Photo Credit: FanSided
NOTE: All statistics are updated as of 5:00 PM EST on Thursday, January 5th, 2017. All records are updated as of 11:30 PM EST on Thursday, January 5th, 2017.
As hard as it is to go undefeated in NCAA basketball, the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament bracket was the only one since 2013 that saw no teams enter into the tournament with an undefeated record. The Wichita State Shockers came into the 2014 NCAA basketball tournament with a perfect 34-0 record, and the Kentucky Wildcats came into the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament with a perfect 34-0 record as well.
Will a team once again enter into the 2017 NCAA basketball tournament with an undefeated record? There are currently two teams remaining with unbeaten records this season: the #2 Baylor Bears (14-0), and the #5 Gonzaga Bulldogs (15-0). While Baylor is in a gauntlet of a conference in the Big 12, where they will still have to take on teams like the #7 West Virginia Mountaineers and the #3 Kansas Jayhawks both at home and on the road, Gonzaga is in a much lighter West Coast Conference, and their toughest regular season matchups may very well be behind them. That leaves us with one question: Will Gonzaga run the table and go into the 2017 NCAA basketball tournament unbeaten?
Gonzaga has already defeated two ranked teams at the time of the matchup. They took down the then-#21 Iowa State Cyclones by a score of 73-71 on a neutral court as well as the then-#16 Arizona Wildcats by a score of 69-62 on a neutral court. Based on how things look right now, the only real tough games on paper that Gonzaga has left on their schedule are their games against the #19 Saint Mary’s Gaels, who are currently the 2nd best team in the West Coast Conference with a 12-1 record. Gonzaga will host Saint Mary’s on Saturday, January 14th, 2017, and they will travel to Saint Mary’s to play the Gaels on Saturday, February 11th, 2017. Should they win both of those games and end up with a 31-0 record at the end of the regular season, it would be likely that they would win the West Coast Conference tournament, with the championship game likely being a matchup against Saint Mary’s, and enter the 2017 NCAA basketball tournament with a perfect 34-0 record.
Gonzaga certainly has the talent to pull it off. Led by junior transfer guard Nigel-Williams Goss, who is currently averaging a team-high 13.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, a team-high 4.7 assists per game, and a team-high 1.7 steals per game, Gonzaga has a loaded roster that can get the job done. Five of their players are currently averaging double-digit points per game, including Williams-Goss, senior center Przemek Karnowski (12.7 average points per game), sophomore guard Josh Perkins (10.9), senior guard Jordan Mathews (10.6), and freshman forward Zach Collins (10.5).
As a team, Gonzaga is scoring an average of 84.9 points per game, which is tied for 17th-best in the nation; they are shooting 49.2% from the field, which is 18th-best in the nation; and they are shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc, which is tied for 30th-best in the nation. They area also rebounding an average of 41.4 shots per game, which is 16th-best in the nation, making them one of the most well-rounded teams in the country.
Gonzaga definitely has a good chance of becoming the 3rd team in the past four seasons to enter the NCAA basketball tournament with an unbeaten record. Will they come through and pull off this feat, or will they suffer their first loss of the season before the tournament begins?