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Gonzaga’s efficiency could mean a deep run in March

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Legitimate credentials support the Zags Final Four aspirations

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga vs Arizona Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key buzzwords to describe this iteration of the Gonzaga Bulldogs is balance. We started talking about the depth, balance, and versatility of this roster all the way back in the preseason; the 26 games that have been played since have only validated our beliefs.

At the time of this writing, the Zags are perched atop the overall KenPom rankings thanks to adjusted offensive (3rd) and defensive (4th) efficiency ratings that place them in the Top 5 nationally in both categories.

Gonzaga’s Efficiency Ratings

2017 AdjO AdjD AdjO Ranking AdjD Ranking
2017 AdjO AdjD AdjO Ranking AdjD Ranking
Gonzaga 122.2 87.8 3 4
per kenpom.com

Gonzaga’s balanced prowess isn’t just something to feel good about in the middle of February. It could also portend an extended postseason run—specifically the Final Four and national championship breakthrough that Gonzaga enthusiasts everywhere have been patiently waiting for. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the numbers:

Last 10 Final Fours

2016 AdjO AdjD AdjO Ranking AdjD Ranking
2016 AdjO AdjD AdjO Ranking AdjD Ranking
Villanova (2) 121.7 89.7 3 5
UNC 123.3 93.5 1 21
Oklahoma 116.8 93 16 18
Syracuse 111.6 93 50 17
AVERAGE 118.35 92.3 17.5 15.25
2015
Duke (1) 122.5 90 3 12
Wisconsin 127 93.3 1 38
Michigan St. 114.5 92.8 14 30
Kentucky 119.4 82.5 6 1
AVERAGE 120.85 89.65 6 20.25
2014
Uconn (7) 113 90.9 39 10
Kentucky 117.8 95.3 14 32
Florida 116 87.4 19 3
Wisconsin 121.4 95.6 4 36
AVERAGE 117.05 92.3 19 20.25
2013
Louisville (1) 116 83.1 7 1
Michigan 120.2 92.4 1 39
Syracuse 111.4 86.7 25 7
Wichita St. 110 89.8 34 20
AVERAGE 114.4 88 16.75 16.75
2012
Kentucky (1) 119.6 87.1 2 8
Kansas 111.4 84.6 23 3
Ohio State 115.5 85.5 6 4
Louisville 103.6 83 109 1
AVERAGE 112.525 85.05 35 4
2011
Uconn (3) 111.3 88 20 15
Butler 108.4 92.3 42 51
Kentucky 113.9 88.6 8 18
VCU 108.7 95.4 38 88
AVERAGE 110.575 91.075 27 43
2010
Duke (1) 117 84.5 1 5
Butler 107.2 85.3 49 7
Michigan St. 108.7 89 32 25
W. Virginia 113.1 88.2 11 20
AVERAGE 111.5 86.75 23.25 14.25
2009
UNC (1) 119.8 89.3 1 21
Michigan St. 110.4 86.6 25 6
Uconn 112.2 83.6 17 3
Villanova 110.1 86.8 27 9
AVERAGE 113.125 86.575 17.5 9.75
2008
Kansas (1) 116.7 82.3 2 1
Memphis 114 83.2 6 2
UCLA 113.9 84.6 7 5
UNC 118.2 88.6 1 17
AVERAGE 115.7 84.675 4 6.25
2007
Florida (1) 118.5 88.4 1 15
Ohio State 116.3 87.7 4 12
UCLA 110 84.4 25 2
Georgetown 116.9 89.2 3 19
AVERAGE 115.425 87.425 8.25 12
Champions are highlighted in bold, and their tournament seeding is in parentheses

The most recent national champion, Villanova, finished the season ranked in the Top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. This feat was also accomplished by the 2008 Kansas Jayhawks and the 2010 Duke Blue Devils.

Of the 40 teams that made the last 10 Final Fours, 24 of them ranked in the Top-5 in at least offensive or defensive efficiency. If you expand the scope to Top-10 rankings in one of the efficiency categories, that number grows to 30 of the 40 teams. Notably, 8 of the last 10 national champions ranked in the Top-5 in at least one of the efficiency categories—the two UConn squads are the only exceptions.

Gonzaga’s current 122.2 adjusted offensive efficiency rating, and 87.8 adjusted defensive efficiency rating beats the average ratings of each of the last 10 Final Four groupings. And, its current adjusted efficiency margin of 34.42 is historically good, bested only by the 2014-2015 Kentucky Wildcats.

The haters will argue that the Zags are padding their numbers against a soft schedule. Ignore them, because they’re not paying attention. The Zags are 7-0 against KenPom Top-100 teams this year, and have to deal with getting every WCC team’s best effort. The numbers back up all the hype that Gonzaga is receiving, and support its Final Four hopes.

Despite all this statistical evidence, there are no guarantees in single-elimination tournament play. Teams that make the Final Four and win a national championship have earned it, but they also needed a little luck to help them get there. It’s difficult to account for the variance of tournament play, and some great teams have lost due to an unfortunate bounce here or there. But, these Zags have shown they are good enough on both sides of the ball to be in position to break through the final barrier for this program.

So what does this all mean? First, your eyes are not deceiving you while watching the Zags. They are an excellent team that compares favorably with some of the best squads of the last decade. Second, this team is good enough on paper to make the Final Four and win a national championship. Now, they just have to make it happen on the court.