The Gonzaga men's basketball team is No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll for the first time in program history. The Zags (29-2) also top the USA Today coaches poll
SPOKANE — Gonzaga has gone where no Zags have gone before.
The Zags reached No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll Monday for the first time in program history. Gonzaga received 51 first-place votes and 1,607 points to outdistance second-ranked Indiana (seven first-place votes, 1,517 points).
The Zags (29-2) are also No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll, with 29 first-place votes from a possible 31
Gonzaga was No. 2 last week, at the time the school’s highest AP ranking.
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Indiana, last week’s No. 1, dropped after losing to Minnesota and defeating Iowa. Duke stayed at No. 3 after a 1-1 week.
“It’s a good feeling knowing people respect you and respect your game and what we’ve done so far,” said 7-foot junior forward Kelly Olynyk, when asked after Saturday’s 81-52 victory over Portland about the possibility of being No. 1. “It’s not the end-all. We still have to come out and play.
“It’s nothing but a number. It’s a great number to have beside your name, but it’s nothing but a number. We still have to play like we can and take this as far as we can.”
Gonzaga, which was No. 21 in the AP preseason poll, is the fifth different team to be ranked No. 1 this season. Indiana and Duke each had two turns at the top. Louisville and Michigan had one-week stays at No. 1 in January.
Gonzaga is the 57th school to be ranked No. 1 since the AP poll began in January 1949.
“It’s a great honor,” Zags senior forward Elias Harris said. “It’s way harder for us as a so-called midmajor and a conference that everybody thinks is weaker, but we’ve worked hard every day to be in this position. It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep playing the way we are.”
The Zags have won 12 straight games, avoiding a wave of upsets involving top-10 teams in recent weeks. Gonzaga is the top seed in the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas. The Zags have a double bye into Saturday’s semifinals.
“It’s awesome and very cool to be recognized like that,” senior guard Mike Hart said. “I’ll look back on that once my career is over and think that’s pretty cool we were number one in the nation. But we have so much more in front of us that we want to do and that (ranking) has no bearing on our next game.”
Top 10 games
At No. 4 Kansas 79, Texas Tech 42
Jeff Withey scored 22 points and the seniors had big nights at their last home game, leading the Jayhawks (26-4 overall, 14-3 Big 12 Conference) past the Raiders (10-18, 3-14).
Kevin Young scored 14 points and Ben McLemore and Travis Releford added 13 apiece as Kansas took a half-game lead over No. 9 Kansas State in its quest for a ninth straight conference title.
Withey, Young and Releford are seniors. Jayhawks senior Elijah Johnson had 12 assists.
At No. 8 Louisville 67, Cincinnati 51
Russ Smith scored 18 points to help the Cardinals (25-5, 13-4 Big East) beat the Bearcats (20-10, 8-9), improving Rick Pitino’s record as Louisville’s coach to 300-111. Pitino has 654 victories as a college coach.
Cardinals guard Peyton Siva, a graduate of Franklin High School in Seattle, contributed 11 points and a team-high four assists.
“Everybody’s playing great right now,” Siva said. “This is like Louisville every year. Coach P gets us going like this every year.”