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The Other Top 25: Belmont’s rise continues, Louisiana Tech and Grand Canyon join the party

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Elsewhere, Loyola and Drake solidify their spots after a split weekend.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four- Belmont Bruins vs Temple Owls Brian Spurlock -USA TODAY Sports

The Dunkin’ Dogs have arrived with style.

With conference play barreling toward league tournaments — or, maybe not — we continue to learn more about our beloved mid-majors, including the handful of schools (hell yes) that are legitimate at-large candidates. The team that may have won the week, however, was Louisiana Tech, which rode a sweep over previously-hot UAB to jump from unranked to No. 19.

With wins over Western Kentucky, Marshall, North Texas and, now, the pair over UAB, the defensively stout Bulldogs very much look like a threat in C-USA. The Blazers take a significant stumble, but still remain in the Other Top 25 mix at No. 23.

Elsewhere, Gonzaga’s ho-hum week with wins over two quality opponents keeps them acres ahead of the pack at No. 1. Loyola’s Saturday demolition of Drake keeps them at No. 2, while Drake’s bounce back, ugly win on Sunday allowed them to rise despite the 27-point loss the day before.

Belmont continued its ascent, and the Bruins bid at a perfect league regular season remains very much on the table.

Other significant risers include UC Santa Barbara, as the Gauchos are up four spots to No. 18 after two wins over Hawaii, a back-to-back sweep that has run their winning streak to 10 games. Wright State is up three spots as its Horizon League blitz continues, while Grand Canyon — though idle — enters the rankings at No. 25.

Here’s how the rest of the poll shook out:

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Rank School Record Change Our reasoning
Rank School Record Change Our reasoning
1 Gonzaga 20-0 - It's hard to find more ways to praise the Zags, but how about the night Drew Timme had to help batter USF? The star center was at peak efficiency, scoring 28 points on 11-12 shooting. The typically juicy SMC match up awaits the Kennel, but may lack the drama of previous years.
2 Loyola University Chicago 18-4 - Loyola stomped on Drake on Saturday only to turn around and lose in overtime to the Bulldogs on Sunday, so the best possible result for a #2BidValley happened. Loyola doesn't drop for the overtime loss because of how convincing they looked in the win. Let's run this one back at Arch Madness.
3 Belmont 22-1 2 The Bruins' electric offense kept humming along last weekend against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, notching them two of their better wins of the season. The perfect OVC campaign is well within view for one of the country's most effective offenses.
4 Western Kentucky 15-4 - Western Kentucky got played close by Rice on Friday, but turned around and won handily on Saturday. The Hilltoppers get an 8-2 in-conference record North Texas team twice this week. A split is fine, but two wins should push WKU to the right side of the at-large bubble, giving them more wiggle room on Selection Sunday to account for the possibility of one of the other top teams in C-USA taking the automatic bid instead of the Hilltoppers.
5 Saint Louis 10-3 1 It was a stabilizing week for the Billikens as they continued to get over their post-pause blues. SLU built on last week's St. Bonaventure win by grabbing two more A-10 victories, keeping Fordham and Rhode Island struggling with two suffocating defensive efforts. Is all well in the Gateway City?
6 BYU 15-5 -3 By the time ESPN switched over to the Cougars Monday showdown with Gonzaga, the game appeared all but over. But BYU did somewhat overcome the early blitz to avoid a blowout, and did some encouraging things against the Zags, including seeing Alex Barcello and Brandon Averette have success against the Bulldogs' vaunted defense.
7 VCU 15-4 1 VCU got wins over Dayton and St. Bonaventure this past week, pushing them up and over said Bonnies in the rankings. VCU looks like an at-large team to us here at MMM World Headquarters, with the only blemish being a loss to the ever-confusing Rhode Island in the first half of January. With the A-10 tournament scheduled to be played entirely in Richmond, the Rams could be conference title favorites in March.
8 St. Bonaventure 10-3 -1 Bona lost to VCU on Friday but didn't lose to La Salle, like some other A-10 teams have done. They've got that going for them. VCU hopped them in the rankings, but I'm personally very ready for a rematch come conference tournament time. St. Bonaventure has two very winnable games in Fordham and George Washington this week. They need to not get caught looking ahead to the season finale against Dayton.
9 San Diego State 15-4 - The Aztecs took care of business handily against San Jose St. this week. The season finale series against Boise St. in the last week of February will probably play major implications on MWC tournament seeding, but San Diego St. must first not lose to a middling Fresno St. team this week.
10 Boise State 16-4 - Boise St. hasn't exactly looked convincing since being swept by Nevada, but the Broncos got two wins over UNLV to push themselves to 12-3 in the Mountain West. The final four games pit Boise St. against Utah St. twice and SDSU twice. Put up or shut up time for the Broncos' NCAA tournament at-large hopes.
11 Drake 20-2 1 Drake got trounced by the Ramblers on Saturday, and many were quick to write them off. The Bulldogs responded with a tough, grindy victory in the rematch on Sunday, and rose one spot in the rankings for it. Say it with me, for effect: #2BidValley. The Bulldogs should be an at-large team, especially because the Loyola results came without Shanquan Hemphill.
12 Utah State 14-5 -1 Utah State has been idle since February 4th, but a doubleheader against Boise State looms this week. Like everyone at the top of the MWC, Utah State needs these wins to have a chance to nab an at-large bid over conference opponents and other comparable teams. The chances are out there; can the Aggies capitalize?
13 Colorado State 14-4 - An idle week ends with an intriguing trip to Nevada. Lest we forget, the balanced Rams are in a 4-1 stretch that includes wins over Boise State and Utah State.
14 Winthrop 18-1 - Winthrop swept second-place Radford over the weekend. While the dream of the undefeated season is gone, the Eagles are still the prohibitive favorite in the Big South. Two matches with High Point are on the schedule this week; if Winthrop wins both of those and both of the games against Hampton the following week, the Eagles will be 22-1 and 19-1 in conference going into the Big South tournament.
15 Richmond 11-4 - The Spiders beat up on a non-D1 opponent on Valentine's Day (sheesh, how loving) but it was really to get reps after a COVID-19 pause cancelled all of their games in between January 26th and now. They needed reps before a very good VCU team comes into the Robins Center on Wednesday. Win that, and Richmond will put themselves squarely back in the conversation for A-10 contenders.
16 Abilene Christian 18-3 2 ACU continues to blow out Southland opposition. The only blemish on their conference record is a loss to Sam Houston State. With the win over SFA a few weeks ago and the Wildcats' continued dominance, they're heavy favorites for March Madness.
17 Wright State 17-4 3 The analytics love Wright St., even if they are tied at the top of the Horizon with Cleveland St. at 15-3. No other team in the conference is really looking like a contender for those two. With only one weekend left in conference play, the Raiders look to hold serve against a tough Northern Kentucky team and coast into the league tournament as the one seed.
18 UC Santa Barbara 14-3 4 The Gauchos haven't lost since December. They're an incredibly balanced team, boasting a top 90 offense and a top 80 defense. Big West Player of the Year favorite JaQuori McLaughlin is putting up ridiculous numbers and has two of the best complimentary pieces in the country in Amadou Sow and Ajare Sanni.
19 Louisiana Tech 17-6 NR LA Tech swept UAB over the weekend, which is a great result in a crowded top of C-USA. The Bulldogs have a stifling defense and look like serious challengers for the automatic bid alongside WKU, Marshall, North Texas and UAB. The C-USA tournament will be appointment television.
20 Dayton 11-6 -1 The Flyers defense -- at times a sore spot in league play -- wasn't at its best against VCU. But there is no shame in losing to a surging Rams team, and Dayton has a good chance to bounce back if it navigate a trip to struggling Rhode Island before returning home to face George Mason. The Flyers have proven capable of anything in A-10 play, good and bad, so finishing the season with momentum seems a must.
21 Davidson 10-5 3 Davidson keeps rising because other teams keep losing, and the Wildcats haven't lost since January 8th. They haven't played a game in the month of February, sure, but when you leave a good impression and everyone around you loses, you can look better by comparison. If Davidson can get back on the court this week, two very winnable games against St. Joe's and George Washington should be a great appetizer for a blast of a matchup against VCU on February 27th.
22 Marshall 12-5 3 The Herd got two solid wins over Middle Tennessee this week, and at 6-4 are still within striking distance of the teams at the top of C-USA. They'll need to win both games against Rice this week before tangling with leage co-leaders North Texas next week. For what it's worth, they're projected to win every matchup they have remaining this year, per KenPom, so this could be a Marshall team that rounds into form at the right time.
23 UAB 16-4 -7 The Blazers were swept over the weekend in Ruston, which led to a big fall (and got the Bulldogs a spot in the poll themselves). Andy Kennedy's experienced team gets a midweek game against a non-DI before a good opportunity to build back momentum at home against Old Dominion next weekend.
24 Saint Mary's 11-6 -3 The Gaels took a loss at Pepperdine on Saturday in their first game since January 23rd. That doesn't inspire much confidence in SMC, and the Gaels still have Gonzaga, Pepperdine, San Francisco, and Pacific left on the schedule. Wins might be hard to come by before the WCC tournament.
25 Grand Canyon 12-3 NR The Lopes jump in after a pair of idle weeks, but are still riding high from their sweep of New Mexico State at the end of January. Wichita State transfer center Asbjorn Midtgaard has helped propel GCU to the top of the WAC in Bryce Drew's first season. But the question remains: can they beat the Aggies when it matters?

Also receiving votes: Toledo, Liberty, Nevada, South Dakota State, Colgate, North Texas, Akron.