Gonzaga was No. 1 in the AP preseason rankings and ended up in the same spot in the final poll of the season.
The Zags, who enter the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed, had three different stints at No. 1 this season, including the last five weeks. Kentucky, in 2012, was the last team to win the national championship after being No. 1 in the final poll.
The top four in the AP poll mirrors the No. 1 seed line in the tournament bracket with Gonzaga followed by No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Baylor. Those four, in order, are the first four on the selection committee’s 1-68 seed list.
Gonzaga’s lead over Arizona, coached by former Zags assistant Tommy Lloyd, slipped from 79 points to 48. The Zags (26-3) earned 54 first-place votes and the Wildcats (31-3) had seven.
The Zags went wire-to-wire at No. 1 in last season’s AP poll, which releases its final poll annually before March Madness.
Gonzaga opens against 16th-seeded Georgia State in the West Region on Thursday in Portland. The winner faces the winner of the No. 8 Boise State and No. 9 Memphis matchup. The Broncos, coached by former Zags assistant Leon Rice, are ranked No. 23, highest in program history. Memphis is in the receiving votes category with 18 points.
Rice was an assistant under Gonzaga coach Mark Few for 11 years before taking over at Boise State in 2010. He learned BSU’s seeding and potential second-round matchup via computer Sunday at a Krispy Kreme Donuts shop at the Las Vegas Airport while the team was waiting for a flight home after winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Saturday.
“It’s a fool’s errand to look down the road,” Few said. “There’s so many good teams, so many good players now and with the COVID rules a lot of these teams have these older six-year guys that we faced throughout this whole season. That’s really raised the level of play up.
“We just finished a two-game (West Coast Conference) tournament and that’s what this is: a two-game tournament. You don’t win the first one, you don’t get the second one.”
Saint Mary’s, which lost to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament championship game Tuesday, is ranked No. 18 in the AP poll. The Gaels are seeded fifth, the highest seed in school history. San Francisco, a 10 seed, received two points in the poll.
Gonzaga posted nonconference wins over No. 11 UCLA, No. 12 Texas Tech and No. 25 Texas. The Zags lost to No. 9 Duke, which is seeded second in the West, and Alabama, No. 6 in the West.
Tennessee moved up to No. 5, followed by Villanova, Kentucky, Auburn, Duke and Purdue.
Gonzaga received 31 of 32 first-place votes in the USA Today poll. Arizona was second, followed by Kansas, Baylor and Villanova.
The top 10 in the NET rankings: Gonzaga, Arizona, Houston, Baylor, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Villanova, Texas Tech and UCLA. Saint Mary’s is No. 19 and USF No. 22. Georgia State is No. 159, Boise State No. 29 and Memphis No. 33.
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