Can Mark Few finally get the Zags that elusive national title this season? Photo from SD Dirk (Flickr)
- Gonzaga has won 17 games in a row since losing to Michigan on Nov. 29 in the Battle 4 Atlantis final
- The Zags are scoring a nation-best 88.5 points a game and have seven players averaging double figures
- Although Gonzaga has a 5-1 record against P5 schools, KenPom.com rates their schedule at No. 240
Gonzaga’s 90-60 blowout win at Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Saturday was so impressive that oddsmakers now have the Zags as the solo favorite to win the NCAA Tournament, ahead of Duke and Kansas.
Now +700 in the 2020 National Championship odds, is this finally the year Mark Few brings the trophy to Spokane?
Odds to Win The 2020 NCAA Tournament
|Team||Odds at BetOnline|
|San Diego State||+1400|
Odds taken Feb. 10
Red Hot Zags Demolish Gaels
Gonzaga is 25-1 overall and 11-0 in the West Coast Conference yet might have turned in its best performance of the season in handing Saint Mary’s its worst home loss in 19 years.
The Zags made 14 of their first 15 shots as it built a 53-28 lead by halftime. They also avenged last year’s stunning loss to Saint Mary’s in the championship game of the WCC tournament.
Gonzaga shot 68 percent (36 of 53) from the field and 71 percent (10 of 14) on three-pointers. It also held a 33-23 edge in rebounds against the Gaels, who have won 20 games this season.
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) February 9, 2020
Unbeaten Since November
Saturday’s rout extended Gonzaga’s winning streak to 17 games. That is the second-best active streak in the nation to unbeaten San Diego State’s 23 in a row.
The Zags haven’t lost since dropping an 82-64 decision to Michigan on Nov. 29 in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Gonzaga has also won 38 consecutive WCC regular-season games. Furthermore, it has ran 36 home wins in a row at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Saturday’s victory gave the Zags and coach Mark Few their 13th straight 25-win season.
Filling It Up
In today’s world of advanced metrics, Gonzaga’s success can be summed in two very basic statistics. They lead the nation in points scored per game (88.5) and scoring margin (21.6 points).
The Zags are also the only team in the country that has seven players with scoring averages in double figures.
Sophomore forward Filip Petrusev leads the way with 17.2 points a game and is also Gonzaga’s top rebounder with a 7.9 average.
Filip Petrusev stepped his game up for the Zags!
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 3, 2020
Also scoring in double figures are junior forward Corey Kispert (13.8), senior forward Killian Tillie (13.0), senior guard Admon Gilder (11.0), sophomore guard Jay Ayayi (10.7), freshman forward Drew Timme (10.3) and senior guard Ryan Woodridge (10.3).
The biggest knock against Gonzaga, as it is against most mid-major programs, is that the Zags play a weak schedule.
They are dominating the WCC with a three-game lead over BYU (8-3) and a four-game bulge over Pacific and Saint Mary’s, who are both 7-4 in conference.
2020 NBA Championship Odds Tracker
Gonzaga has played six games against schools from Power Five conferences. While they lost to Michigan, the Zags have beaten Texas A&M (79-49), Oregon (73-72), Washington (83-76), Arizona (84-80) and North Carolina (94-81).
The wins against Washington and Arizona came on the road in back-to-back games in December.
Yet Gonzaga is just 240th in strength of schedule in KenPom.com’s rankings.
High in the Rankings
Speaking of rankings, Gonzaga is considered the second-best team in the nation by KenPom.com, BartTorvik.com. and Jeff Sagarin, who does the computer ratings for USA Today. All three have Kansas at No. 1.
The NCAA uses NET Rankings as a guide in determine both seeding and which at-large teams gain berths into its tournament. Gonzaga is also No. 2 there, trailing only San Diego State.
Quad 1: 4-0
Quad 2: 4-0
Quad 1: 4-1
Quad 2: 3-0
I don't see a compelling reason for the committee to rank Gonzaga over SDSU at this point.
— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) February 8, 2020
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee gave Gonzaga the No. 1 seed in West Region when it released its preliminary rankings Saturday.
NCAA History Against Zags
The rankings certainly point to Gonzaga to be a strong national title contender. However, history shows that the Zags often seem to come up short in the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga has won at least 23 games in 23 straight seasons since 1997-98. However, the Zags have been to the Final Four only once, losing to North Carolina in the 2016-17 title game.
Gonzaga has lost in the Elite Eight on four occasions, including last season, when they fell to Texas Tech in the championship game of the West Region.
That history of coming up short in March leaves reason to pause when it comes time to placing a wager on Gonzaga as the chalk for the national title.
If the numbers of the analysts are to be believed, Kansas should be the favorite instead of the second choice along with Duke.
Gonzaga has a good team but if you’re looking to bet on a mid-major from the West, San Diego State is the better play at +1400. The Aztecs’ No. 1 position in the NET rankings can’t be ignored.
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.