Out of all of the too-early top 25 rankings out there, the KenPom rankings are usually considered some of the best by the statheads out there because he uses predictive modeling, and, well, actual math. Even though the Zags lost so much from last season’s Elite Eight team, it looks like this will be the standard we now expect: Gonzaga doesn’t have to reload when it stays loaded.
The Zags are landing this high in the rankings thanks to the No. 5 offense and the No. 19 defense. That is a decline in both marks for the Zags from last season, who finished out the year with the top-rated offense and the No. 12 defense.
Realistically, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the offense declined a little—and it says something to what Ken Pomeroy thinks of the Zags and their coaching staff to only have the rank slide four spots. Gonzaga lost approximately 80 percent of its scorers from last season, only retaining Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusev, and Killian Tillie as major contributors.
It is comforting to see the defense retain a high ranking, perhaps buoyed by the additions of Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge. Just losing Brandon Clarke itself probably accounts for at least a five point slide in the rankings, after all.
Looking at Gonzaga’s schedule, as it stands (not including the potential opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis), the Zags only have four top-50 games on the docket: two against Saint Mary’s, at Arizona, and versus North Carolina. However, Texas A&M comes in at No. 58, and the Washington Huskies are knocking at the door at No. 52.
Overall, it looks like the WCC has taken a bit of a hit this year. Last season, thanks to the upstart San Francisco Dons, the WCC finished the season with five teams ranked in the top 100. This season, it is just three: Gonzaga at No. 9, Saint Mary’s at No. 26, and BYU at No. 72. Pepperdine hangs right outside at No. 102.
Now, rankings are nothing more than rankings, but at the minimum, Ken Pomeroy’s rankings are more than just the standard eye-test that the AP and coaches polls represent. I hesitated to say the Zags are a preseason top 10 team prior to these rankings, but now it is safe for all of us to get our hopes up way too high.