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How high can Gonzaga climb? Zags move up two spots to No. 5 in AP rankings

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 7, 2019, 6:49 p.m.

Conference play is taking a toll on several of college basketball’s top teams.

Nevada dropped from the ranks of the unbeatens – only three remain – and Kansas lost for the first time in Big 12 play, clearing the way for Gonzaga to move up two spots to No. 5 in the latest AP poll.

The Zags (14-2) have won five straight after falling to Tennesseee and North Carolina in consecutive games. The top four remained the same for the third straight week with Duke, Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia.

Michigan State, which rallied past then-No. 14 Ohio State, is right behind the Zags. Gonzaga earned 1,319 points while the Spartans are at 1,291. The two teams scrimmaged prior to the season in Minneapolis.

Gonzaga generally rises in the rankings during the WCC season as the best programs in the power conferences tend to absorb a few losses, usually on the road.

Duke visits No. 13 Florida State on Saturday. Virginia entertains No. 9 Virginia Tech on Jan. 15 before visiting Duke on Jan. 19.

The Zags aren’t immune to WCC losses, but they are 98-9 in conference since 2013. That was the season Gonzaga reached No. 1 for the first time in program history. The Zags were 29-2 in early March and had just concluded a 16-0 run through the WCC. They moved up to No. 1 when Indiana lost to Minnesota.

It didn’t take as long for the 2017 Zags to hit No. 1, but it did take a zero in the loss column. Gonzaga was 22-0 when Kansas and Villanova stumbled. The Zags remained No. 1 until falling at home to BYU in the regular-season finale.

Gonzaga returned to No. 1 in late November of this season after defeating Duke 89-87 to win the Maui Invitational. The Zags’ two-week stay ended with a loss to Tennessee in Phoenix.

The Zags could get back to the top spot, but they probably can’t afford any slip-ups in the WCC and they’ll need help elsewhere in the power conferences. Gonzaga could be facing one of its toughest remaining tests Saturday at San Francisco (14-2, 2-0 WCC).

Kansas, stung by center Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending wrist injury, dropped from fifth to seventh after falling to Iowa State by 17 points in Ames. Nevada slipped from sixth to 10th after losing to New Mexico 85-58 in the Pit.

Texas Tech moved up to No. 8, followed by Virginia Tech.

Michigan, Virginia and No. 17 Houston, led by former Washington State coach Kelvin Sampson, remain unbeaten.

The Pac-12 doesn’t have a team in the top 25 for the second straight week. Arizona State received one vote, the only Pac-12 team in the receiving votes category.

Gonzaga moved up to No. 6 from No. 8 in the USA Today poll. Michigan State edged out the Zags for the fifth spot by three points. Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Kansas and Auburn rounded out the top 10.

The coaches voted Virginia back into the No. 1 spot ahead of Duke, reversing last week’s order. Virginia initially was voted No. 1 in Week 8 when Kansas suffered its first loss.

The Blue Devils held the top spot in the ensuing poll, but they lost a couple of first-place votes in Week 10 to drop behind the unbeaten Cavaliers, who hammered Florida State.

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