Thanks to Indiana’s loss last week to Minnesota, the Gonzaga Bulldogs took over the top spot in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll with their 29-2 record. Their ascent has come from wins over top teams including No. 9 Kansas State, No. 13 Oklahoma State as well as Clemson, Oklahoma, Baylor, Washington State and West Virginia.
Their two losses occurred versus Illinois and Butler but the Bulldogs remain undefeated in the conference.
This No. 1 ranking represents a first for the school and the first for a team in the state of Washington.
The small school from Spokane, Wash. grabbed 51 first-place votes; this surpassed Indiana’s seven first-place nods.
For this volatile hoops season, Gonzaga is now the fifth team to have the No. 1 spot. Just last week, the team reached No. 2 for the first time.
Indiana entered the preseason at No. 1 and had been the top team for nine additional weeks. Duke took its turn for five weeks while Louisville and Michigan each had the distinction for only one week in the season.
So now that they’ve reached the top, does that mean bumpy roads ahead? Assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said via ESPN, ”We don’t believe there is any jinx. Obviously, it’s a dream for us, the ultimate accomplishment.”
He added, “We’re not necessarily in pursuit of a ranking. We’re trying to get to the NCAA tournament. When that’s over, as coaches we can look back and realize what an accomplishment it is and how difficult it is.”
For many, Gonzaga was an unfamiliar name until 14 years ago when they made it to the Elite Eight for the NCAA tournament but UConn ended the run with a 67-62 win. Under coach Mark Few, who’s been at the helm since 1999, the Zags have grabbed 12 West Coast Conference titles with 13 visits to the Big Dance, including four Sweet 16s.
The school has produced some NBA players with John Stockton at the top of the list. Other names include Dan Dickau, Adam Morrison, Ronny Turiaf, Austin Daye, Robert Sacre and Jeremy Pargo.
And just as a matter of trivia, Stockton’s son David is a member of this year’s team.
Gonzaga’s leading scorer is the redshirt junior Canadian Kelly Olynyk. Yep, he’s the guy with the long hair.
And if you think he’s going to cut his hair anytime soon, it’s not going to happen. C’mon, you know athletes are superstitious?
Teammate Elias Harris of Olynyk’s hair via USA Today,” ”I would say he needs to cut that, he needs to get rid of that, but it’s working for him,” Gonzaga forward Elias Harris said, laughing. “I’m not really superstitious, but in this case, he should leave it. Don’t cut it.”
He averages 17.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game; he is a favorite for this year’s Naismith Award.
As the team keeps its eye on the prize, it finished the regular season and will play in the West Coast Conference this weekend.
At this point, it’s one game at a time.