After a 2-0 week, the home loss to Wake Forest has pretty much been erased from memory as Gonzaga has entered the top 15 for the first time this season. The ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll was also just released and Gonzaga is tied with Georgia Tech for the 15th spot in the nation. Thanks to a plethora of subpar performances from a handful of top 25 teams, Gonzaga has risen six spots from their 21st ranking a week ago. All five schools directly ahead of the Zags in last weeks AP Poll (Wisconsin, Cincy, Washington, Texas A&M, and UNLV) all lost this week and Ohio State also fell to Butler. So just in case you were curious how that happened, there you go!
Heading into the week I think it is pretty safe to say that we didn't expect wins over division three Augustana and a two-win Davidson team to net Gonzaga six spots but with all the mediocrity in college basketball this season, anything is possible.
Keeping an eye on Gonzaga's future schedule, there is still only one ranked team remaining this point and that is the Duke Blue Devils. Duke has improved to #7 in the nation in both polls after Villanova was upset by Temple. Expect Gonzaga's schedule strength to improve a bit as Memphis is 26th in the nation according to the AP and Illinois is also receiving votes. I expected St. Mary's to get some votes this week from the AP but that did not happen. The loss of Wayne Hunter makes them much more vulnerable. The Gaels' versatile guard suffered a season ending knee injury this past week.
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In the Coaches Poll, St. Mary's is receiving 17 votes but Memphis is still struggling to get recognition. They are only receiving 21 votes from the Coaches this week with their only loss being by two points to Kansas. Josh Pastner did a nice job at softening the Tigers' schedule with all the turmoil and that probably explains why they have yet to be ranked. The Gaels of St. Mary's have played a tougher schedule than Memphis but are getting less recognition.
The Pac-10 continues its free fall this week with Washington barely hanging on in the AP. They are somehow 21st in the Coaches Poll but 24th in the AP. Cal is receiving a couple votes in the Coaches Poll but other than that, the Pac-10 is downright woeful. I do expect Mike Montgomery to get the Golden Bears together in time to dominate the Pac-10 season schedule but Washington has a couple of big tests before they hit easy street with the conference slate. On Saturday they have Portland and then that following Tuesday they have Texas A&M. Both games will be played at home but, much like Gonzaga, the next couple weeks are of great importance for UW.
Assuming Duke takes care of Gardner-Webb, the game in Madison Square Garden has become very important for the Zags' tournament resume. Wins over Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Washington State look pretty good but a win over a top ten Duke team would take this team to another level. The West Coast Conference has really come back to Earth and will probably only be a two-bid league at best. Memphis should be ranked when the two teams meet but aside from that, Saturday is the day when the Zags must show they are for real.
The moral of this story: Gonzaga is the best in the West!