SPOKANE, Wash. — ESPN broadcaster Sean Farnham set Gonzaga Twitter on fire this Saturday when he predicted at halftime of Gonzaga’s game against San Francisco that the Zags would go undefeated through the whole season and win a national championship.
The last team to do that was Indiana in 1976.
How likely is this though? Well, let’s dig into it.
GONZAGA VS. STATISTICS
It’s been 45 years since a team has gone undefeated in the regular season and won a national championship.
The last time a team went undefeated at all during the regular season was Kentucky in 2014-2015 and they lost in the Final Four.
A lot has changed since 1976 in the college basketball world, so this would be a pretty remarkable feat for Few and company.
As for the actual odds? KenPom has Gonzaga favored in all of their games remaining in the regular season, with their lowest percentage chance to win at 85% at Saint Mary’s in two weeks.
However, right now, the Zags are being given a 49% chance to finish undefeated in the regular season. KenPom is slightly projecting the Zags will somehow slip up in one game.
Just so you know, a 49% chance may sound low, but that’s extremely high. Baylor, the team second to the Zags in KenPom's standings, currently has a 2% chance to finish undefeated in the regular season.
GONZAGA VS. THE WCC
So let’s start with Farnham's first premise: Gonzaga going undefeated in the regular season.
It seems insane to think in a year where the schedule is always in flux due to COVID, Gonzaga could actually pull off something so rare, but to be honest, I’m a believer.
Here’s why: The Zags showed that on little prep, they could still smoke one of the best teams in the country in Iowa.
I’m not gonna lie, I thought there was no way they could win that game. Mark Few was not giving glowing reports of how the small amount of practice they had before that contest was going, and, of course, they were playing the No. 3 team in the country on a small amount of practice.
Then they came out and boat raced the Hawkeyes. Yes, it got a bit close at the end, but everyone knew Gonzaga was going to win.
If Gonzaga can do that to Iowa, on such little prep, I just can’t imagine any team in the WCC stands a chance.
I feel safe in saying that this will be Gonzaga’s first undefeated regular season team.
GONZAGA VS. THE FIELD
Now let’s go to second part of Farnham's statement: The NCAA Tournament.
Can Gonzaga go perfect this year? The tournament is, after all, a tournament of matchups.
The Zags have already shown they can matchup with a ton of different styles of play.
West Virginia and Virginia are teams that normally make you grind, especially defensively. Yep, those were both wins.
Kansas is a team that normally has a ton of blue chip, one and done recruits. No problem there.
Iowa has the consensus national player of the year. Yes, Luka Garza had thirty points against Gonzaga, but the Zags had control of that game the entire time.
Here’s a greater point though that’s hard for me to quantify: There’s a gut feeling when watching this team that’s just different. When you watch the Zags this year, you always just know they’re going to pull it out. No matter the situation, they’re going to win.
I have only really had that feeling once in the last 11 seasons I’ve followed GU, and that time was in 2017, when Gonzaga went to a national championship. However, I didn’t have as strong of a feeling then as I do now.
So count me in. Health permitting, I do believe Gonzaga will be the first undefeated team to win an NCAA Championship since 1976.
All I have to say is this: Enjoy this Gonzaga team while they’re here. I don’t think we’ll see the likes of them again around the NCAA for a while. Although, I hope it’s not another 45 years.