Teams that could replace Gonzaga at No.1
by Scott Gleeson and Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga achieves a program first today, and Bulldogs’ fans are no doubt hoping it isn’t the last first they achieve by season’s end.
With 29 of a possible 31 first-place votes, the Bulldogs also became the first school from outside the power six conferences to be ranked No.1 since Memphis in 2008. The No. 1 ranking wasn’t much of a debate for poll voters. There will be more of an argument when it comes to seeding the Zags a top seed in NCAA tournament, however.
USA TODAY Sports bracketologist Patrick Stevens believes Gonzaga (29-2) is worthy of a No. 1 seed, yet there’s reason to dissect the Bulldogs’ résumé thoroughly considering they weren’t challenged on the way to a West Coast Conference title, finishing 16-0. The most noteworthy win on Gonzaga’s résumé is a non-conference victory against Oklahoma State in which the Bulldogs survived 69-68 on the road.
Gonzaga will get to enjoy the top spot for a few days before its semifinal game in the West Coast Conference tournament on Saturday. Meanwhile, teams in power conferences will have a chance to make up ground in catching the Bulldogs. Here’s a look at the teams chasing that are worthy of the top ranking in the poll.
No. 2 Indiana: The Hoosiers Indiana fell from the top position to No. 2 after a loss to Minnesota. The fact that Indiana plays in the nation’s toughest conference and has beaten its top teams (Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State) helps make a strong case for a No. 1 spot. But it’s the team’s losses (Illinois and Wisconsin the others) that earned the Hoosiers zero first-place votes in the poll. RPI: 7.
No. 3 Kansas (1 first-place vote): The Jayhawks (25-4) have rekindled their stride after a February three-game skid in the Big 12, moving up two spots in the poll. Among those three losses is one glaring stain with a loss to TCU, the Horned Frogs’ lone conference victory still. Even though Kansas avenged that loss with a 26-point rout, that’s the worst loss of any contenders. RPI: 4.