Gonzaga Won’t and Shouldn’t be #1Posted: February 27, 2013
By now, I am sure most of you have heard the Minnesota Golden Gophers beat the #1 Indiana Hoosiers, last night at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. This has fans in Spokane getting really excited at the chance at having that “#1″ next to Gonzaga in Monday’s rankings. I am here to tell you Gonzaga not only doesn’t deserve to have the top ranking, but they won’t be sitting on top come Monday.
Let’s first start with the last time Indiana lost as the top ranked team in the land. They lost at Illinois, 74-72 and won at Ohio State, 81-68, before the next poll came out. At the time they held 58 of the 65 first place Associated Press votes. After the loss, there was a four-way split for the first place votes between Indiana (26), Duke (20), Miami (17) and Gonzaga (2). This will most likely be the case again. With Indiana holding all but one (Gonzaga) of the AP first place votes in the current poll. The votes will again be split between multiple teams come Monday, which will likely include: Indiana, Duke, Miami, Michigan and Gonzaga. Voters will definitely look at the two teams playing in what is thought of as the toughest conference in America, the Big 10, giving more credit to IU and the Wolverines. Duke will get votes based on name alone, not to mention the fact they have been in the top five for most of the season anyway. Miami is a wild card, I want to say they will get votes, but they have gotten looked over already this season. Despite only losing once in the last two months the voters haven’t given Miami much respect. Something Gonzaga fans should take note of. When you aren’t a traditional power, you don’t get respect in the polls.
Now that you have the reasons why Gonzaga won’t be sitting on top of the basketball world come Monday, let me tell you why they don’t deserve to be ranked #1. Despite the Bulldogs going out and trying to play a difficult non-conference schedule, they still have an overall easy schedule. They have played they 66th hardest schedule in college basketball. Just a quick comparison to the other four top five teams: Duke has the second most difficult schedule, Miami is third, Indiana is 21st and Michigan is 30th. These teams have been playing decent to great teams every week for the past two months. Gonzaga has been playing scrubs for two months, minus Butler and they lost that game. Now, I know you want to say,”But Ben, St. Mary’s and BYU are pretty good.” Sure, their records are pretty good, but St. Mary’s strength of schedule is 115 and BYU is sitting at 90. It’s pretty easy to put together a decent record when you are playing bad teams for most of your games. These teams play in a conference where more than half the teams have an overall record below .500, this a pretty good way to pad you win total. The West Coast conference is the 10th ranked RPI conference in the NCAA. The conference above them is the Missouri Valley and they have seven of their 10 teams above .500, compared to the four of nine above .500 for the WCC. The four conferences right below the WCC are; Conference USA, Horizon, WAC and MAAC. Those four conferences have a combined one at-large bid in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. You might not think the 10th best RPI conference is that bad, if you don’t just ask a University of Washington fan about last year.
Let’s take a look at the hypothetical of Gonzaga in a major conference this season. If Gonzaga was playing in a major conference, there is no way they would be sitting at 27-2. The Zags have played against nine teams from either a major conference and/or ranked in the top 25. They have gone 7-2 in those games, which I admit is pretty good. However, three of those games were against Clemson, West Virginia and Washington State, which are teams at or below .500. So, really they are 3-2 against better than average opponents. I know there are bad teams in good major conferences, so for my next exercise I will use the 7-2 record instead of the 3-2. If you expand the 7-2 ratio over the same amount of games to match a conference schedule in a major conference, they would have four losses. Now, you need to throw a few games in the non-conference schedule that would be against quality opponents. This would probably add another loss or two. You take that 23-6 record and see where it would put them in the latest rankings and you get around 15th. Maybe, their only losses are similar to Michigan State who has lost four of their six to teams ranked 16th or higher. Then, we could say Gonzaga would be #9 at best.
The point of all this is, you can’t be fooled by Gonzaga’s record. They aren’t playing good teams week in and week out. Their schedule is pretty weak and half of their games are against the WCC. I am not saying they’re a bad team, just letting you know they aren’t good enough to be ranked #1 and shouldn’t be ranked #1.