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Duke’s loss could create opening for Gonzaga to return to No. 1

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 20, 2019, 8:59 p.m.

Duke freshman Zion Williamson, the favorite for player of the year, suffered an apparent knee injury 33 seconds into the game Wednesday vs. North Carolina.
Duke freshman Zion Williamson, the favorite for player of the year, suffered an apparent knee injury 33 seconds into the game Wednesday vs. North Carolina.

Gonzaga could be two home wins away from returning to No. 1 in the AP college basketball poll.

No. 8 North Carolina thumped top-ranked Duke 88-72 on Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina. Blue Devils freshman Zion Williamson, the favorite for player of the year, suffered what Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called a “mild knee sprain” 33 seconds into the game and did not return. Speaking after the game, Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils would learn more about the injury on Thursday.

The second-ranked Zags (25-2), who entertain Pepperdine on Thursday and BYU on Saturday, held the top spot for two weeks after defeating Duke 89-87 in the Maui Invitational championship game in November. The Zags dropped to fourth after falling to Tennessee 76-73 in Phoenix and to eighth following a 103-90 loss at North Carolina.

Gonzaga received six first-place votes – the other 58 went to Duke – and was 26 points in front of No. 3 Virginia in Monday’s rankings. The Cavaliers could have a shot at the top spot after a solid 64-58 road win over No. 20 Virginia Tech on Monday. Virginia visits No. 18 Louisville on Saturday.

Gonzaga first reached No. 1 in March 2013, with a 29-2 record. The Zags also were ranked No. 1 in 2017 following a 22-0 start.

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