The Associated Press issued men’s college basketball rankings Monday, and the list boiled with blasphemy. Somehow, it managed to omit Kentucky (5-13), Kansas (13-7), North Carolina (12-6) and Duke (7-8), as if such kingdoms should have to bother with the triviality of won-lost records. In further huffiness just one month to Selection Sunday, it went ahead and left out Michigan State (10-7), Louisville (11-4), Syracuse (11-6) and UCLA (13-4).

A deep-weeds trivia question: Among the teams currently in the rankings, which has the most wins all-time?

A deep-weeds trivia answer: That would be No. 24 Purdue, the 14th-winningest program ever.

“Who kidnapped college basketball?” John Blanchette of the Spokesman-Review wrote, and he wrote that from one of the present-day twin capitals of the sport, from pretty Spokane, Wash., from the home of No. 1 Gonzaga. Not since Monday, Dec. 18, 1961, had the rankings been so bereft of the snobbish, even if in those days they ranked only 10 teams because people were lazier back then. Those rankings had charm — Duquesne at No. 7, St. Bonaventure at No. 9 — and prescience: No. 1 Ohio State (then 5-0) and No. 2 Cincinnati (then 5-0) would play for the national title three months thence.

By Monday, Dec. 25, 1961, here came Kentucky at No. 6 and Duke at No. 10, and the all-time, top-five empires would appear every rankings from there, until 59 years and six weeks later, when that chunk of the population that tends to ignore college basketball until March might wonder:

Who’s left?

Here’s one answer: only 11 of the top 25 teams from the premature closing of last season, and only three of the top 10: No. 1 Gonzaga (which was No. 2 in March), No. 2 Baylor (No. 5 in March), No. 5 Villanova (No. 10 in March). Here’s another answer: Things have gone so haywire that after a recent loss at Missouri for No. 11 Alabama (16-5) and impressive second-year coach Nate Oats, three billboards appeared in Tuscaloosa having nothing to do with Frances McDormand or football.

They implored the Crimson Tide to please rebound a round ball.

It signaled an upturning of all known history.

And here’s another answer, a line they didn’t see coming in 1961 or 2001: It’s a Spokane-Waco kind of college basketball country, with Gonzaga (18-0) and Baylor (17-0) remaining unbeaten partly because they didn’t play each other Dec. 5 because of the coronavirus, making them even more 2020-21 than they were already.

Other than that, the ranking contains plenty of little subdivisions:

Programs from the past five Final Fours: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 3 Michigan, No. 5 Villanova, No. 7 Texas Tech, No. 9 Virginia, No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 21 Wisconsin and — look at this, look at this — No. 22 Loyola Chicago.

Programs that would furnish a Final Four with charm: No. 19 Creighton, No. 22 Loyola Chicago, No. 25 Rutgers.

Schools better known for football through time (a hefty number here): No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 11 Alabama, No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 13 Texas, No. 16 Tennessee, No. 17 Florida State, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Wisconsin.

Programs that have run around in the wilderness for a long time aching for a Final Four: No. 2 Baylor, No. 10 Missouri, No. 16 Tennessee, No. 17 Florida State, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Southern California. (Note: Baylor reached the 1950 Final Four when a team had to win one game to get there because people were lazier back then; Florida State reached the 1972 Final Four and final two, 30 years before this accomplished Leonard Hamilton era began; and Southern California reached the 1940 and 1954 Final Fours. And Alabama is not aching for a Final Four, because Alabama is not aching over anything in this Nick Saban era.)

Program all the cool people picked to win it all last year before it all got canceled: No. 17 Florida State.

Program that epitomizes life now: No. 3 Michigan (13-1), which beat Purdue, 70-53, on Jan. 22 by holding the Boilermakers to shooting close to zero percent (technically, 30.8), and then has not played again amid five postponements after a coronavirus variant reached Ann Arbor. But for a loss at Minnesota on Jan. 16 while lacking senior Eli Brooks, the Wolverines would help form a tangle with Spokane-Waco.

For now, Spokane-Waco tops the enticements, especially should they meet at or near the end of the all-Indiana tournament in March. Gonzaga has been winning its games by 92.7 to 69.7, Baylor by 87 to 62.8. With some limitations on the usual nonconference games that help poll voters gauge teams, Gonzaga managed to get wins over ranked teams Virginia, West Virginia and Iowa, plus Kansas and Auburn, while Baylor beat No. 6 Illinois and Auburn and just got on a bus last week to go thump then-No. 6 Texas in conference play.

In a story line that keeps happening in waves, guys from all over the globe have converged on Spokane to score a bunch of points. They’re from the actual Bordeaux, France (Joel Ayayi); St. Paul, Minn. (freshman Jalen Suggs); Texas (Drew Timme); Canada (Andrew Nembhard); and even Washington state (Anton Watson, Corey Kispert). As humans seem to evolve to make more and more of their three-point shots — thanks for the inspiration, Stephen Curry — leading scorer Kispert makes 48.3 percent, the second-highest clip for any player (a bow to Chris Shelton of Hampton) with more than 100 attempts.

Still, the force in the back of a mind that considers Gonzaga is pain.

There’s the pain in Coach Mark Few’s face on ESPN in March when the tournament cancellation happened, his smashing team done at 31-2. And there’s the pain lingering in aural memory from his voice from the previous March, when his team with Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke and Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins and more lost a 75-69 donnybrook against Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, and Few said, “Hurts really bad right now, but once time clears I think they will sit back and realize how awesome it was.”

You know it hurts when people ask for time to clear.

By then, it had been 21 great years capped with hard exits in three final eights, six Sweet 16s, eight rounds of 32, three rounds of 64 and one Final Four in 2017, with a 65-63 lead with 1:55 left before North Carolina hogged the last eight points for the title.

Isn’t that quite enough pain?

Baylor in 18 seasons under Scott Drew has had less pain, its trips to the final eights of 2010 and 2012 running up against Duke and Anthony Davis, neither of which allowed for much postgame wincing. By now the Bears ply something that seems to have reemerged as valuable: college experience, most helpful among guards. The outstanding Jared Butler, the outstanding Davion Mitchell and the outstanding MaCio Teague had 223 college games among them before this season, and among them, they’re something.

“We have a quick memory — I mean, a short memory,” Butler said in the Zoom after the Texas game. “… Once we cross half court from the possession, we forget about it. We’re on to the next one. In the game of basketball, you’ve got to have that. You’ve got to have the ability to block out past mistakes or even the future. You’ve got to play in the moment, and we’re really good at that. We’re really mature, and everybody knows that.”

In weird old February 2021, the polish had left the kingdoms and gone elsewhere.

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