Gonzaga’s slow climb up the AP men’s college basketball rankings took another step forward Monday.
After a three-week stay at fourth, the Zags moved to third following two more decisive wins and Virginia’s second loss to Duke in three weeks.
The Blue Devils weren’t able to dislodge Tennessee from the top spot but they did cut into the Volunteers’ lead. Tennessee received 40 first-place votes, down from 48, while the Blue Devils earned 24, doubling last week’s total.
Gonzaga spent a couple weeks at No. 1 after defeating Duke to win the Maui Invitational, but slipped to No. 8 in mid December after falling to Tennessee and North Carolina. The Zags have responded with a 14-game winning streak, promting a steady rise in the poll.
The more important numbers pertaining to the post-season picture are Gonzaga’s standing at No. 1 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ratings and landing the top seed in the West Region when the NCAA released its initial bracket projections Saturday morning.
Duke, Tennessee and Virginia joined Gonzaga as top seeds with the Blue Devils the overall No. 1 seed, according to the selection committee.
The Zags have a 51-point edge over fourth-ranked Virginia. Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Houston and Marquette completed the top 10.
Washington nearly cracked the top 25 last week but slipped to fourth in the receiving votes category with 17 points. The Huskies defeated Arizona but suffered their first Pac-12 loss to Arizona State.