Gonzaga has a real chance of taking its undefeated record into Selection Sunday. The Bulldogs’ non-conference wins this season include opponents that — through Feb. 17 — are in first place in the ACC (Virginia), second place in the Big 12 (Kansas), tied for fourth in the Big 12 (West Virginia) and fourth place in the Big Ten (Iowa). The toughest games are behind them, as are most of their games, period.
Here are more reasons why:
You can (almost) count the number of games remaining on one hand
There are only two games left on Gonzaga’s regular season schedule: at home against Saint Mary’s and San Diego. As the top seed in the WCC tournament, Gonzaga would have to play just two games to win the conference tournament, meaning the Zags likely have no more than four games left before Selection Sunday.
They’re 11-0 in the conference so far this season, so all they would have to do to take an undefeated record into the NCAA tournament would be to duplicate just a sliver of what they’ve done so far against WCC competition. The Zags are 20-0 and they’ve won 24 in a row as a program, so what is four more games?
The advanced analytics site kenpom.com predicts, on the evening of Feb. 18, that Gonzaga has a 96.7 percent chance of finishing the regular season undefeated, not including the WCC tournament.
The rewards of a rematch
Saint Mary’s arguably presents the toughest upcoming opponents for Gonzaga. The good news for the Zags?
Gonzaga beat Saint Mary’s by 14 already.
A supreme concentration of talent
You could make the case that regardless of the WCC opponent, Gonzaga will — at a minimum — have the four best players on the floor. As of Feb. 18, Gonzaga has the top four players on kenpom.com’s five-player all-conference team, which is based on advanced efficiency metrics. Those players are Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi.
Loyola Marymount’s Eli Scott is the fifth player on the team.
Through Feb. 17, Gonzaga has four of the 70 most efficient offensive players in college basketball: Kispert (eighth), Ayayi (24th), Timme (38th) and Anton Watson (64th).
That collection of skilled offensive players has allowed Gonzaga to post a WCC-best offensive efficiency in conference play of 121.1 points per 100 possessions, which is lightyears ahead of second-best BYU at 110.6. The Zags also have the most efficient defense in conference play at 88.1 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Gonzaga is making a national-best 64.5 percent of its 2-point attempts, while holding opponents to 45.3-percent 2-point shooting. A good way to win a lot of games by a lot of points is to take and make easy shots, and prevent opponents from doing the same.