A side-by-side look at the leading contenders to rise to No. 1

A side-by-side look at the leading contenders to rise to No. 1

With top-ranked Oklahoma and second-ranked North Carolina both losing on Saturday night, it's likely that college basketball will have a new No. 1 team on Monday.

The question is who should it be?

In a jumbled mess of a season with plenty of good teams but no elite ones, there is no clear-cut answer to that question. The margin between the top teams is so paper-thin that at least six teams can make a legitimate case to be No. 1 on Monday including Oklahoma in spite of its 11-point road loss at Kansas State.

Here's a side-by-side look at the six leading contenders to be No. 1 in order of how I'd rank them. Unless the Sooners retain the No. 1 ranking, their heir apparent will be the sixth different team to claim the top spot this season, joining North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State and Kansas.

1. IOWA (19-4, 10-1, RPI 7, KenPom 2)
Vs. KenPom Top 100: 8-4
Vs. KenPom Top 50: 7-4
Vs. KenPom Top 25: 5-2
Sub 100 losses: 0
Best wins: at Michigan State, Michigan State, Purdue, at Purdue, Wichita State
Losses: Dayton, Notre Dame, at Iowa State, at Maryland
Why they should be No. 1: They've won 11 of their last 12, they're alone in first place in the Big Ten and they own five victories against teams in the top 20 in the KenPom rankings. All four of their losses are by six or fewer points away from home against surefire NCAA tournament teams.
Why they shouldn't be No. 1: They haven't faced as many top 100 opponents as some of their peers have, nor do they have as high a winning percentage against those teams. They also have a head-to-head loss at Maryland less than two weeks ago.

2. OKLAHOMA (19-3, 7-3, RPI 1, KenPom 5)
Vs. KenPom Top 100: 11-3
Vs. KenPom Top 50: 7-3
Vs. KenPom Top 25: 3-2
Sub 100 losses: 0
Best wins: Villanova, West Virginia, Iowa State, at Baylor, at LSU
Losses: at Kansas, at Iowa State, at Kansas State
Why they should be No. 1: Despite their loss at Kansas State on Saturday, the Sooners still have one of the nation's strongest resumes. They're tied for the most top 50 wins, they own an emphatic head-to-head win over Villanova and two of their losses came on the road in venues where almost nobody wins. 
Why they shouldn't be No. 1: Can Oklahoma really lose and still retain No. 1 for a second time? The Sooners still have an argument that their overall resume is strongest, but the margin is paper-thin this time. Not being penalized for losing a nail biter in Hilton Coliseum is one thing. Not being penalized for falling decisively at Kansas State is another.

3. VIRGINIA (19-4, 8-3, RPI 8, KenPom 3)
Vs. KenPom Top 100: 13-3
Vs. KenPom Top 50: 7-1
Vs. KenPom Top 25: 4-0
Sub 100 losses: 1
Best wins: Villanova, West Virginia, at Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame
Losses: at George Washington, at Florida State, at Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech
Why they should be No. 1: Nobody has more top 100 wins or top 50 wins than Virginia. They've beaten Big East-leading Villanova, Big 12-leading West Virginia and ACC-leading Louisville head-to-head. They've also won six straight and appear to be peaking entering the second half of ACC play. 
Why they shouldn't be No. 1: Three losses outside the KenPom top 50 are more than almost any other top 10 team. George Washington at least is an NCAA tournament contender, but the losses at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are eyesores even if both teams are improved this season.

4. VILLANOVA (20-3, 10-1, RPI 2, KenPom 1)
Vs. KenPom Top 100: 12-3
Vs. KenPom Top 50: 6-2
Vs. KenPom Top 25: 1-2
Sub 100 losses: 0
Best wins: Xavier, at Seton Hall, at Providence, at Creighton, at Butler
Losses: Oklahoma, Virginia, Providence
Why they should be No. 1: The Wildcats are alone in first place in one of the nation's toughest leagues. They are tied for the second-most top 100 victories in the country, they have no bad losses and they beat Xavier head-to-head by 31 points.
Why they shouldn't be No. 1: Villanova lost by 23 on a neutral court to Oklahoma and by 11 at Virginia. Besides their win over Xavier, the best team the Wildcats have beaten is probably either a fading Providence team or Seton Hall.

5. MARYLAND (21-3, 10-2, RPI 6, KenPom 9)
Vs. KenPom Top 100: 12-3
Vs. KenPom Top 50: 4-3
Vs. KenPom Top 25: 3-2
Sub 100 losses: 0
Best wins: Iowa, Purdue, UConn, at Wisconsin
Losses: at North Carolina, at Michigan, at Michigan State
Why they should be No. 1: They validated their gaudy record the past two weeks with victories over Iowa and Purdue. The only three games they've lost all season came by single digits in true road games — two of which came against top 10 opponents.
Why they shouldn't be No. 1: Even with the victories over Iowa and Purdue, Maryland's list of quality wins simply doesn't compare to its fellow competitors for No. 1. Their third most impressive win is over a UConn team squarely on the bubble. Their fourth best is over a Wisconsin team still fighting an uphill battle just to get to the bubble.

6. XAVIER (21-2, 9-2, RPI 5, KenPom 18)
Vs. KenPom Top 100: 8-2
Vs. KenPom Top 50: 6-1
Vs. KenPom Top 25: 0-1
Sub 100 losses: 0
Best wins: USC, Dayton, Cincinnati, at Michigan, Seton Hall, at Providence
Losses: at Villanova, Georgetown
Why they should be No. 1: Xavier is the lone major-conference team with two or fewer losses this season — and one of them came in a game when its starting point guard suffered a scary injury minutes after tip-off. The Musketeers have six top 50 wins, four of which came away from home.
Why they shouldn't be No. 1: Xavier is behind Villanova in the Big East standings and lost its lone meeting with the Wildcats by 31 points. That's a lot to overcome, especially when Xavier can't point to a single win over a Top 25 KenPom team.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!