lost to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, slipped to No. 5 after holding the top spot for five weeks.

Arizona, coached by former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd, is No. 3 and Purdue is fourth. No. 6 Duke, Kansas, Wisconsin, UCLA and Houston rounded out the top 10.

Gonzaga lost to Alabama at the Battle in Seattle in early December. The Zags’ loss to Duke on Nov. 26 knocked GU from the top spot in the rankings.

Gonzaga is 3-2 against ranked teams. The Zags are 4-2 in Quad 1 games and 1-0 in Quad 2 after defeating BYU (Quad 1) and Santa Clara (Quad 2) last week.

Auburn’s lone setback was in double overtime to then-No. 23 Connecticut at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Auburn is 2-1 vs ranked teams, 4-1 vs. Quad 1 and 4-0 vs. Quad 2.

The small margin between Gonzaga and Auburn in the voting totals means the top spot could change hands even if both teams continue to win. Game outcomes will be the biggest factor, but media panel voters will keep an eye on style points along the way.

The Zags, No. 1 in the NET rankings, entertain No. 37 San Francisco on Thursday. The Tigers entertains No. 226 Georgia on Wednesday and No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday.

Gonzaga won’t have as many opportunities as Auburn to impress voters. The No. 5 Tigers are one of five SEC teams in the NET top 25, nine in the top 56 and 12 in the top 115. The WCC has four in the top 38 and five in the top 100 before dropping off to No. 162 Loyola Marymount.

Conference play took a toll on last week’s AP top five. In addition to Baylor’s two losses, No. 3 UCLA and No. 5 USC both lost to Oregon. The Trojans also dropped a road game to Stanford.

USC plunged to No. 16 while UCLA slipped to No. 9.

BYU earned 50 points, second behind Iowa among teams in the receiving votes category. Alabama dropped out of top 25 with 26 points.

The Big Ten and Big 12 both have five ranked teams, followed by the SEC and Big East with four.

The NET top 10 behind Gonzaga: Arizona, Villanova, Houston, Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Kansas, Purdue and Illinois. BYU is No. 26 and Saint Mary’s 37. Washington State is No. 58.

Gonzaga also returned to No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll, followed by Auburn and Arizona. The Zags had a 28-point margin over the Tigers. Gonzaga earned 23 first-place votes, Auburn eight and Arizona one.

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