Gonzaga and UCLA continued their hold on the top two spots in The Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll on Monday, setting the stage for their highly anticipated showdown this week, while Purdue and Duke barged their way into the top five.
The Bulldogs (4-0) had an easy week with wins over Alcorn State and Bellarmine and received 55 first-place votes from the 61-person medial panel that regularly covers college basketball. The Bruins (4-0) received five first-place votes after blowing out Long Beach State and North Florida last week to head to Las Vegas with some momentum.
Gonzaga played Central Michigan and UCLA faced Bellarmine on Monday night in the Good Sam Empire Classic. Then, the nation's top two teams will square off Tuesday night in a Final Four rematch of a game won by the Bulldogs in overtime.
“It's important for everybody if you want to make the NCAA Tournament,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “If you want to accrue a high seed, you have to play really, really good teams. I think it's important for college basketball.”
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Purdue received the only other first-place vote and leapfrogged Kansas into third in the Top 25 following the Boilermakers' win over then-No. 5 Villanova in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament. The Jayhawks were fourth and the Blue Devils were fifth.
Defending national champion Baylor jumped to sixth after running roughshod over Central Arkansas and Stanford, while the Wildcats dropped only to seventh thanks to beating then-No. 12 Tennessee before losing to Purdue. Texas and Memphis were next, with Kentucky and Alabama in a tie for 10th in the second regular-season poll of the season.
The Wildcats and Crimson Tide were followed by Houston, Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee at No. 15.
St. Bonaventure solidified its status as this season's early mid-major darling by jumping six spots to No. 16 following wins over Clemson and Marquette. Arizona made the biggest leap into the poll at No. 17 after beating Wichita State and romping past then-No. 4 Michigan in the Roman Main Event, followed by another newcomer to the poll in BYU.
“We got good players,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I know we’ve been out of the limelight; maybe a little bit of that’s my fault because I haven’t been looking for it. But you know what? We’re here now. And we belong.”
Auburn and Michigan rounded out the top 20 with Seton Hall, UConn, Florida, USC and Xavier completing the poll.
“This is where we are as a program,” said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, whose Pirates beat the Wolverines last week for their first win over a top-five nonconference team on the road. “We can play with anybody in the country and we have done that in the last seven years.”