Illinois Fighting Illini bench reacts after a three pointer by guard D.J. Richardson during the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. Illinois defeated Indiana 74-72 (image by Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports)
Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
With less than five weeks until Selection Sunday, the scramble for top seeds in the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the nation's No. 1 ranking remains wild and wide open.
Despite a loss at Illinois, will Indiana - coming off Sunday's win at No. 10 Ohio State - remain No. 1 Monday in the new USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll? Or will the top spot go back to Duke, which barely avoided defeat Sunday at Boston College?
"There aren't one or two teams that are head and shoulders above everybody else," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose second-ranked Gators lost at unranked Arkansas last week. "You can go and take everybody's best game they've played and say, 'Boy, that team's unbeatable.' Not everybody sustains that level night in and night out. There's a dropoff. ... There are a lot of teams that have displayed the potential to really, really, really play at a high level. Can they consistently?"
Gonzaga could move into the top five for the first time since December 2008. There hasn't been a team from outside the six power conferences ranked in the top five of the coaches poll at this point in the season (Week 15) since Memphis was No. 1 under then-coach John Calipari five years ago. In addition to Gonzaga, four other non-power conference teams are currently ranked; the Mountain West boasts as many ranked teams (two) as the Atlantic Coast Conference, traditionally one of the sport's most dominant leagues.
Projecting the top seed lines has proved nearly futile, as upsets have jumbled the college basketball landscape all season and made it difficult to evaluate the season's elite teams.
Donovan said he thinks 30 teams have a legitimate chance to make the Final Four. Butler coach Brad Stevens said he thinks it's more.
"40? 50? 68? Whoever gets in has a shot, that's true," Stevens said. "Obviously, there are a lot of factors that play into it but to say right now, this time of year, 'This is a Final Four team.' 'That's a Sweet 16 team.' Nobody knows. You haven't seen a bracket yet, and you don't know how they'll be playing at that time. Or that night."