The Gonzaga Bulldogs have absolutely demolished the WCC competition this year. The matter is getting national notice, and rightfully so, because Gonzaga is the top offense this year.
Zags’ +217 is the largest scoring margin through 7 conference games in (at least) the last 22 seasons. https://t.co/DCwrPzXGzo— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 1, 2019
Ken Pomeroy can make that a +233 point margin in eight games for the Zags, averaging out to roughly 29 points per game. That is also including two of the three hardest road games in conference play, at BYU and at San Francisco.
In 2017, through their first eight games, the Zags outscored opponents by 26. 3 points. Not that much of a differential, but also consider through the first eight games in 2017, the Zags’ opponents averaged to a 190.6 KenPom ranking. This year through eight, the Zags’ opponents are averaging a 163 ranking. Not much, but the Zags are scoring more points against tougher competition.
The Zags are also doing that without Killian Tillie operating at full efficiency. Since coming back from his injury, Tillie is scoring just 6.3 points in 18 minutes per game.
So, to recap: The Gonzaga Bulldogs are outscoring their conference competition at a historical level and are doing so at a clip better than the 2017 national title appearing squad did.
Now, there is no denying that 2017 squad could play better defense, but the Zags defensive markings have trended upwards in the past couple of weeks. Also, this year’s squad is the top scoring team in the nation, with an offensive efficiency nine points higher than 2017’s squad.
Now, it doesn’t matter at all that Gonzaga is mashing conference play better than anyone else in the country. The WCC isn’t the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, or any of those conferences. What matters here is Gonzaga is crushing it better than Gonzaga ever has.
The key to the Zags making a long run in the NCAA Tournament will come on the strength of its offense. Think that Duke game, essentially. Gonzaga was able to jump out to an early and commanding lead, and its defense held up just barely enough to secure the win. The Zags’ defense can hang with teams, but its offense is what will make a run in March last the longest.
It also plays into the NET rankings, the hot new metric the NCAA will use for Selection Sunday. The NET rankings cap the reward for a win at 10 points, but they also reward offensive and defensive efficiency. So although the Zags don’t need to beat Santa Clara by 60, the rankings right now suggest it is still a good idea to keep the foot on the throat until the very end.
It will be interesting to see if Gonzaga’s offense can keep up its pace of devastation for the second-half of conference play. The first-half of WCC fun definitely was on the easier side. The Zags still have two games against Saint Mary’s and a road contest against San Diego that might be closer than the average score.