SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Top-ranked Gonzaga had an undefeated regular season in its sights, facing a 20-point underdog in the final game at The Kennel.
Instead of racing toward history, the Zags fell flat, losing 79-71 to Brigham Young on Saturday night. The undefeated season is history. So is Gonzaga’s No. 1 ranking, possibly its No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, too.
Now the Zags face the same question every other previously undefeated team gets asked after its first loss: Will this help them in the long run?
“I don’t know,” Gonzaga senior center Przemek Karnowski said after his final home game. “We’ll have to see what happens.”
Gonzaga (29-1, 17-1) still won their fifth straight WCC title and will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next week in Las Vegas.
But the Zags will undoubtedly drop from the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 on Monday and may get bypassed as the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, where they were in the selection committee’s preliminary rankings.
And with the loss, the usual chorus of Gonzaga-is-overrated has already begun. The Zags have wins over Arizona, Florida, Iowa State, Tennessee and Saint Mary’s twice, so it kind of falls flat, but then they’re used to it by now.
“To be 29-1 and be where we’re at?” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We’d have taken that if offered every time.”
Gonzaga opens the WCC Tournament in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Las Vegas.
The top of the AP Top 25 could see some changes after No. 2 Villanova lost at home to No. 22 Butler. The Wildcats (27-3, 14-3 Big East) will likely drop at least a spot or two in the AP Top 25, but the big question is whether they remain the top overall seed or even a No. 1 seed at all.
The defending national champions have a strong resume — they beat No. 23 Creighton on Saturday — and were the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s initial bracket. The Wildcats may not be No. 1 overall after their loss and Kansas and North Carolina both winning this week, but should still be in good position to be tops in the East without a slipup in the Big East Tournament.
JAYHAWKS NO. 1?
While the top two teams lost last week, No. 3 Kansas rolled to its 13th straight conference title, matching John Wooden’s UCLA teams for most in Division I history.
That could send the Jayhawks to No. 1 in Monday’s poll. Kansas (26-3, 14-2 Big 12) rolled over TCU and Texas last week, and has games against the two Oklahoma schools left to close out the season.
TAR HEELS ROLLING
No. 8 North Carolina has bounced back nicely from a loss to rival Duke and put itself in position for a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.
The Tar Heels (25-5, 13-3) clinched a share of the ACC title with Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh and can claim it outright with a victory over No. 18 Virginia on Monday. North Carolina is already the No. 1 seed for the ACC Tournament. Win that tournament and it should be a No. 1 seed in the bigger one later in March.
Colorado has struggled this season and will miss the NCAA Tournament unless it somehow puts together a run to win the Pac-12 Tournament. That hasn’t stopped senior Derrick White from throwing down thunderous dunks, like he did against Utah this week.
PAC-12 POWER TRIO
The Pac-12 is in position to have a No. 1 NCAA seed after Gonzaga’s loss. Which of the top three teams it will be is still up in the air.
No. 4 Arizona will fall in the rankings and No. 5 UCLA will rise after the Bruins’ win at McKale Center on Saturday. No. 6 Oregon is now tied with the Wildcats atop the Pac-12 standings with two games left, but holds the tiebreaker after routing them in Eugene earlier this month. It will be interesting, for sure.
UCLA forward TJ Leaf. Point guard Lonzo Ball gets most of the attention at UCLA and for good reason, but Leaf is having a stellar season. The 6-foot-10 forward is UCLA’s leading scorer with 16.8 points per game and grabs 8.7 rebounds. He had 12 points and seven rebounds in UCLA’s win over Arizona.
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