baylor-gonzaga.jpg
USATSI

This is the 71st season of the AP men's college basketball poll. On Saturday at 1 p.m. ET, the 43rd all-time meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 will happen when top-ranked Gonzaga squares up against second-ranked Baylor in Indianapolis on CBS.

All in all, college basketball's fairly fortunate that it's boasted a 1-vs.-2 matchup more frequently than an every-other-year basis. If this feels familiar that's because it is. The most recent top-two tilt was on the opening night of the doomed 2019-20 season, when No. 1 Michigan State was tipped over by No. 2 Kentucky 69-62 in the Champions Classic. This will be the fourth 1-vs.-2 game since 2016.

Gonzaga-Baylor -- taking place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse -- makes for great story-building for this inevitably crooked season. A Gonzaga win would give the Bulldogs victories over three top-10 teams (Kansas and West Virginia the other two) and put Mark Few's program in the early but dominant pole position for the No. 1 overall seed. A Baylor victory would vault BU to the No. 1 ranking in Monday's poll refresh and give the Bears two wins over top five opponents; Scott Drew's club pulled away vs. No. 5 Illinois on Wednesday night.

Below: The Eye on College Basketball podcast goes deep on what to know in advance of Saturday's Gonzaga-Baylor matchup.

It's been significant for college basketball (which expectedly loses games every day due to COVID-19) to offer up top-five, top-10 and top-20 matchups so frequently through the first 10 days of this season. But No. 1 vs. No. 2 is always special. With that in mind, here's a list of facts and nuggets about men's D-I hoops history when top-two schools meet. Data retrieved from Sports Reference, the NCAA record book and College Poll Archive.

  • Twenty-five of the 43 meetings have come in the regular season, including the past eight times (accounting for Saturday's game in Indy). The No. 2-ranked team is 13-11 in regular-season affairs. No. 1 leads overall 22-20.
  • A No. 1 vs. No. 2 game has never featured Gonzaga or Baylor until now.
  • UCLA and Kentucky have played in the most 1-against-2 games at nine apiece. UCLA, however, was last featured in one of these in 1976. Kentucky has been involved in three of the past 12.
  • This is wild: According to ESPN, teams ranked No. 2 have a one-point advantage over the No. 1s in the previous 42 meetings.
  • The average score the past 42 meetings: 75-75.
  • Baylor is the sixth Big 12/Big 8 team to be featured in such a game, following Kansas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • David Worlock, the NCAA's director of media coordination and statistics, notes that Gonzaga would be only the second team in history to win as the No. 1 team against No. 2 while coming from outside the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC. Top-ranked UNLV (when it was in the Big West) did it against No. 2 Arkansas in 1991. Here is that game. I highly recommend you transport yourself now.
  • The average margin of victory in regular season 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 1 vs. 2 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. This will be the first time in 43 meetings between top-two teams that no fans are in attendance.
  • 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.
  • This is a rare case of No. 1 in the AP Top 25  (Gonzaga) vs. No. 1 in the Coaches Poll (Baylor). The Bears are 0-18 vs. No. 1 and No. 2 teams, with nine of those games coming with Scott Drew as coach.
  • Gonzaga is 2-9 all time vs. No. 1/2. Mark Few has been the coach for eight of those 11 games and is 2-6.

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. Louisville 94-81 (national semifinals)
  • March 9, 1985: No. 1 Georgetown def. No. 2 St. John's 92-80 (Big East tournament 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 tournament 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)