Gonzaga ready for first-ever No. 1 ranking
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
While the rest of college basketball has been in a state of flux, providing upsets on a nightly basis, Gonzaga has won game after game after game – going 16-0 in conference play.
Slowly but surely, every team above them in the polls has fallen. When the new USA TODAY Sports coaches poll is released today, the Bulldogs are expected to be No. 1 for the first time in program history.
With the top ranking comes a great deal of outside attention, from the media and fans. Gonzaga coach Mark Few told USA TODAY Sports that he doesn’t think his team is going to get too full of itself just because of a new number next to its name.
“These kids have been ranked their whole careers,” Few said. “Whether it was 20 or 10 or 5 or 2 or even 1, they’ve still been ranked. They’ve had a huge bull’s-eye on their chest the entire time they’ve played at Gonzaga. This isn’t something new.
“There might be a larger mass of (attention), but it’s certainly not something new. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. This group handles it really well. They don’t get too caught up in it.”
Gonzaga earned a double bye in the West Coast Conference tournament, so the Zags don’t play again until Saturday. Few said he’d handle the week off just as he has with past Gonzaga teams: Give his players a few days to rest, then spend most of practice working on areas in which he wants to see improvement – late-situations, the way they attack zone defenses, etc.
Few doesn’t expect the long layoff to be a hindrance to his team, either, even as the media attention (and scrutiny) will surely grow.
Former Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio, now an analyst at ESPN, knows exactly what challenges Few will face with the No. 1 ranking attached to his team’s name. His Deamon Deacons spent the 2008-09 season ranked, taking the top spot in January of that season.
“More than anything, the players need to make sure they stay focused on the task at hand,” Gaudio said. “Those kids are … [For more on Gonzaga Bulldogs ready for first-ever No. 1 ranking, click here.]