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Is Gonzaga the Best Team in the Country?

After dominating the West Coast Conference for years and producing some premium NBA talent, the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ men’s basketball program has received its fair share of national attention. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they are still recognized as one of the “little guys” in college basketball. After all, they’ve never made a Final Four appearance, they have an enrollment of fewer than 8,000 students, they are located in the small Northwest town of Spokane, Washington and they’ve never been No. 1 in the AP Poll. At least until now.

This week the Zags (29-2) landed the No. 1 spot in the polls for the first time in school history, but their ranking above teams like Indiana and Duke begs the question: Is Gonzaga really the best team in the country?

Nobody’s questioning their dominance in the WCC. Once again, they plowed through their conference schedule this year, finishing the regular season with a perfect 16-0 mark. What some fans and experts are really looking at is their lack of significant non-conference wins.

The Bulldogs only played three ranked teams all season (Illinois, OK State, Butler) and they lost two of those games, defeating only Oklahoma State, who is currently ranked 13th, but was ranked 22nd at the time. However, the Bulldogs did defeat other solid non-conference foes, including West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma, Kansas State – who is now ranked No. 9 – and Baylor.

Gonzaga has also impressed statistically. They rank 9th in the nation in scoring (78.4 PPG), 26th in assists (15.5) and 3rd in field goal percentage (50.5%).

It will be easy for some to dismiss their schedule and call it weak, but the 29-2 record is undeniably impressive, no matter who they’ve played and the fact is, they’ve played some very capable, and even strong teams.

However, that schedule will likely keep them from earning a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll still have a couple of easier (because no game in the NCAA Tourney is truly easy) games to start off with. Historically, the Bulldogs haven’t gone very deep in the tournament, but considering they have the best squad the school has ever seen this year, maybe 2013 is the year of the Bulldog?

They have a good shot at making a deep run, but it’s with Indiana, Duke, Miami and others fielding stronger all-around more talented teams, it’s still hard to call the Bulldogs the nation’s best team. However, are they deserving of their ranking? By going 29-2, they most definitely are.

We won’t know how good Gonzaga really is until they are tested by one of the nation’s best squads and hopefully that time will come during the NCAA Tournament because win or lose, it’s going to be a lot of fun to see them clash with the best and most prestigious programs in the country. We know college basketball fans love the “little guy”, so there will certainly be many in Gonzaga’s corner as they make their run this March.

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