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Gonzaga Basketball: Bulldogs Reach No. 1 In AP Poll After Years Of Being Cinderella Team

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Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr. shoots without a San Francisco defender near in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Jed Conklin)
Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr. shoots without a San Francisco defender near in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Jed Conklin)

A program that made its name as everyone's favorite underdog found itself in an unusual position on Monday. The Gonzaga men's basketball team reached the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in school history.

For this week at least, the Bulldogs are the top dogs.

More than a decade after John Stockton left Spokane for the NBA, the Zags made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1995. In 1999, Gonzaga established itself as one of the preeminent purveyors of bracket madness in March. The Zags made three consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 and reached the Elite Eight once, sending favored teams home early along the way.

The 1999 edition of March Madness marked the first of 14 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament by Gonzaga. Thirteen of those tournament appearances came under head coach Mark Few. Over the years, Gonzaga's seeding improved and Few's teams were the ones looking to fend off early upsets. In Few's mind, the current crop of players in Spokane missed out on the Cinderella experience.

"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," Few told USA Today Sports. "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."

Does this No. 1 ranking complete the Zags' transition from David to Goliath? Or is it just the byproduct of a particularly turbulent season?

Here is a look back at the Zags rise to national prominence:

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