The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been taking care of business in the West Coast Conference, and methodically working their way up the rankings. This week, they finally crack the top five, moving up one spot t0 No. 5 after blowout wins last week against the Pepperdine Waves and Loyola Marymount Lions. But after four teams ranked ahead of them last week lost, the Zags deserve to be higher than fifth.
Last week, four of the top five teams in college basketball suffered losses. The No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers fell 74-72 to the unranked Illinois Fighting Illini, the No. 2 Florida Gators fell to the unranked Arkansas Razorbacks 80-69, the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines came up short in overtime 65-62 against the unranked Wisconsin Badgers, and the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks went on a losing streak, falling to unranked foes like the TCU Horned Frogs and Oklahoma Sooners.
Yet, despite four teams ahead of them losing a combined five games against unranked opponents, Gonzaga can’t get more than a one-spot bump? There’s no argument to them being behind Indiana, who bounced back with a convincing win over the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes to hold onto their top spot in the rankings, and the Duke Blue Devils, who were ranked No. 4 last week and ended up being the only top five team to avoid a loss.
But the other two teams ahead of Gonzaga are harder to justify. The Miami Hurricanes benefited the most from the struggles at the top of the rankings last week, jumping all the way from No. 8 last week to No. 3 this week, grabbing 17 first place votes and leap-frogging the Bulldogs in the process. While the Canes certainly handled their business well last week, extending their current winning streak to 11 games, do wins over a pair of unranked teams on the slide in the Boston College Eagles and North Carolina Tarheels warrant such a jump?
Michigan, meanwhile, fell one spot to No. 4, which is probably right where they should be. They played a pair of tight overtime games, winning one against Ohio State before falling to the Badgers in Madison. The issue isn’t with where the Wolverines are at, it’s how they could stay so far ahead of Gonzaga despite the Zags’ strong showing last week.
The Bulldogs’ strong play and legitimacy as a top-line team in college basketball should have warranted them more respect in the latest AP poll than they got. While it’s great for the team to crack the top five with their highest ranking since December 2008, they should have breezed into it, possibly getting as high as No. 3, instead of just by the skin of their teeth.