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Zags reap Maui benefits: ranked 16th in coaches, 17th in AP

I think we all knew that Gonzaga would be ranked this week after winning the Maui Invitational but when the polls were released just a few moments ago, I must admit the results made me look twice.  The Zags came into the season unranked but it only took a few weeks for them to make a big impact on the nation.  The benefits of playing three big conference opponents on the ESPN family of networks has obviously paid off as Gonzaga is now ranked 16th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 17th in the Associated Press poll.  Mark Few's club now finds itself sitting pretty heading into December with two huge games coming up in the comfy confines of the McCarthey Athletic Center. 

Washington State will be the first team to get a shot at the newly ranked Zags and this will be a game that many people have their eyes on.  Washington State has also made a nice showing for itself to start the season after running through the Great Alaska Shootout with relative ease.  A dominant victory over San Diego gave the Cougars the crown in a pretty decimated Alaskan field.  Give all the credit to WSU though as everyone had penciled them and Oklahoma in the championship game before the tourney started but the Sooners lost two stunning games to the Toreros and Houston.  WSU's Klay Thompson drives the Cougar train and scored 43 points in their most recent victory over USD.  He was arguably the most impressive player in all the early season tournaments and will undoubtedly be a chore for the Zags to handle.

Wake Forest will also be making their way into the Kennel this week.  Wake is one of the few "BCS" non-conference opponents that have every agreed to play Gonzaga in the McCarthey Athletic Center so this is obviously a big deal in the city of Spokane.  Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons were upset two days ago by William and Mary at home so the marquee match up may have lost a bit of luster.  With that being said, Al-Farouq Aminu is still one of the best and most exciting young players in the game and Wake is still poised for the upset.  It will be an interesting week for Dino Gaudio's club as he doesn't have much time to come back from the stunning upset.  The Deacs take on Purdue tomorrow in the ACC/Big 10 challenge on ESPN.

Either way, this should be one of the most exciting weeks in the history of the program.  With two major opponents making their way into the MAC, you can bet that their will be a couple of "Tent Cities" set up outside the gym.

A few other rankings of note: for their outstanding effort in Maui, Cincinnati is now ranked 22 in the AP and 24 in the Coaches.  Also, Gonzaga is not the only WCC team ranked in the AP Poll.  The Portland Pilots have also checked into the AP Poll at #25.  Preseason non-BCS media darling Butler, now saddled with two losses, is now 23rd in the AP and 20th in the Coaches.