First Ever Top Ranking For Gonzaga
Gonzaga University may not be a household name, but its relative obscurity has been fading in recent years. Large credit for this can be given to its men’s basketball team, a program that has put this 7,700-student Washington university on the map. Despite its small size, the Spokane university plays Division I basketball and that program is now the top-rated one in the country, just the third time that a non-Big Six team has taken over the top spot.
Gonzaga’s ascendancy came about as the previous No. 1 team, Indiana, lost. The Hoosiers fell on the road to Minnesota before knocking off Iowa on Saturday. The Bulldogs took over the top spot by beating a scrappy BYU team on the road before routing Portland at home to conclude its regular season at 29-2. Gonzaga begins its post-season play on Saturday evening with a semifinal spot in the West Coast Conference tournament. Thus, it will take the Bulldogs just two wins to pull down the WCC championship and a likely top seeding in its region.
Although garnering 51 first-place votes, there was no unanimity for choosing the top team this go around. Indiana still managed to hold onto seven of the first place votes while Duke pulled in five and Georgetown secured two votes. On Monday popular sport message boards were lit up with comments about the latest poll, with some fans clearly resenting Gonzaga’s rise. Others affirmed the Zags’ position and have praised the team for its resiliency. The Bulldogs are also the first West Coast Conference team to win the regular season title undefeated.
Indiana fell to No. 2 in the latest poll while Duke continued to hold onto the third spot. Michigan slipped three notches as it lost to previously winless (Big Ten) Penn State before knocking off Michigan State. Kansas is now in the fourth spot followed by Georgetown and Miami. Michigan, Louisville, Kansas State and Michigan State round out the top ten.
Gonzaga has made some noise down through the years with two personalities — one a singer, the other a basketball player — drawing attention to the school. Bing Crosby graduated from Gonzaga High School and then enrolled in Gonzaga University intent on becoming a lawyer. While at the university he became a show business celebrity and dropped out of Gonzaga in his final year.
John Stockton is another name associated with Gonzaga and should be credited with raising the visibility of its basketball program. The Hall-of-famer went on to have an illustrious career with the Utah Jazz, and still holds the NBA record for most assists and steals.
To The Wire
With 68 teams in the NCAA men’s tournament, 31 will go to conference winners. That leaves 37 at-large spots and there are some 50 to 60 teams that can qualify here. That means there are a lot of teams on the bubble. One of those teams is Kentucky, last year’s national champion, and despite its second-place SEC position it needs to win at least one more game to ensure a return to the Big Dance.
See Also — Who Let Wichita State In?