Revolving-door top spot could mean more NCAA upsets
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.