Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Gonzaga Possibly on the Verge of Second No. 1 Ranking
By JOHN MARSHALL
The week in college basketball started with three of the top four teams in The AP Top 25 losing by Wednesday. The hits to ranked teams kept coming, leading to what’s sure to be a major upheaval in Monday’s poll.
Through all the chaos, one team stayed steady: No. 3 Gonzaga.
After rolling through a pair of blowouts this week, the Bulldogs remain the only undefeated team in Division I and are poised to move to No. 1 for the second time in program history.
“I feel like we’re doing our jobs right now, playing really well as a team,” Gonzaga forward Zach Collins said. “If that means we’re No. 1, then we’re No. 1. That’s not what we’re worried about right now.”
Gonzaga (22-0, 10-0 WCC) has a strong resume with wins over Florida, Arizona and Saint Mary’s. The Bulldogs cruised through their two games this week, beating Portland 83-64 and Pepperdine 96-49.
No. 1 Villanova , No. 2 Kansas and No. 4 Kentucky all lost, so it may be hard for voters not to move Gonzaga to the top of Monday’s poll for the first time since 2013.
“We’ve done it before,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “You have to understand the only poll we want to be No. 1 at is the one at the end of the year. These things just kind of track who’s winning and who’s losing. I will say as we get deeper into the season, the polls get more accurate because everybody begins to get a feel for everyone’s schedule.”
Gonzaga plays at BYU and hosts Santa Clara this week.
Last week was one of the wilder ones for top-25 teams.
It started with North Carolina State knocking off No. 17 Duke on Monday. On Tuesday, three of the top four teams went down for the first time in five years: No. 1 Villanova to unranked Marquette, No. 2 Kansas to No. 18 West Virginia and No. 4 Kentucky to unranked Tennessee.
The losses continued to mount for ranked teams as the week continued, with Gonzaga, No. 5 Baylor and No. 7 Arizona the only top-10 teams to make it through unscathed.
In all, 14 teams in the AP Top 25 lost, including Kentucky, No. 6 Florida State and No. 14 Notre Dame twice each. Villanova needed a buzzer-beating tip-in against No. 12 Virginia to avoid joining the two-loss group.
Usually this space is reserved for dunks and nifty passes. This week it’s Roy Williams vs. a chair.
Unhappy with his team during a loss to Miami, the North Carolina coach took out his frustrations on a chair in front of the Tar Heels’ bench.
Kentucky could be looking at a precipitous fall in Monday’s poll.
The Wildcats (17-4, 7-1 SEC) opened with an 82-80 road loss to Tennessee and followed with a 79-73 setback against No. 2 Kansas on Saturday for their second loss at Rupp Arena this season.
It’s the first time since the 2008-2009 season Kentucky has suffered two non-conference home losses and a rare two-game losing streak for the Wildcats.
“They stink. How about that?” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of the two losses. “One was on the road and one is home. We don’t normally lose here, but Kansas, you got to give them credit. They came in here and (made) all the plays they had to make in the second half, even when we made a run to make it close again. They were effort plays, too.”
FRESHMAN SPOTLIGHTLauri Markkanen, Arizona. The 7-foot Finnish center doesn’t often get the recognition some of the more high-profile freshmen get, but he is certainly among the best. A big man with guard-like skills, Markkanen is a nightmare match-up for opposing teams, able to shoot from the perimeter or take it to the basket. He leads the Wildcats with 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, shoots 52 percent from the floor and 51 percent from 3-point range.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.