The Ultimate Bracket Buster: Is Gonzaga Really The Best Team In The Country?
This year’s college basketball season has been one of the craziest in recent memory because there is no dominant team. The Indiana Hoosiers were thought to have been that team until their recent slip up against Minnesota on Tuesday. When the AP Poll came out Monday, the new number one was the Gonzaga Bulldogs, a West Coast Conference team. It is only fitting that a non-power six conference team is the current number one team in the country, but some experts don’t agree. Let’s dissect the Zags and see if they are worthy.
Gonzaga closed out their regular season schedule strong with a five-point road victory at BYU and a blow-out home win versus Portland. Those two wins put the Bulldogs at 29-2 and a perfect 16-0 conference record in the WCC. Their only home loss came when they faced a red-hot, unbeaten Illinois team who were piggy-backed by a 35 point performance from Brandon Paul. Their only road loss came to Butler in a crazy back-and-forth game that ended with a Butler buzzer-beater from Roosevelt Jones off of a last-second steal. The Zags haven’t lost since that January 19th defeat and roll into the West Coast Conference tournament with a lot of steam.
The Bulldogs are led by two Canadians, player of the year candidate Kelly Olynyk (17.7 ppg, 7 rpg) and point guard Kevin Pangos (11.7 ppg). Along with those two is forward Elias Harris (14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg), who is the final piece of their big three. What makes the Bulldogs deadly is that they are very deep, as they have ten players who log at least ten minutes a game. They also shoot the three-ball very well as a team at 37.4%. One could compare them to the past years’ Orlando Magic because they have a very good center in Olynyk, who stands at seven feet tall, as well as a wide array of three point shooters like Pangos, Drew Barham, and Gary Bell Jr.
ESPN.com ranks Gonzaga fifth in their BPI, Basketball Power Index, rankings system. It accounts for numerous statistics when ranking teams, such as strength of schedule, scoring margin, if players are missing, etc. In the famous Pomeroy rankings, the Zags are fourth behind Florida, Indiana, and Louisville. The Bulldogs received 51 first place votes in the AP Poll this week as opposed to Indiana obtaining only seven, Duke getting five, and Georgetown receiving two. With the Bulldogs’ regular season over, they cannot hurt or help themselves to solidify their ranking, while Indiana can absolutely do so. The Hoosiers host 14th-ranked Ohio State on Tuesday night, and travel to #7 Michigan on Sunday to wrap up their season. With a clean week, one could imagine the Hoosiers hopping Gonzaga for the top spot, but with this season’s uncertainty with every game, nothing is a guarantee.
As we approach the big dance, many will probably have Gonzaga falling first of the number one seeds, but don’t overlook this bunch. In all of Mark Few’s 14 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach, this is his best regular season yet. He has made the NCAA tournament every single year while at the helm and will do so again. His teams have failed to get past the Sweet 16, but 2013 could change all of that because the Zags are locked and loaded, and ready to shock the world.