I’ve been ranking college basketball teams for more than 15 years, and one thing I decided a long time ago is that I would not drop a school from No. 1 unless that school loses. I’ve literally only made an exception to the rule once — specifically after Duke beat Kentucky, 118-84, in the opener two seasons ago. Even then, I was conflicted about it. But I ultimately decided it just would’ve been silly to wake up the morning after that destruction and have anybody but Zion Williamson’s Blue Devils atop the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1. So I dropped undefeated Kansas from No. 1 to No. 2, and moved Duke directly to the top.
I bring this up because, nearly every day now, somebody asks if I’ll ever move Baylor ahead of Gonzaga. It’s a totally reasonable question — especially after the Bears improved to 17-0 via Tuesday night’s 83-69 victory at Texas. But my official answer is this: No, I will not move Baylor ahead of Gonzaga unless, of course, the Zags lose before the Bears. In other words, as long as Gonzaga keeps a zero in the loss column, Gonzaga will hold the top spot in the Top 25 And 1.
It’s not a slight of Baylor.
The Bears are undeniably awesome. They’re 6-0 in Quadrant 1, 2-0 in Quadrant 2, 3-0 in Quadrant 3 and 6-0 in Quadrant 4. They’ve won 15 of their 17 games by double-digits. They’ve won every game by at least eight points. They’re No. 3 in offensive efficiency. They’re No. 3 in defensive efficiency. They’re shooting a nation’s best 43.9% from 3-point range. They’re now No. 1 in the NET, KenPom and BPI.
Trust me, I know all the numbers.
It’s easy to make a case for Baylor to be No. 1.
It’s just that, from my perspective, dropping Gonzaga from No. 1 would be to punish the Zags for their league affiliation — and I don’t want to do that. It’s not their fault that the West Coast Conference doesn’t offer as many challenges as the Big 12. All they can do is schedule aggressively outside of the conference and then play the teams placed in front of them once league games start. And that’s precisely what they’ve done. They started 7-0 with double-digit victories over Iowa, Virginia and Kansas. Now they’re 17-0 thanks to an 8-0 league mark that features eight double-digit wins. They’ve won their conference games by an average of 25.4 points. So it’s not like Gonzaga hasn’t proven itself against the best and killed everybody else. Gonzaga just hasn’t had the same number of opportunities as Baylor recently to add signature wins. As a result, Baylor’s resume is now probably superior to Gonzaga’s. I acknowledge as much. And though that might ultimately be the thing that leads to the Zags failing to get the No. 1 overall seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament, it will not be a thing that cost them in the Top 25 And 1.
Would Gonzaga also be undefeated in the Big 12?
Yes, I think so. But, obviously, there’s no way to know for sure. Either way, in my opinion, the Zags have earned the benefit of the doubt. So as long as they keep winning, they’ll remain No. 1 here.
Wednesday’s Top 25 And 1 rankings
In: Drake, USC
Out: Purdue, North Carolina