I’ve been meaning to write this post since Gonzaga took over the #2 spot in the college basketball polls on Monday. Then last night #1 Indiana went and lost to Minnesota, leaving the door open for Gonzaga to take over the top position next week. The Bulldog’s current #2 ranking is the highest they have ever been in school history. They’ve risen that far due to their 27-2 overall record, and the fact that they’re undefeated since January 19th. I’m not buying it though, because they haven’t beaten anybody good. While other top teams keep knocking each other off, Gonzaga has been rolling along and racking up W’s against unranked West Coast Conference schools.
The Bulldogs have played three teams in the Top 25 all season. They did manage a one point win (69-68) against then #22 Oklahoma State back on December 31st. The other two ranked opponents they played were each #13 at the time, Illinois on 12/8, and Butler on 1/19. Gonzaga lost both of those games. I think being 27-0 against teams outside of the top 20 says a lot less about them than being 0-2 vs. top 15 teams.
It’s OK for the best teams to have bad games and lose (like Indiana did yesterday), as long as they also prove themselves against other quality squads (sticking with the Indiana example, they’ve beaten at the time #14 UNC, #8 Minnesota, #10 Ohio St, Mich. St as #13 and #4, and Michigan as #1. Also that same Illinois team). Gonzaga hasn’t proven themselves against anybody. How can you be the best team in the country if you’ve lost the two most difficult games on your schedule (I made this same point about the Denver Broncos last year as Super Bowl favorites, who then promptly lost their first playoff game), which in this case aren’t even that difficult? I think I’d be more likely to accept Gonzaga as a potential favorite if they’d defeated Illinois and Butler, but had been upset a couple times within their sub par conference by clearly inferior opponents. Great teams win big games; at least sometimes.
It’s also hard to be considered the best team in the nation if you may not even be the best team with your own nickname; Butler is known as the “Bulldogs” as well.
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