The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the latest team to reign over the college basketball Top 25, becoming the fifth different program to be ranked No. 1 so far this season.
Gonzaga, which is ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, joins Indiana, Duke, Louisville, and Michigan (Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll in Week 13) among those that have shared top billing in the country.
The last time the top spot saw such a turnover was the 2003-04 season, when five different schools split time as the nation’s No. 1. That year’s NCAA tournament was ripe with early-round upsets and many are predicting a wide-open bracket this March.
Here’s a look at the four biggest Cinderella schools from the 2004 tournament and which teams could follow in their footsteps when the Madness begins on March 19:
No. 9 UAB upset No. 8 Washington (+1) and No. 1 Kentucky (+10.5)
Who could do it this year?: Creighton Bluejays (24-7 SU, 15-13-1 ATS)
Numerous bracket predictors have the Bluejays pegged as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA. Creighton was a regular in the Top 25 until hitting a three-game skid in early February. The Bluejays have the experience and star power – forward Doug McDermott – to shock their way into the Sweet 16.
No. 12 Pacific upset No. 5 Providence (+7)
Who could do it this year?: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (27-4 SU, 14-13 ATS)
Barring another collapse in the Sun Belt tournament, MTSU should be dancing come Selection Sunday. The Blue Raiders cut their postseason teeth with a strong run in the NIT last year and are among the toughest defensive programs in the country (57.4 points allowed per game – 16th overall).
No. 10 Nevada upset No. 7 Michigan State (+2.5) and No. 2 Gonzaga (+9)
Who could do it this year?: Oklahoma Sooners (19-9 SU, 16-8 ATS)
Some bracketologist have the Sooners on the NCAA bubble but stamped as a No. 10 seed. Oklahoma has upset potential, knocking off Kansas, and has been one of the best bets in college hoops this year. The Sooners’ biggest weapon may be their free-throw shooting (76 percent), which is key in tournament upsets.
No. 12 Manhattan upset No. 5 Florida (+4.5)
Who could do it this year?: Akron Zips (23-5 SU, 13-9-1 ATS)
The Zips had a 19-game winning streak snapped this past weekend, a nice wakeup call heading into the final week of the schedule. Akron is one of the better balanced teams – offense and defense – in the country and nearly knocked off No. 14 Oklahoma State in overtime early in the season.