The 20 Smallest Schools Ever To Be Ranked No. 1 In The AP Top 25
Gonzaga joins the club of tiny schools that did big things
The Associated Press has conducted 1,065 polls since 1949. On Monday, Gonzaga became the 57th different program to be voted No. 1 — and the first Catholic university since Saint Joseph’s on March 9, 2004. The tiny Jesuit school from Spokane, Wash., is one of the smallest colleges to make it to No. 1 in the polls.
Here’s a look at the 20 smallest schools to occupy the No. 1 ranking, as ordered by the most recent available undergraduate enrollment figures.
20. Georgia Tech (enrollment: 14,527)
The Yellow Jackets were the preseason No. 1 entering the 1985-86 season. Led by Mark Price and John Salley, they finished 27-7, entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed but fell to 11th-seeded LSU during the Tigers’ improbable run to the Final Four.
19. Syracuse (14,201)
Spirited by Derrick Coleman, the Orangemen were a preseason No. 1 in 1987-88 and spent six weeks atop the poll in ’89-90 when Billy Owens joined the fold. Last year’s Orange also spent six weeks at No. 1.
18. Wichita State (11,763)
The Shockers were voted No. 1 in the Dec. 22, 1964 poll. They finished the season in the Final Four, where they lost to eventual champion UCLA, then stood by as Princeton’s Bill Bradley hung a 58-spot on them in the third-place game.
17. Indiana State (9,373)
Larry Bird’s Sycamores spent four weeks at No. 1 during the 1978-79 season, when they brought a 33-0 record into the national championship game before falling to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State side.
16. Loyola (Ill.) (9,154)
Coming off a two-point win over Cincinnati in the 1963 national title game, the Jesuit school entered the ’63-64 season as the preseason No. 1 and spent the next three weeks atop the poll. They ended up stumbling in the Midwest regional semifinals to a Michigan team bound for the Final Four.
15. Saint Louis (8,406)
The very first two AP polls ever compiled — on Jan. 18 and 25, 1949 — were topped by the Billikens. That team, led by future NBA All-Star center Ed Macauley (right, with coach Ed Hickey), had won the NIT the previous year.
14. Marquette (8,387)
The Milwaukee school spent two weeks at No. 1 during the 1970-71 season, when they ran the table in the regular season only to lose a one-point heartbreaker to Ohio State in the NCAAs. They returned to No. 1 during the week of Feb. 21, 1978, one year after winning the national title.
13. Notre Dame (8,371)
The Irish spent one week atop the poll during the 1973-74 season, then four more weeks during the ’78-79 campaign, when they landed a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs before falling to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
12. Georgetown (7,590)
Fresh off the 1984 national championship, the Hoyas spent 12 weeks at No. 1 during the ’84-85 season — and the other five at No. 2 — before crashing out to Villanova in the NCAA title game.
11. Stanford (6,999)
The Cardinal were mainstays atop the rankings during the 1999-00 (five weeks), ’00-01 (seven) and ’03-04 (four) seasons, though the program’s only Final Four appearance of the era came in 1998.
10. Duke (6,484)
The Blue Devils have played more games as the No. 1 ranked team in 33 years under Mike Krzyzewski (215) than as an unranked team (141). They have spent at least one week atop the polls in 11 of the past 16 years.
9. San Francisco (6,071)
Thanks in no small part to Bill Russell, the Dons spent the entire 1955-56 season at No. 1 and became the first team to go undefeated en route to the NCAA championship. They also spent more than half the ’76-77 season (nine weeks) at No. 1 and landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
8. Duquesne (5,858)
The Pittsburgh school, as the preseason pick for “Best in the East,” spent two weeks at No. 1 in February 1954. They finished 23-2 and earned the top seed in the NIT, where they advanced to the title game before falling to Holy Cross.
7. Bradley (5,301)
The Braves spent the last three weeks of the 1949-50 season at No. 1. They entered both the NIT and the NCAA tournament and, amazingly, lost to City College of New York in the championship games of both events.
6. Seton Hall (5,245)
The South Orange school enjoyed a run of success in the Big East under P.J. Carlesimo — including an appearance in the 1989 NCAA championship game — but its only time at No. 1 came during a six-week run in 1953, when Richie Regan and Walter Dukes (second from left) led the team to the NIT title with a win over rival St. John’s.
5. Gonzaga (4,906)
By inheriting the No. 1 ranking, the Jesuits from Spokane are Cinderellas no longer. Mark Few’s club is the fifth team to hold the top spot this season.
4. Wake Forest (4,775)
Behind the dynamic play of Chris Paul, the Winston-Salem, N.C., school made it to No. 1 for two weeks during the 2004-05 season, but wound up getting Pittsnogle’d in the second round of the NCAAs.
3. La Salle (4,773)
The Explorers’ four weeks at No. 1 came during the 1952-53 and ’54-55 seasons; they captured their lone national championship, led by Tom Gola (below), during the season in between.
2. Saint Joseph’s (4,600)
The one-two punch of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West carried the tiny Jesuit school to an unbeaten regular season — the Jameeracle on 54th Street — but a three-point dagger from Oklahoma State’s John Lucas III in the Elite Eight clipped the Hawks’ campaign just short of the Final Four.
1. Holy Cross (2,905)
Led by Bob Cousy (right), the Crusaders spent five weeks at No. 1 during the 1949-50 season, three years after the future Celtics point guard helped the Jesuit school become the first East Coast program to win the NCAA title. This year marks 60 years since the Worcester, Mass., school last won an NCAA tournament game.