3 Reasons Why The Gonzaga Bulldogs Will Not Win The NCAA Championship
While the Bulldogs only have two losses, a few concerning factors will keep them from cutting down the nets once again
- Gonzaga is again among the nation’s elite, currently sporting a 28-2 record.
- While Gonzaga has proven to be an offensive juggernaut (87.6 points per game, best in Division I), they struggle to defend when faced with stiffer competition.
- Gonzaga has the 5th-longest streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances of all time (21), but has only reached the Final Four once in their history (2017).
- Gonzaga traditionally beats up on the West Coast Conference, but this season, when faced with tougher competition, they are racking up close calls.
- The Bulldogs are listed at +900 (DraftKings Sportsbook) to win the NCAA Tournament (T2nd-highest odds with Baylor behind Kansas).
1. Defensive Struggles
In what is to be expected each season, Gonzaga has one of the best records in the entire nation. Their two losses tie them with Baylor and Dayton, and they sit just behind San Diego State, who is the only team in the nation with one loss. Much of this is due to the fact that the Bulldogs consistently dominate their conference. The West Coast Conference, while it sports some solid teams, does not stack up against the likes of the ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 each season. Because of this, Gonzaga stacks up their wins in the regular season, but often fails to get over the hump in March.
One cause for concern for Gonzaga has to be their defense, specifically against the better offenses. While no defense is going to completely shut down talented offenses, there has been instances where the Bulldogs provided no resistance. There is no better example of this than in their second-to-last game, a 91-78 loss to the BYU Cougars, their second loss of the season. Gonzaga allowed 46 and 45 points respectively each half, proving that this was not just a hot start or finish for BYU. The Bulldogs struggled to defend from the get-go against a talented offense, and this could spell trouble going forward, as the competition will only increase come tournament time.
The OVER has gone 24-6 in their contests (the highest rate in Division I), not as a result of their scoring proficiency, but their inability to get consistent stops on the defensive end as well.
2. Mark Few’s Tournament Track Record
Mark Few is a great coach, one of the brightest in the game. However, it’s fair to say that his tournament success (or lack thereof) is a black eye on his career. In each of Few’s 20 seasons as the top man at Gonzaga, the Bulldogs have qualified for the NCAA Tournament. In those 20 seasons, they’ve earned a No. 4 seed or higher in the tournament based on their regular season success. With these high rankings, you’d expect the Zags to consistently be making the Elite Eight, with plenty of Final Four appearances.
That simply hasn’t been the case. Gonzaga has only reached the Elite Eight or better on three occasions, advancing to the National Championship only once, in 2017, a season that ended in a loss to North Carolina. While this may just be indicative of Gonzaga’s talent level compared to the big boys of the nation, it is also a black eye on Few’s resume. He simply hasn’t been able to get them over the hump, and it isn’t a sure bet that this year will change those numbers, regardless of their current regular season success.
3. Close Games Against Top Competition
While their 27-2 record is surely impressive, they haven’t been dominating tougher competition throughout the season. During the WCC regular season, Gonzaga doesn’t have many opportunities to play potential NCAA Tournament teams. This season, when faced with stiffer competition, they haven’t exactly impressed.
We already mentioned their loss to BYU, but it wasn’t that they just lost on the road to the 2nd place team in the conference, it was that they couldn’t stop the Cougars. Additionally, they struggled to defeat a middling Pepperdine team at home (75-70), and had a close call against an average San Francisco team on the road (83-79).
When matched up against the nation’s heavyweights, Gonzaga had their fair share of struggles. In the Battle of Maui, Gonzaga squeaked by Oregon, 73-72 in the Semifinal game. In the Championship game, they got blown out of the gym against a Michigan team (82-64), that has shown to be nothing more than average this season. They had a close call against Washington (83-76), and when faced with a home game against a UNC team without Cole Anthony, they failed to cover the large spread in a 94-81 victory, in another game where the defense failed to show up.
While you can definitely make the argument that Gonzaga is going to make a deep run this season, it would be foolish to think this current version of the team will be the one to finally cut down the nets. When faced with stiffer competition, they often played in close games, and have struggled to play defense. Couple this with Mark Few’s questionable tournament track record, and you’d be better off putting your money on a more reliable team to win the whole thing this season.
The Zags will take on Saint Mary’s on Saturday night. Click the button below to unlock the best bets for that game and every other contest on today’s slate!