Gonzaga Basketball: Bulldogs Complete Rise of the Mid-Major with No. 1 Ranking

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 4, 2013

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 02:  Guards Gary Bell Jr. (l),  Kevin Pangos (c) and  Kyle Dranginis (r) of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate their status as 2013 WCC Champions after the game against the Portland Pilots at McCarthey Athletic Center on March 2, 2013 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
William Mancebo/Getty Images

As of March 4, 2013, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in both the AP and USA Today polls (via ESPN). The Bulldogs currently rest at 29-2 overall and 16-0 in the West Coast Conference. 

As a result of their No. 1 ranking, the Bulldogs have completed the regular season rise of the mid-major.

It may not be a national championship, but Gonzaga has made history with their status as the No. 1 team in the nation. That history includes, but certainly isn't limited to, that of their university.

According to a release via The Associated Press, the Zags are ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll for the first time in school history.

Furthermore, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today Sports reports that this is the first time Gonzaga has been ranked first overall in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The first time ever.

Just don't expect head coach Mark Few to back down from the challenge.

"These kids have been ranked their whole careers," Few said. "Whether it was 20 or 10 or 5 or 2 or even 1, they've still been ranked. They've had a huge bull's-eye on their chest the entire time they've played at Gonzaga. This isn't something new.

"There might be a larger mass of (attention), but it's certainly not something new. We'll keep doing what we're doing. This group handles it really well. They don't get too caught up in it."

John Stockton, Ronny Turiaf, Casey Calvary, Blake Stepp, Dan Dickau and Adam Morrison—all are legendary Zags who couldn't lead the team to No. 1.

This is not to sell those players' efforts short, but instead to acknowledge the changing of the guard in college basketball. No longer is attention focused solely on the major conferences, but instead upon the mid-majors.

Perhaps none more so than Gonzaga.


Making School History

The Zags have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since 1999. They've made five Sweet 16 appearances and have won at least 25 games in 13 of those 14 seasons.

Even still, they have never possessed the top spot in the AP or USA Today Coaches Poll. Until now.

Not during their 28-3 season in 2003-04. Not when they went 28-6 in 2008-09. Not even when they finished 29-4 in 2005-06.


With Mark Few doing his best coaching job yet, however, Gonzaga has silenced the critics and risen to No. 1. With just one game remaining, a home contest against the 11-20 Portland Pilots, it appears as if they'll hold on to the top spot.

The last time these two teams met, Gonzaga won 81-52 at Portland.

In other words, the Bulldogs are in prime position to be ranked No. 1 overall entering the NCAA Tournament. It is then that we could, potentially, see a mid-major team win the national championship.

Until then, the regular season rise of the mid-major has been completed—nine years in the making.


Third in a Near Decade

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have made more than team history. In fact, they've become one of the greatest mid-major teams of the century due to their recent feat.

The Bulldogs are the first mid-major to be ranked first overall since Feb. 18, 2008. Derrick Rose and the Memphis Tigers took home that honor by reaching 25-0.

With one loss, however, the Tigers fell down the rankings and never managed to reclaim the top spot.

Prior to that, it was Jameer Nelson and the St. Joseph's Hawks on March 8, 2004. The Eagles finished the regular season at 27-0 and Nelson went on to win a multitude of the National Player of the Year awards.

To put it simply, Gonzaga has joined rare company.

The Bulldogs are just the third mid-major team in nine years to secure the No. 1 ranking in the NCAA. Not only does this place an extreme burden upon the Zags to perform well come March Madness, but it has created something else.

The official regular season rise of the mid-major.