Gonzaga is No. 1 in AP Top 25 for 1st time
Gonzaga is No. 1 in AP Top 25 for 1st time
Sweet, but it may get bumpier from there.
Next: Avoiding the potholes that have stopped every other No. 1 this season, then finding a way to the Final Four.
“It's an honor that people would think this highly of all of us in the program,” coach Mark Few said in a prepared statement Monday afternoon. “It's great for the program, great for the school, great for the city of Spokane and the region and the entire Northwest.
“We still have a lot more to accomplish starting this weekend in Las Vegas and moving forward to the NCAA tournament,” said Few, who reportedly went fishing on Monday. “We're looking forward to the rest of the season and making it last as long as we can.”
The fact that Few would skip perhaps the biggest day in program history to go fishing says much about the priorities of the coach who helped build and has sustained Gonzaga's success. Few has repeatedly said he enjoys the balance between work and family time that Gonzaga provides, a major reason he has not left for a bigger program.
Students celebrated the No. 1 ranking on the downtown campus Monday, and the food services department wheeled out a 20-foot cake that said “Congratulations Zags.”
Staying No. 1 has been tough this season, with Gonzaga the fifth school to hold the spot after replacing Indiana this week. The others were Duke, Louisville and Michigan.
“We don't believe there is any jinx,” assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said earlier Monday. “Obviously, it's a dream for us, the ultimate accomplishment.”
Gonzaga, a small Jesuit school in Spokane, is where crooner Bing Crosby went and where John Stockton threaded pinpoint passes. It has the best record in Division I at 29-2 following weekend wins against BYU and Portland. The Hoosiers, beaten by Minnesota last week, dropped to No. 2.
“We're not necessarily in pursuit of a ranking,” Lloyd said. “We're trying to get to the NCAA tournament. When that's over, as coaches we can look back and realize what an accomplishment it is and how difficult it is.”
The Zags are the 57th school to be ranked No. 1 since the AP poll began in January 1949. The school is considered a mid-major and reached No. 2 for the first time last week. Now it will play for the first time at No. 1 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference semifinals.
The school received 51 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel, 44 more than Indiana. Duke, winners over Miami after a loss to Virginia, remained third with five first-place votes.
Kansas and Georgetown both jumped two spots to fourth and fifth. The Hoyas received the other two first-place votes. Miami, Michigan, Louisville, Kansas State and Michigan State rounded out the top 10. Virginia Commonwealth and UCLA, both ranked earlier in the season, returned to the poll at 21st and 23rd, respectively.
Gonzaga's rise to the top comes 14 years after the school burst onto the national scene with a surprise run to the final eight of the NCAA tournament. Since then, Few has guided the Zags to 12 conference titles, 13 trips to the tournament and four trips to the round of 16.
Along the way, Gonzaga has produced a slew of NBA players, including Dan Dickau, Adam Morrison, Ronny Turiaf, Austin Daye, Robert Sacre and Jeremy Pargo. The team features players from Canada, France, Germany and Poland along with Stockton's son, David.
Kelly Olynyk, the 7-foot Canadian center, leads the team in scoring at nearly 18 points a game and averages seven rebounds. He calls the No. 1 ranking a “great milestone.”
“We have a special team this year,” he said. “It shows that college basketball in the rest of the country has a lot of respect for us.”
Olynyk never dreamed that he would be playing for the No. 1 team in the nation when he chose Gonzaga over other offers.
“It never even crossed my mind,” he said.
Spokane is a city of 200,000 near the Idaho and Canadian borders. The Lilac City is a blue-collar town, far from the high-tech wealth of the Seattle area. But basketball is one place where the state's second-largest city outshines Seattle. Gonzaga, in fact, is the first team from the state of Washington to be ranked No. 1.
At the time of Gonzaga's run to the final eight, the school had fewer than 5,000 students and was struggling with enrollment and budget issues.
Today, enrollment is at 7,800 and new buildings are popping up on campus all the time. The 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened in 2004, has been sold out for all but one game. The Zags have rewarded their fans with a 120-8 home record there.
LeBron’s 35 help Cavs beat Celtics 87-79, reach NBA Finals
- In the first close game of the series — and the lowest-scoring — James played all 48 minutes and had 12 of his points in the fourth quarter for his sixth straight Game 7 win.
- The NBA Finals begin Thursday at either Houston or Golden State.
BOSTON: With another Game 7 victory at stake, LeBron James would not miss. He would not sit out. And he would not be denied an eighth straight trip to the NBA Finals.
The four-time league MVP scored 35 points with 15 rebounds and nine assists on Sunday night, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 87-79 win over the Celtics and eliminating Boston from the Eastern Conference finals in the decisive seventh game.
In the first close game of the series — and the lowest-scoring — James played all 48 minutes and had 12 of his points in the fourth quarter for his sixth straight Game 7 win.
The NBA Finals begin Thursday at either Houston or Golden State. The Rockets host the seventh game of the West finals on Monday night.
Jayson Tatum scored 24 for Boston, which was looking to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Al Horford scored 17 points and Marcus Morris added 14 with 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who led 72-71 with six minutes remaining before the Cavaliers scored 15 of the next 17 points to pull away.
James and Horford embraced after the buzzer, then the Cavaliers donned NBA Finals hats and Eastern conference championship shirts before shuffling off the court to receive their trophy.
It’s not the one they want.
James had to do it without Kevin Love — Cleveland’s only other all-star — who sustained a concussion in Game 6 and was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Green. Making his first start since the first-round opener against Indiana, Green scored 19 points and added eight rebounds — the star of James’ starless supporting cast.
The Celtics have had more time to get used to their injuries: Gordon Hayward has been out since the first game of the season, and Kyrie Irving has been sidelined since March. With the rookie Tatum and second-year Jaylen Brown, Boston established itself as the team of the future in the East.
But the present still belongs to James.
And, for now, that means Cleveland, too.
Cavaliers: Shot just 2 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half. They made three of their first 22 shots before James and Green connected on back-to-back attempts midway through the third quarter.
Celtics: Paul Pierce, whose number was retired by the Celtics this season, cheered the team on from courtside. ... Rapper 21 Savage was also at the game. ... Boston was 7 for 39 from 3-point range, with Terry Rozier missing all 10 of his attempts.