Out of all of the success that has come from the storied Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s basketball program, there are two glaring holes in the bucket list: a Final Four appearance and a national championship. One is really hard to achieve, and the other is just slightly less difficult.
However, for the first time in a long while, the Zags might actually be prepared to check one off of the list.
Right now, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are ranked No. 10 by Ken Pomeroy’s rating systems, and hold the No. 12 offense and the No. 11 defense in the nation. That level of balance is the key to the Zags’ success.
Sure, you can talk about other slightly intangible things like athleticism, length, grit, emotional energy, etc. But the kicker for the Zags this season is the balance on both ends of the floor this season.
Since Ken Pomeroy started assigning his metrics to teams all the way back in the 2001-02 season, the average ranking for each team in the Final Four since that season is a No. 17.2 offense and a No. 14.9 defense. On paper, the Zags should make it.
Unfortunately, paper is pliable and bound to get spilled on or accidentally torn into shreds. This season, the Zags might be looking at a rather unlucky year, as college basketball has revealed itself to be a rather top-heavy beast. Here are the teams that own the top 18 offenses and defenses.
2016 Ken Pomeroy Rankings
|10||Notre Dame||10||North Carolina|
Now, obviously, the Final Four consists of four teams. But as of now, there are a total of six other squads who are within the average window in both terms of defense and offense: Kentucky, Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, North Carolina and Virginia.
So again, should make it and will make it are two completely different things. The Zags need to win as many games in the WCC (preferably all of them) to secure as high of a seed as possible, because the way this season has been going, it appears that all four regions in the NCAA Tournament could be a slog to win out.
For the Zags, this is the first year they’ve had their offense and defense so highly rated as to be within the elite company of the Dukes, Michigan States, and Kentuckys of college hoops. People saying the Zags are a legitimate dark horse for the Final Four aren’t just blasting steam out of their rear ends as the final whistle for the train bound to hype town. The Zags, halfway through the season, have statistically demonstrated they are one of the heavy weights this season.
Now is the perfect time to sip the Kool Aid as well. The Zags did their requisite heavy lifting against the meat of the non-conference schedule. Iowa State, Arizona and Florida are legitimate Sweet 16 or better teams, and it isn’t like San Diego State, Tennessee or Akron are pushovers either.
Of course, there is plenty that has to go right just in the NCAA Tournament to make the Final Four. But as it stands now, the Zags look like they have the true potential to break down a door that has been in the way this whole time.