Top-ranked Gonzaga faces No. 20 Saint Mary’s in big test


By John Marshall - AP Basketball Writer



Oregon head coach Dana Altman yells to his team during the second half an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)


Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams dunks during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)


North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks, left, and Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson chase the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


The AP Top 25 has gone on a wild ride the past two weeks, with 16 losses by top-10 teams and programs bouncing around the poll like lotto balls.

Another loss by a top-10 team kicked off this week, with No. 4 Louisville losing 71-55 to No. 12 Virginia on Monday night.

No reason to think it will stop here in this parity-filled season.

Though the week is light on games between ranked teams, there will be two big ones out West and the first of two rivalry games on Tobacco Road.

The first game in the West is Thursday, when No. 5 Oregon plays at No. 10 UCLA.

The Ducks (21-3, 10-1 Pac-12) already passed one big test last week, when they turned a showdown with then-No. 5 Arizona into a laugher.

Coming off a surprising loss to unranked Colorado, Oregon raced to a 27-point first-half lead and rained 3-pointers on the Wildcats, making 16 in the 85-58 victory that extended their home winning streak to a nation-high 40 games.

That moved the Ducks into a tie atop the Pac-12 standings with Arizona, but the Bruins (21-3, 8-3) are not far behind.

UCLA rebounded from a loss to rival Southern California with lopsided wins over the two Washington schools.

That sets up a showdown between Oregon’s Dillon Brooks and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball in a game that should be one of the fastest and most entertaining of the season.

The other game in the West comes Saturday in Northern California.

That’s when top-ranked Gonzaga faces what will likely be the last test in the Zags’ bid for an undefeated regular season against No. 20 Saint Mary’s .

Gonzaga (24-0, 12-0 WCC) turned the first meeting with the Gaels into a 79-56 rout. That game was in Spokane, Washington. This one is in Moraga, California, and Saint Mary’s (21-2, 11-1) will be looking for a little revenge against its biggest rival.

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CAROLINA-DUKE

Speaking of rivalries, one of the best in all of sports resumes Thursday when No. 8 North Carolina plays at No. 18 Duke.

The Tar Heels (21-3, 9-2 ACC) had a letdown in a loss to unranked Miami on Jan. 28 but outlasted Pittsburgh and No. 20 Notre Dame last week. North Carolina also hopes to get back swingman Theo Pinson, who has missed the past three games with an ankle injury.

Duke (18-5, 6-4) seemed to be lost at times while coach Mike Krzyzewski was out for a month following back surgery. The Blue Devils beat Pittsburgh 72-64 in Coach K’s first game back and has most of its key players healthy again.

Always a must-watch game.

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BEARCATS AND PONIES

Two of the nation’s hottest teams will meet Sunday in the Lone Star State, when No. 11 Cincinnati plays at No. 25 SMU .

The Bearcats (21-2, 10-0 AAC) have won 14 straight since losing to Butler and have a half-game lead on the Mustangs.

SMU (20-4, 10-1) has won 16 of 17 and moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time this week, coming in at No. 25.

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WILDCAT WEEK

No. 2 Villanova faces a tough week.

The Wildcats (22-2, 9-2 Big East) first will host a Georgetown team in desperate need of a marquee win to help its NCAA Tournament hopes.

After that, Villanova heads to Cincinnati on Saturday to face No. 24 Xavier, which knocked off then-No. 22 Creighton on Saturday. The Muskateers may have lost dynamic point guard Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL, but still have Trevon Bluiett and still have tons of talent.

Oregon head coach Dana Altman yells to his team during the second half an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/02/web1_114932054-9ff47a30418e4b34966572375ddc2b46.jpgOregon head coach Dana Altman yells to his team during the second half an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams dunks during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/02/web1_114932054-dbf9baf0215e4a8b80f16d8f46adffb8.jpgGonzaga forward Johnathan Williams dunks during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

North Carolina’s Isaiah Hicks, left, and Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson chase the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/02/web1_114932054-531cc81faa224009b3ba6eb603439755.jpgNorth Carolina’s Isaiah Hicks, left, and Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson chase the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

By John Marshall

AP Basketball Writer