Every time March rolls around, college basketball fans talk about one thing – cinderellas. Watching an 11-seed run through their region and reach the Final Four can be an exhilarating and motivational experience.
Before brackets are set in stone and the Cinderella talk begins, I want to pause for a moment and discuss one of the largest favorites in college hoops … ever. Gonzaga.
Gonzaga University is a Catholic school of 5,000 undergraduate students in Spokane, WA. To 99% of the American public, Gonzaga is known only for their basketball program.
Gonzaga unknowingly began a golden era by reaching the NCAA tournament in March of 1999. Mark Few took over as coach of the Bulldogs that summer. Few is still at the helm 19 years later and has led his team to the dance each and every season. This makes 20 straight appearances with the 21st a virtual certainty in 2019.
Despite being a perennial fixture in the top-5, Gonzaga seems to sneak up on people. Playing out west in the oft-forgotten West Coast conference means that most college hoops fans do not see Gonzaga play until the NCAA tournament in March.
Staying up till midnight for a college basketball game might be worth it if Duke is playing Virginia, but who wants to watch Gonzaga trample Pepperdine? Apart from Gonzaga, the only other WCC team people have heard of is BYU. The last time the Bulldogs played the Cougars, Gonzaga won by 30. BYU is the second-best team in the WCC. That’s the kind of conference this is.
Their only losses to Tennessee and UNC, the Bulldogs are 12-0 in conference through the first 2 and a half weeks of February. Here is a quick look at Gonzaga’s WCC win margins this year.
With the closest game decided by 12 points, Gonzaga is making an absolute mockery of their conference. When the Bulldogs visited San Francisco in January, they were “only” 9-point favorites. This matchup was the only conference game this season in which Gonzaga was not favored by double-digits.
On average, the Bulldogs have been 20-point favorites in WCC play this year. This makes Gonzaga the most heavily-favored team in conference games of the 2018-19 season, beating out Lipscomb who has been favored by an average of 17.9 points in Atlantic Sun play.
The 20-point mark is an impressive one. I felt compelled to dig through the KillerSports database in search of the last 20-point favorite in conference play for an entire season. I found that no team had ever done it.
Here are the top-5 heaviest conference favorites before the 2018-19 season.
This year we add two new names to that list. Lipscomb, at -17.9, slides in ahead of 2014-15 Kentucky while Gonzaga breaks their own 2016-17 record for first place.
Mark Few is as proven as any coach in college basketball. His team is a juggernaut. Back in November, the Bulldogs beat #1 Duke in Maui. No team, even another Gonzaga team, has ever displayed the ability to dominate at the same level of the 2018-19 Bulldogs.
I would think long and hard before siding with whichever unfortunate Cinderella gets matched up opposite Gonzaga. Stay up late to watch these guys if you don’t believe me.