The No.1 ranking is open again in college basketball. You know, the one with the ejection seat? Five have teams have already been there this season, five have lost. That includes the entire Duke-Kansas-Kentucky-Michigan State quartet from the Champions Classic, plus Louisville.
Your turn, Gonzaga.
The 13-1 Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the last AP poll, are probably the next men up. “I don’t think they should do polls until March,” coach Mark Few was saying after the Zags blew away Eastern Washington 112-77 Saturday, the same day Kansas was the latest No. 1 to fall. “It’s an effort in futility.”
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That’s saying a mouthful. If his Zags move to the top step of the rankings Monday, they’ll be the sixth different No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll this season. That’s only one off the all-time record of seven in 1982-83, and it’s not yet Christmas. That season, Houston, Indiana, Memphis, UNLV, North Carolina, UCLA and Virginia all took a turn. Conspicuous by its absence was North Carolina State – the team that ended up the national champion.
And then there was 1994, when the No. 1 ranking changed hands seven consecutive weeks. From Arkansas to North Carolina to Kansas to UCLA to Duke, then back to North Carolina and Arkansas.
Still, the theme of this season has been the turbulence at the top. No. 1 has turned into airport, with all the comings and goings. And now that Few’s team could soon plop down in the hot seat, maybe we should make sure we’re up on our Gonzaga-ese.
Here are nine things to know about Gonzaga.
- Here’s a double-double you don’t see every day. The Zags own the nation’s longest active home winning streak of 30 games. And also the longest active winning streak of true road games at 11.
- They just went through a gauntlet of road games at Washington and Arizona, and a home date with North Carolina, though maybe it wasn’t as forbidding as expected, given the Tar Heels’ woes. Still, it’s the first time Few has ever beaten three consecutive ranked opponents. Gonzaga shot 51.3 percent in that triple-header, and trailed for barely 22 of the 120 minutes.
- The Zags have six – count ‘em – six players averaging double figures in scoring. And another at 9.6.
- They own the West, lock, stock and Pac-12. The three teams ranked in the top 25 last week from the Pac-12 were Oregon, Arizona and Washington. Gonzaga has already beaten all three of them this season, and won nine games in a row against the league. The Eastern Washington thrashing made Few 41-1 against the Big Sky. Interestingly, that Saturday’s game matched the two highest scoring teams in the nation. It looked that way on one side of the scoreboard, anyway, as Gonzaga hit 64 by halftime, and 112 at the end.
- Does everyone remember that the Bulldogs’ top four scorers are gone from last season? Few never rebuilds but always reloads. That’s why his worst season in 20 years was 2007. Gonzaga finished 23-11. And it’s not being done with green kids. The Zags’ top seven includes three seniors and a junior.
- Gonzaga is 214-15 at home in McCarthey Athletic Center. Every seat has been filled since the place opened in 2004, a sellout streak of 229 games.
- Few has gone far and wide to build the new wave. Leading scorer Filip Petrusev is from Serbia. Veterans Killian Tillie and Joel Ayayi – he with the 57-to-17 assist-to-turnover ratio – are from France. Three of the top seven scorers are from Texas, including Admon Gilder, a Texas A&M graduate transfer who had to sit out last year with a blood clot in his arm. Emerging junior star Corey Kispert is a native son of Washington. He topped 20 points four times this season, including torching North Carolina for 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting. He scored 20 only twice his first two years. Ayayi has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games. He did that only once in the first 28 games of his career. That’s how Gonzaga keeps rolling.
- The Bulldogs are a stat sheet juggernaut. Second in the nation in scoring, fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio, seventh in field goal percentage. They also have shot more free throws than anyone in the country, and have made 34 more free throws then their opponents have taken.
- The No. 1 revolving door may be about to slow. Gonzaga, with its toughest non-conference games in the rearview mirror, might stay a while if it reaches No. 1. The Zags are beasts in the West Coast Conference, and their most dangerous road games – at Saint Mary’s and BYU – don’t come until February.
“It’s just one of those years,” Villanova’s Jay Wright said after his Wildcats took down Kansas Saturday. But at least at the top, peace might be at hand.