Gonzaga: Good Team or Mirage?

It’s a familiar story, though it’s one that has never played out quite this way: the Gonzaga Bulldogs, that frisky and perennially talented West Coast basketball empire, is climbing the polls once again. They’re currently the No. 3-ranked team in the country, and after a thorough 85-42 thumping of Santa Clara on Wednesday, that isn’t likely to change; the rest of their schedule is just about as easy as it comes. And therein lies the problem with predicting the long-term future Gonzaga basketball in the Big Dance: are they actually good, or are they merely a product of their weak conference?

This year, it might be a little bit of both. If a small, mid-major team like Gonzaga is ever going to win the national championship, it’s going to have to occur during a wild and wacky year like this one in which none of the traditional powers assert themselves as favorites. This is the Zags highest ranking ever in the polls, and while they may not have the most athletically gifted team, they find ways to win with rebounding and stingy defense.

Their blowout of Santa Clara, the Zags ninth win in a row, was perhaps one of their most impressive victories of the season. They held SC to just 30 percent shooting, and outrebounded them 45-22. It’s the kind of suffocating performance they’re going to need if they want to win games against bigger programs. Of course, Gonzaga has been a smart bet against the spread this season, too. Here were a few of the betting trends for both Gonzaga and Santa Clara heading into their match on Wednesday:

Santa Clara Broncos Trends:
When playing on Wednesday are 6-4
Before playing Portland are 2-8
After playing Pepperdine are 6-4
After a win are 7-3

Gonzaga Bulldogs Trends:
When playing on Wednesday are 4-6
Before playing San Diego are 9-1
After playing San Francisco are 9-1
After a win are 9-1

A few Broncos at Bulldogs trends:
The total has gone OVER in 9 of Santa Clara’s last 12 games when playing on the road against Gonzaga
Santa Clara is 6-3 SU in its last 9 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Santa Clara’s last 6 games on the road
Santa Clara is 6-14 SU in its last 20 games on the road
Gonzaga is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Gonzaga is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
Gonzaga is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Santa Clara
Gonzaga is 13-1 SU in its last 14 games when playing Santa Clara

The Zags were huge 13.5 point favorites heading into the match, and obviously covered that with ease. On the season, Gonzaga is 15-11 against the spread. However, even though they continue to rack up wins, they’re widely disrespected by the public (not to mention Vegas linemakers). This is an issue that has affected Gonzaga basketball for years since the program’s emergence as a legitimately talented squad in the early 2000s. What can they do to earn some respect?

This year, unlike many others in the program’s history, the Bulldogs have some legitimately solid wins. They’ve beaten Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and lost a wild game by one point at Butler. They’re a good team this season, better than the media is giving them credit for. Hop on the band wagon and wager a few bucks.

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