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Hoops du Jour

Zags back as No. 1 men’s team

A wild week of upsets led to big changes in the AP Top 25. Amid the chaos, a familiar team returned to the top.

Preseason No. 1 Gonzaga climbed back to the top of The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll released Monday, ending Baylor’s five-week run. The Bulldogs had 25 first-place votes, 11 fewer than No. 2 Auburn, but edged the Tigers in overall points to take the top spot.

Auburn has its highest ranking since reaching No. 2 in 1999-2000 after moving up two spots. Arizona, Purdue and Baylor rounded out the top five.

Gonzaga (14-2, 3-0 West Coast) continued its roll since losing to Alabama on Dec. 4, stretching its winning streak to seven games with blowouts over BYU and Santa Clara last week.

The rest of the AP Top 25 didn’t fare quite as well, with 13 teams losing, including nine on Saturday. Eight teams lost to unranked opponents.

Baylor’s tenure at the top ended with losses to No. 18 Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. It was the first time the Bears lost consecutive home games in nearly six years and ended the reigning national champions’ winning streak at 21 games.

No. 16 USC also saw its undefeated season come to a crashing end with losses to Stanford and Oregon sandwiched around a win over Oregon State. Seton Hall dropped out of the poll from No. 20 after losing to DePaul and Marquette.

Irving won’t change mind on COVID shot

CLEVELAND — Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving insists an injury to teammate Kevin Durant won’t change his stance on not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Irving, who only recently returned to action after a drawn-out stalemate over getting vaccinated, said Monday following a loss to the Cavaliers that he has no intention of getting the shot — and nothing will sway him.

“That’s my decision already, and I’m standing on it,” Irving said.

The seven-time All-Star point guard has become a lightning rod of sorts for his decision not to get the vaccine. And due to COVID-19 mandates in New York City concerning public arenas, Irving is not permitted to play in home games.

His decision to remain unvaccinated is having a dramatic impact on the Nets and their ability to contend for an NBA championship, something that almost seemed assured when the team landed Irving, Durant and James Harden.

With Durant potentially sidelined for six weeks with a knee injury suffered Saturday, Irving was asked if he’s feeling more pressure to get vaccinated.

Irving made it clear he’s not been moved to act.

“That’s what I think comes into a lot of this culture and basketball and sport and entertainment,” Irving said in his strongest comments on the sensitive subject. “You bring in teams and you bring in situations. Kev’s going to heal. Kev’s going to be OK.”

The Associated Press

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