BYU Sports

BYU basketball: Gonzaga will bring No. 1 ranking to Provo on Thursday

First Published      Last Updated Jan 30 2017 11:14 am

BYU will host a No. 1-ranked team in the Marriott Center for the first time in school history.

West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday and will take on BYU at 9 p.m. Thursday. The game will be televised by ESPN2.

Gonzaga picked up 46 first-place votes and 1,594 points in the voting. Baylor checked in at No. 2 after garnering six first-place votes and 1,504 points. Kansas, which some believed would jump to No. 1 after beating Kentucky, is at No. 3 but got nine first-place votes.

Villanova, No. 4, got four first-place votes.

Arizona, a team Gonzaga dominated at the same HoopHall Classic that BYU attended in Los Angeles, is at No. 5.

Gonzaga was the previous highest-ranked team to play in the Marriott Center, having defeated BYU 70-65 in 2013 when it was ranked No. 2. San Diego State was No. 4 in 2011 when it visited BYU and lost 71-58 in Jimmer Fredette's senior season.

Asked by The Tribune about Thursday's game against the Zags, BYU big man Eric Mika said it will be nice to play a team that will have more pressure on it than the Cougars usually do facing lesser-caliber teams in the WCC.

"I think a little bit because we are a bigger school for our league, so we do have a little bit of a target on our back," Mika said. "But when we play against Gonzaga, I think there is a target on both of our backs. I don't think necessarily they love playing us, and we don't love playing them, because we both know that we are good programs, we are well-coached, and when we are playing well we can beat a lot of teams. So it is going to be a lot of fun."

Gonzaga has won 14 straight games by 10 points or more. Only three of the Zags' 22 wins this year have been by fewer than 10 points. The Zags' toughest game was a two-point win over Iowa State.

While the other top teams were losing last week, at least once, Gonzaga smoked Portland 83-64, San Diego 79-43 and Pepperdine 96-49.

The Cougars are coming off an 85-77 win over Loyola Marymount, two nights after falling 76-68 at Santa Clara.