And No. 1 goes down again.
Indiana lost for the third time while being ranked No. 1 this season and it is only one in a string of instances where the top team in the land has fallen.
The only reason this is relevant in the WCC world is, well, Gonzaga is No. 2. The Bulldogs came into the week ranked No. 2 in the nation in the AP poll, the highest in the school’s history, and were the only team outside of Indiana to receive a first place vote.
Indiana’s loss at unranked Minnesota on Monday, paired with No. 4 Michigan’s loss to last-place Penn State, has nearly assured Gonzaga will be ranked No. 1 in next week’s poll.
Although, this idea has struck a nerve across message boards and social media about whether the Bulldogs are worthy of being No. 1.
Many people point to Gonzaga’s schedule in the West Coast Conference. No ranked teams. Only one team in the RPI Top 50 and only three in the RPI Top 100. Gonzaga’s one game against a ranked team in 2013 ended in a one-point loss at Butler.
That argument might work against your average mid-major program but Gonzaga should not fall into that.
Here is the thing. Gonzaga isn’t just beating teams in the WCC. They are crushing teams. In their last eight games, they have won by an average of 24 points and this includes a 17-point win at Saint Mary’s.
This also includes a 43-point win against conference foe Santa Clara (a RPI Top 100 team) where they held the Broncos to 42 points, the lowest in the history of the series.
Not only that, the Bulldogs resume is littered with Top 50 and Top 100 wins. They have wins over Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas State, Davidson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Saint Mary’s (twice), and BYU.
All of these teams have been NCAA Tournament teams in recent years and many of them should again be dancing this year.
They are 10-2 against the RPI Top 100. The only two losses are to two teams who should also be dancing (Illinois, Butler). Not only that, they do have a legitimate candidate for the National Player of the Year in Kelly Olynyk. This is not saying he will win it but his name is in the conversation.
Do I believe Gonzaga is the best team in college basketball? No, but one any given night, Gonzaga could beat anyone in the country.
This is as complete a team as Gonzaga has had under Mark Few. They can shoot from everywhere. They are tough. They are big. The defense has been stellar of late.
They will likely be No. 1 next week. They deserve to be in this conversation and if they do it will be just one more feather in the cap for a Gonzaga program that has been the model for the mid-major over the last 15 years.