Photo Credit: USA Today
It is rare in any college sport, particularly football and basketball, that there can be a legitimate argument stating that a team in a non-major conference is the best in that respective sport. This, however, is one of those times.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs, who were ranked #5 in this past week’s AP Poll, are now the only remaining team in the NCAA with an undefeated record. The Bulldogs sit atop the West Coast Conference (WCC) with a 17-0 record, but that is not the only reason why they are the best team in the nation. After all, five of those wins have been in-conference wins, and the (WCC) will be fortunate to get, at most, two teams to this season’s NCAA basketball tournament.
Gonzaga is not just winning games against clearly inferior teams. If that were the case, this would not even be up for debate, and Gonzaga would not be ranked nearly as high as they are. However, Gonzaga has played a number of really, really good teams, and they have beaten each one of them; in fact, they are one of only two teams in the nation that are unbeaten in three or more games against teams ranked in the top 25 of ESPN’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI) rankings, the other being the West Virginia Mountaineers of the Big 12 Conference.
Through 17 games, the Bulldogs have knocked off a number of tough opponents. Most notably, they knocked off the Florida Gators, who were ranked #23 in this past week’s AP Poll and are now #3 in the RPI, by a score of 77-72; the then-#21 Iowa State Cyclones, who are now #48 in the RPI, by a score of 73-71; the then-#16 Arizona Wildcats, who were ranked #16 in this past week’s AP Poll and are now #12 in the RPI; and the then-#21 Saint Mary’s Gaels, who were ranked #21 in this past week’s AP Poll and are now #21 in the RPI, by a score of 79-56. Only the game against Saint Mary’s was a home game for the Bulldogs, while each of the other three games were played on neutral courts.
Gonzaga is also a very well-rounded team; in fact, they are perhaps the most well-rounded team in the country. They are one of only two teams ranked in the top 25 in the AP Poll that is averaging over 85.0 points per game with six players averaging 9.5 points or more per game. The only other team that has been on that level and pulled this off so far this season is the California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins. For Gonzaga, junior transfer guard Nigel Williams-Goss is currently averaging a team-high 15.2 points per game; senior center Przemek Karnowski is currently averaging 12.6 points per game; senior guard Jordan Mathews is currently averaging 11.1 points per game; freshman forward Zach Collins is currently averaging 10.4 points per game; sophomore guard Josh Perkins is currently averaging 9.9 points per game; and junior forward Johnathan Williams is currently averaging 9.5 points per game.
If Gonzaga ends up running the table against their remaining WCC opponents, which is very possible (click HERE for more about that), they will further cement their current status as the top team in the country heading into the NCAA basketball tournament. The fact that going unbeaten means that they beat everyone and will have beaten everyone that they were supposed to, and having some very quality wins on their resume with absolutely no blunders goes to show how big of a force they are and why they currently stand and would stand apart from the other top teams in the country.