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Andy Wittry | | January 6, 2020

5 men's college basketball teams who can be No. 1 and make this a record-breaking season

College basketball rankings: Here's why undefeated Auburn dropped, Michigan State surged in Power 36

On Dec. 23, Gonzaga became the sixth different team this season to hold the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll, following Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Louisville and Kansas' brief stays atop the poll. That means the 2019-20 season has already tied the record for the second-most teams to be ranked No. 1 in a season before the start of the New Year, joining seven other seasons in which six teams were ranked No. 1.

In the 1983 men's basketball season, seven teams held the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll, which means the next time a team not named Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Duke, Kentucky or Michigan State is ranked No. 1, this season will tie the record.

If two new teams join this season's list of No. 1's, then the 2020 season will stand alone in the record books.

If the 2020 season is going to make history, which schools are most likely to be ranked No. 1 next?

Here are five of the top candidates.


The Ducks have had a steady climb in the AP Top 25 this season, starting at No. 15 in the preseason and improving week-to-week in six of the polls since then. They're now No. 9, a slight drop after No. 4 last week.

With non-conference wins over Memphis, Houston, Seton Hall and Michigan, and their only non-conference losses coming on neutral courts by a combined five points to Gonzaga and North Carolina, Oregon's resume is strong. The Pac-12 road trip to Colorado and Utah is notoriously tough so the Ducks' recent loss to the Buffaloes isn't the end of the world.

The Zags are currently No. 1 and the Ducks lost to them by one point in overtime so if there's such a thing as a "good" loss among voters, that game likely counts as one. With just two other Pac-12 teamx ranked in the new AP poll, No. 24 Arizona and No. 25 Colorado, it might be a question of whether or not Oregon has enough opportunities to beat marquee opponents in order to continue to impress AP voters in the next three months.


The Tigers are one of two remaining undefeated teams in college basketball, which inherently makes them one of the strongest candidates to potentially be ranked No. 1. As of Sunday, Auburn doesn't have any Quadrant 1 wins so far, although it's 7-0 in Quadrant 2, so the Tigers would likely need to add a handful of Quadrant 1 wins to potentially make a run at the top spot in the poll. They'll have those opportunities in the SEC, although many of those games are backloaded in the Tigers' conference schedule.

If Auburn (13-0) can continue its undefeated start into late January, if not later, it'd probably be hard for voters to rank anyone ahead of the Tigers. This month, they'll play Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Iowa State and Ole Miss. Four of those games are on the road so if Auburn's record gets in the neighborhood of 20-0, the Tigers will certainly have a compelling case to be No. 1, if not an air-tight case.


Admittedly, Ohio State was in this spot until the Buckeyes lost back-to-back games to West Virginia and Wisconsin as they've now lost three of their last five games. You know what Baylor hasn't done this season? Lost multiple times.

The Bears are 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in the AP poll. Baylor has rattled off 10 wins in a row since a neutral-court, three-point loss to Washington and those wins include victories over Butler, Arizona, Villanova and Texas. Those are far from empty calories.

This week presents a rough road trip with games at Texas Tech and Kansas, which while daunting, could provide the perfect springboard for the Bears and their top-10 defense to make a run at the No. 1 ranking if they win both games.

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The Bulldogs are ranked sixth and have one of the most impressive records in the sport at 14-1. Their only loss was a one-point road loss at Baylor and they have eight wins that fall under Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2.

All but two of their remaining games currently project to fall under the top two quadrants so as long as Butler continues winning games at its current pace, its resume will get more impressive by the week. A road win against No. 16 Villanova on Jan.  21 could go a long way for Butler and its pursuit of the No. 1 ranking.

San Diego State

The Aztecs fall under a similar category as Auburn as one of the two remaining unbeatens. San Diego State actually has a more impressive resume so far than Auburn, according to a comparison of their NCAA team sheets. The Aztecs are 4-0 in Quadrant 1 and 2-0 in Quadrant 2. However, they currently don't have any more Quadrant 1 games on their schedule, which could limit their upwards mobility in the AP poll.

San Diego State is ranked No. 7 in this week's AP poll, which means the Aztecs still have a ways to go to potentially reach No. 1, but if they can be the last remaining undefeated team in the sport, continuing to add quality wins while their peers in the AP poll suffer their third, fourth and fifth losses of the season, maybe AP poll voters take a closer look at awarding San Diego State with the top spot.

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