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Gonzaga vs. UCLA: Looking at all-time No. 1 vs. 2 games before the 43rd matchup of top two teams in AP Top 25

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USATSI

Tuesday night will bring something special — yet surprisingly not all that rare — in men’s college basketball: a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the AP Top 25. This is the 72nd season of the AP men’s college basketball poll; No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA in the Empire Classic at 10 p.m. ET in Las Vegas will mark the 43rd all-time meeting between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the AP Top 25.

It would’ve been the 44th instance, if not for last year’s early December meeting between Gonzaga (then No. 1) and Baylor (then No. 2) getting canceled just before tipoff due to multiple COVID positives on Gonzaga’s roster. Cancellations may not be on the table this year, thankfully. 

What makes this tilt even tastier is the familiarity and revenge factor involved. Gonzaga of course knocked off UCLA 93-90 in overtime in the 2021 Final Four on a 37-foot winner by Jalen Suggs to keep the Zags undefeated (before losing in the championship game to Baylor). The shot and the game are already etched in college basketball lore

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It’s a good week for college hoops all around: the women’s game also has No. 1 South Carolina playing No. 2 UConn on Monday. (The game is so big, in fact, the AP poll is taking the rare step of delaying the voting by one day so the game’s result can have a say on the next edition of the women’s top 25.) 

On the men’s side we happen to get No. 1-vs.-2 pretty frequently. The AP poll dates back to the 1948-49 season, so do the math: 73 years and 43 games means college hoops gets the top squaring off more frequently than an every-other-year basis. The most recent top-two tilt was on the opening night 2019-20 season, when No. 1 Michigan State was defeated by No. 2 Kentucky 69-62 in the Champions Classic. 

Tuesday’s game is the fourth No. 1-against-2 matchup since 2016. Though GU coach Mark Few and UCLA coach Mick Cronin were ambitiously agreeable in making sure this rematch could happen so soon after the Final Four, the backstory on what had to happen to ensure we got Zags vs. Bruins was a bit melodramatic. I documented it in the offseason

Coming off a quality weekend that saw the likes of Purdue, St. Bonaventure, Arizona and Utah State win multi-team events, Thanksgiving week — as it always does — will provide a Thanksgiving-sized helping off great games between ranked teams. They’ll all (even Gonzaga vs. Duke on Friday night) get in line behind Gonzaga-UCLA. There is always something special about No. 1 vs. No. 2, no matter when it lands on the calendar. 

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No. 1 vs. No. 2 by the numbers

Here’s a historical look at what’s happened when the top two teams have tipped off over the decades. Data retrieved from the NCAA, SportsReference.com, and College Poll Archive.

  • Twenty-five of the 43 meetings have come in the regular season, including the past eight times (including Tuesday night). The No. 2-ranked team is 13-11 in regular-season affairs. No. 1 leads overall 22-20.
  • The most recent instance of No. 1 playing No. 2 in a postseason game was the 2005 national championship between North Carolina and Illinois.
  • A No. 1 vs. No. 2 game has never featured Gonzaga until now. 
  • This is UCLA‘s 10th appearance in a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 game, which will breaks the record of nine it shared with Kentucky. The Bruins have waited a long time for this: their last appearance came in 1976. 
  • This is wild: According to ESPN, teams ranked No. 2 have a one-point advantage (yes, total!) over the No. 1s in the previous 42 meetings.
  • The average score the past 42 meetings: 75-75. (KenPom.com predicts Gonzaga 80, UCLA 74 for this one.)
  • Gonzaga will be trying to become just the second team from a mid-major conference to win as the No. 1 team against No. 2 in the regular season. Top-ranked UNLV (when it was in the Big West) did it against No. 2 Arkansas in 1991. Watch this and enjoy the flashback.
  • The average margin of victory in regular season No. 1-vs.-2 games is 11.2 points, but that is influenced by a 41-point Kentucky win over St. John’s in 1951, the first top-two regular season matchup in history. The last six games have been decided by 4.3 points. The average margin for all 42 prior matchups is 10.1.
  • This is the ninth time in the regular season that 1-against-2 has come on a neutral court. No. 1 is 5-3. 
  • There have been five games that required overtime, with two of those needing three OTs. In 1957, North Carolina beat Kansas 54-53 in triple OT in the NCAA Tournament title game. In 2016, Kansas beat Oklahoma in an epic 109-106 providing one of the five best top-two matchups in college basketball history. Buddy Hield dropped 46 points in OU’s loss and had one of the best games in the history of Allen Fieldhouse.
  • Largest gap for No. 1 over No. 2 was Duke’s 31-point beatdown of Texas in 2005 (97-66).
  • Largest gap for No. 2, as noted above, is Kentucky 81, St. John’s 40 in 1951.
  • No. 1 vs. No. 2. has been close as of late and history suggests there’s a one-in-five chance it will be razor-thin. Eight times these matchups have either been decided by one point and/or required overtime. The hit rate historically jumps to 40% when a game ends with a margin of five points or fewer. Good news for Tuesday night, then.
  • Gonzaga is 2-10 all time vs. No. 1/2. Mark Few has been the coach for nine of those 12 games and is 2-7.

No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the regular season

  • Dec. 17, 1951: No. 2 Kentucky def. No. 1 St. John’s 81-40
  • Dec. 21, 1954: No. 1 Kentucky def. No. 2 Utah 70-65
  • Dec.14, 1964: No. 2 Michigan def. No. 1 Wichita State 87-85
  • Jan.20, 1968: No. 2 Houston def. No. 1 UCLA 71-69
  • Dec.15, 1973: No. 1 UCLA def. No. 2 North Carolina State 84-66
  • Jan. 19, 1974: No. 2 Notre Dame def. No. 1 UCLA 71-70
  • Jan. 26, 1974: No. 2 UCLA def. No. 1 Notre Dame 94-75
  • Nov. 29, 1975: No. 1 Indiana def. No. 2. UCLA 84-64
  • Dec. 26, 1981: No. 1 North Carolina def. No. 2 Kentucky 82-69
  • Jan. 9, 1982: No. 1 North Carolina def. No. 2 Virginia 65-60
  • Dec.15, 1984: No. 1 Georgetown def. No. 2. DePaul 77-57
  • Feb. 27, 1985: No. 2 Georgetown def. No. 1 St. John’s 85-69
  • Feb. 4, 1986: No. 1 North Carolina def. No. 2 Georgia Tech 78-77 (OT)
  • Feb. 13, 1990: No. 2 Missouri def. No. 1 Kansas 77-71
  • Feb. 10, 1991: No. 1 UNLV def. No. 2 Arkansas 112-105
  • Feb. 3, 1994: No. 2 North Carolina def. No. 1 Duke 89-78
  • Feb. 5, 1998: No. 2 North Carolina def. No. 1 Duke 97-73
  • Dec. 10, 2005: No. 1 Duke def. No. 2 Texas 97-66
  • Feb. 25, 2007: No. 2 Ohio State def. No. 1 Wisconsin 49-48
  • Feb. 23, 2008: No. 2 Tennessee def. No. 1 Memphis 66-62
  • Nov. 12, 2013: No. 2 Michigan State def. No. 1 Kentucky 78-74
  • Jan. 4, 2016: No. 1 Kansas def. No. 2 Oklahoma 109-106 (3OT)
  • Nov. 14, 2017: No. 1 Duke def. No. 2 Michigan State 88-81
  • Nov. 5, 2019: No. 2 Kentucky def. No. 1 Michigan State 69-62

No. 1 vs. No. 2 in postseason play

  • March 26, 1949: No. 1 Kentucky def. No. 2 Oklahoma A&M 46-36 (national championship)
  • March 23, 1957: No. 1 North Carolina def. No. 2 Kansas 54-53 (3OT) (national championship)
  • March 18, 1960: No. 2 California def. No. 1 Cincinnati 77-69 (national semifinals)
  • March 25, 1961: No. 2 Cincinnati def. No. 1 Ohio State 70-65 (OT) (national championship)
  • March 24, 1962: No. 2 Cincinnati def. No. 1 Ohio State 71-59 (national championship)
  • March 20, 1965: No. 2 UCLA def. No. 1 Michigan 91-80 (national championship)
  • March 18, 1966: No. 1 Kentucky def. No. 2 Duke 83-79 (national semifinals)
  • March 22, 1968: No. 2 UCLA def. No. 1 Houston 101-69 (national semifinals)
  • March 25, 1974: No. 1 North Carolina State def. No. 2 UCLA 80-77 (2OT) (national semifinals)
  • March 31, 1975: No. 1 UCLA def. No. 2 Kentucky 92-85 (national championship)
  • March 22, 1976: No. 1 Indiana def. No. 2 Marquette 65-56 (Elite Eight)
  • April 2, 1983: No. 1 Houston def. No. 2 Louisville 94-81 (national semifinals)
  • March 9, 1985: No. 1 Georgetown def. No. 2 St. John’s 92-80 (Big East championship)
  • March 29, 1986: No. 1 Duke def. No. 2. Kansas 71-67 (national semifinals)
  • March 10, 1990: No. 1 Oklahoma def. No. 2 Kansas 95-77 (Big Eight semifinals)
  • March 30, 1996: No. 2 Kentucky def. No. 1 Massachusetts 81-74 (national semifinals)
  • March 27, 1999: No. 1 Duke def. No. 2 Michigan State 68-62 (national semifinals)
  • April 4, 2005: No. 2 North Carolina def. No. 1 Illinois 75-70 (national championship)





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Aaron Rodgers to the Jets? Giants' free agency options & Mike McCarthy's future with Cowboys | Ask Jay Glazer

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Jay Glazer discussed whether Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will head to the New York Jets, the New York Giants’ free agency options, and breaks down Mike McCarthy’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.



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Super Bowl LVII: Chiefs and Eagles will meet for title in Arizona

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Patrick Mahomes finally got the best of Joe Burrow. 

All he needed was a little shove.

Harrison Butker made a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds left — after Cincinnati’s Joseph Ossai was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for shoving Mahomes after he was out of bounds — and the Chiefs beat the Bengals 23-20 in the AFC championship game to make it back to the Super Bowl.

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Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. 

The Eagles opened as a 1 1/2-point favourite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

There are no shortage of storylines: Kansas City coach Andy Reid goes against his old team — which he led to Super Bowl 39 — in a game that’s also the first matchup of Black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. 

On top of that, there’s a brother-against-brother showdown between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.

“Officially done being a Chiefs fan this season!! ” Jason Kelce tweeted immediately after the Chiefs won.

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The Chiefs have been making deep postseason runs on a regular basis ever since Mahomes came to town as the franchise quarterback. 

This was their fifth straight trip to the AFC title game and will be their third Super Bowl appearance in that span. They beat the 49ers for the NFL title in the 2019 season, but lost to the Bucs the following season.

The Eagles clobbered the Niners 31-7 in the NFC title game earlier Sunday. They’ve looked dominant in the playoffs so far, also beating the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round.

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Philadelphia is back in the Super Bowl five years after beating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Feb. 4, 2018. 

Now a mostly new generation of Eagles — led by coach Nick Sirianni and Hurts — will come to Arizona to try and win another title.

The Chiefs-Bengals game looked as if it was going to overtime before Ossai’s ill-advised play. Mahomes — who was playing on a badly sprained ankle — was running to get a first down in the final seconds as Ossai desperately tried to track him down. 

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Mahomes was out of bounds when Ossai gave him a shove, sending both players tumbling to the turf. The ensuing 15-yard penalty was enough to push Butker into field-goal range and the kick split the uprights.

A distraught Ossai sat on the bench with his head in his hands, well after the game was over.

The Bengals and Chiefs were playing for the fourth time in less than 400 days and Cincinnati had won the previous three meetings — all by three points. This one was decided by a field goal, too, and all Burrow could do was watch.

The Bengals lost to the Rams in last year’s Super Bowl and they just missed another chance at returning to the title game.

NO DRAMA IN NFC

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Oddsmakers thought fans were in for some close conference championship games. 

They’ll have to settle for a 50% success rate.

The NFC title game was a blowout. Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy was injured in the first quarter when Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick drilled his right arm on a play that was ruled a fumble. The Eagles recovered that fumble and the injury proved to be a game-changer.

With Purdy hurt, San Francisco turned to 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson, who couldn’t do much before eventually leaving with a concussion. Purdy came back into the game, but could barely throw, and the Eagles cruised to the win.

The 49ers dealt with quarterback injuries all season, losing Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo before turning to Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick out of Iowa State. Purdy stepped into a starter’s role in December and won his first seven games before Sunday’s injury. 

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Here’s a few things to know about the upcoming Super Bowl:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

FEB. 5

Pro Bowl flag-football game, 3 p.m. EST, ABC/ESPN

FEB. 12

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Super Bowl LVII, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox

RIHANNA AT HALFTIME

Rihanna will take center stage as the headline act for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her most recent album was 2016′s “Anti.” Rihanna last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

The singer said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

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Country music star Chris Stapleton will sing the national anthem, while R&B legend Babyface will perform “America the Beautiful.” 

PRO BOWL MAKEOVER

The Pro Bowl is getting a major makeover this year after the NFL eliminated its full-contact all-star game and replaced it with weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game.

The flag football contest is Feb. 5 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium, one week before the Super Bowl.

The Pro Bowl debuted in January 1951 in Los Angeles and stayed there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972-80. Hawaii hosted from 1980-2009, and the game has had several homes in the years since, including Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.

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“The game was kind of silly, I guess,” Saints two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk said back in September when the news was announced. “Guys weren’t out there playing true football. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of interactions with the fans and guys will get their opportunity to go out there and show some skills. I could see that being a good change.”

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Ohio State hires James Laurinaitis & Tennessee extends Huepel's contract | Joel Klatt Show

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Joel Klatt discussed Ohio State Buckeyes hiring former linebacker James Laurinaitis as a defensive GA. Joel believes that Laurinaitis can help transform the defense into a powerhouse like the offense is for wide receivers. He then discussed the Tennessee Volunteers giving Josh Huepel a contract extension after their 11-win season.



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