And then there were two. Baylor and Gonzaga are the only two unbeaten teams remaining in the country. Of the two, Gonzaga has the better chance by far of running the table - not necessarily because they are better but because they have the more favorable schedule . By now we are very used to Gonzaga being strong - the class of their conference and often more than that. But they have never been able to take the final step and be a viable threat deep into the tournament - which is all that really matters.
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So, how is this team succeeding? Can they keep it up? And what does it all mean for bettors? Here are six factors to consider when pondering those questions:
Nigel Williams-Goss: Gonzaga has had very good success developing transferring players and really elevating their game during the redshirt season. They have done it again with Williams-Goss. The former five-star recruit was excellent in two seasons at Washington, but moved on due to frustrations surrounding the program. He sat out last year, and this year he has emerged as a Wooden Award contender. He's just a beast. He is a great shooter and a surprisingly excellent rebounder for a guy who is just 6-foot-3. He also has that ability to take over games when needed - against San Francisco last week he scored 36 points and grabbed 11 boards. He leads the team in all the major categories - points, assists, rebounds and steals. He's precisely the kind of do-everything star that serious contenders need to have, and he's only getting better as the season progresses. He's not getting the national attention yet that he deserves for this season.
Przemek Karnowski: Teams that want to go far have to have a player or two who are an unfair advantage. The Bulldogs have that in Karnowski. The fifth-year senior got a medical redshirt last year because he needed back surgery after just five games. He is a giant at a very thickly-built 7-foot-1. Gonzaga likes to pay at a fairly aggressive tempo, and despite his size Karnowski can keep up and make an impact for about 25 minutes a game. Against any opponent that's a big edge, and against lower-level opponents it's just not fair. He's also a surprisingly good passer for a big man - he had seven assists on New Year 's Eve. He's a big asset for this team going forward.
Schedule: There is no hiding the fact that this isn't the toughest schedule in the world. Up to this point they have played just two ranked teams - they beat Iowa State by two and then Arizona by seven a week later. Both games were played on neutral courts. Aside from that, their 13 opponents have been somewhere between manageable and hopeless. Florida, Tennessee and San Diego State are the next best opponents, and none are threatening to win it all this year. Going forward the WCC schedule is mostly about as we have come to expect - pretty manageable for Gonzaga. The exception, and always, is St. Mary's. The Gaels are ranked and look strong, and Gonzaga plays them at home on Saturday and then on the road a month from now. It's not too simplified to say that if Gonzaga wins those two then they are going to go undefeated. It's a two-game season provided they can stay focused otherwise - which they have given several hints this year that they are capable of.
Margin of victory: You can criticize the level of competition, but they have overcome those concerns largely because of how they have been winning. In a word, they have been dominant. They have played 13 unranked opponents. They beat Florida by five and have beaten the other 12 by double digits. Eight of the margins of victory have been 20 points or more. They aren't just winning - they are outclassing opponents. When you aren't playing tough opponents it would be easy for a team to let up and coast on their superior talent. This team isn't doing that, and it bodes well for them going forward.
Mark Few: The coach is great and could be at any program he wanted to be if he ever decided to leave Spokane - though I expect he never will. Now all he really needs to do to truly seal his legacy is have a tournament run to match the potential of the team. Will it be this year? He certainly is on track to have a very high seed to work with.
Betting performance: When a team is winning as often and by as much as this team It pretty much goes without saying that they have been a pleasure to bet on. At 10-2 ATS they are the third most profitable team in the entire country. They have been favored in all of their games and have covered their last eight spreads. They have not been nearly as successful on the total, though - they have gone "over" and "under" six times each, so there has been no consistent profit to be made.
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