SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga’s men’s basketball program attained a milestone Monday when it was voted No. 1 in the nation in the weekly Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters.
The Zags, 29-2 and winners of 12 straight, rose from second in both the AP and USA Today coaches polls. They had also been ranked No. 2 by the coaches late in the 2003-04 season.
Gonzaga received 51 of 65 first-place votes. Indiana, which received seven first-place votes, was No. 2. Duke got three first-place votes and was third. Kansas was fourth and Georgetown, which received the two other first-place votes, was fifth.
Gonzaga took over the top spot after a week of attrition by the rest of the AP top five. No. 1-ranked Indiana lost at Minnesota and third-ranked Duke fell at Virginia. Fourth-ranked Michigan was upset at Penn State, and No. 5 Miami lost at Duke on Saturday.
The victory by Duke over Miami loomed as a possible threat to Gonzaga rising to the top, as Blue Devils forward Ryan Kelly returned from a foot injury after being out since January and scored 36 points. Duke is unbeaten when Kelly is in the lineup, and there was some sentiment that his return, coupled with Duke’s tougher schedule compared with Gonzaga’s, might vault the Blue Devils to the No. 1 spot even after a week in which they lost.
Gonzaga won a hard-fought game at Brigham Young, 70-65, last week before throttling Portland 81-52 on Saturday. Afterward, coach Mark Few conceded that a vote of his team to No. 1 would be “pretty cool."
“It’s out of our control," he said. “Nobody in that (locker) room has a vote, I don’t have a vote. All we can do is do what we do. If it happens, we’re not going to take it lightly, because it’s never happened here before. It’d be an honor, and we’ll treat it as such."
Keeping the No. 1 ranking has been a challenge for those who have received it this winter. In one four-week stretch starting in January, Louisville, Duke, Michigan and Indiana held the spot.
Those four teams have shared the No. 1 spot all season. Kansas had the top spot for a week in the coaches poll.
Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference tournament that begins this week at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Zags, who went 16-0 in WCC play, have a double bye into the semifinals and play Saturday night.