College basketball rankings: Why Gonzaga vs. Baylor isn’t your traditional No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup

Gonzaga was No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll. Baylor was No. 2. So the Zags and Bears giving us the 43rd No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup ever, just 11 days into this season, isn’t surprising. Once the game was scheduled, and the initial poll published, it was always supposed to be this way. But, that said, this is still wild. Because, from a historical perspective, Saturday’s showdown in Indianapolis really might be the most unlikely No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in college basketball history.

Think about where these programs once were.

When Mark Few took over at Gonzaga, in advance of the 1999-2000 season, the Zags had won exactly one NCAA Tournament game ever. Regardless, Few guided the Zags to the Sweet Sixteen in his first season and has made literally every NCAA Tournament since. He’s been to five straight Sweet Sixteens, three of the past five Elite Eights, and he coached in the title game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. So, undeniably, Gonzaga is one of the sport’s biggest brands now. But when Few got the job, Gonzaga was just a small private school from the West Coast Conference, not even a blip on college basketball’s national radar.

Baylor’s story is similarly great.

When Scott Drew took over at Baylor, in advance of the 2003-04 season, the program was in shambles because of a scandal tied to one player murdering another. The Bears finished next-to-last, last, last, and next-to-last in Drew’s first four seasons, the third of which was reduced to conference-only games because of NCAA sanctions. Regardless, Drew guided the Bears to the NCAA Tournament in his fifth season —  and has had them in six of the past seven NCAA Tournaments. They’ve been reliably good for a while and would’ve been a No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament (If there had been a 2020 NCAA Tournament). But when Drew got the job, Baylor had advanced in the NCAA Tournament only once in the previous 53 years.

So, yeah, from a historical perspective, Saturday’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown is pretty incredible. This isn’t No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Duke. Or No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Michigan State. This is a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup between a program that barely registered 20 years ago and another that has no real history and was decimated by scandal less than 20 years ago.

Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

You can watch it on CBS.

As I’m sure you know, Gonzaga and Baylor are also No. 1 and No. 2 in the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. The only thing that caused movement in Saturday morning’s update  is Wisconsin‘s 67-65 loss at Marquette. Per Top 25 And 1 rules, Wisconsin was hit with a 10-spot auto-drop for losing to a team not currently under consideration for the Top 25 And 1. So the Badgers are now No. 17 in the Top 25 And 1. Their next game is Wednesday against Louisville, which is 25th in the Top 25 And 1.

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 Saturday’s Top 25 And 1 rankings

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