As we learned in the recently released AP and USA Today Polls, Gonzaga has shot up to the #3 team in the nation, thanks to this season’s craziest week of college basketball so far.
The North Carolina State Wolfpack exposed #2 Duke’s weaknesses by proving that this team, no matter how talented they may be, is still very young. Rutgers got their biggest upset in school history, taking down the #4 Wisconsin Badgers, who were without their leading scorer, Frank Kaminsky. And #18 North Carolina pulled off the upset at home over #5 Louisville.
Because of this crazy turn of events, the Zags have that beautiful little “#3” next to their name. And it is downright glorious.
However, as we all learned from the 2012-13 season, there are a whole lot of people out there who don’t believe the Bulldogs are worthy of such a high ranking because of their conference play, and express their utter outrage with the college basketball world via ESPN’s commentary section. (We often refer to these people as trolls.)
But despite how much we hear about the Zags being overrated, the fact of the matter is that Gonzaga has 100% earned that ranking and deserves to be in the same discussions with the nation’s best teams.
Jan 8, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Gary Bell, Jr. (5) run the top of the key against the San Francisco Dons during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Anyone who has watched the Bulldogs play is aware of this team’s depth. Their starting five can match up with any starting lineup in the country – they have strong perimeter threats, guys that can slash and get to the rim, size, killer defense, and leadership. But take a look at their bench: two talented freshmen guards in Silas Melson and Josh Perkins (who’s still recovering from an injury), a key role player and glue guy in Kyle Dranginis, guard Eric McClellan, Vanderbilt’s former leading scorer (who should be healthy soon), and Domantas Sabonis, one of the most talented freshman in the country. The Zags have a myriad of talent at every position, which alone is enough to put them in the nation’s elite.
But hey, maybe that’s not enough. Let’s keep going.
Gonzaga currently ranks in the top ten in the country in points per game (82.6), assists per game (17.4), and field goal percentage (.528). That field goal percentage is good for 2nd in all of college basketball, by the way.
Even more, the Bulldogs currently sit at #7 in the country in RPI, or Rating Percentage Index, which measures a team’s strength of schedule and how they performed against that schedule. They’re 1-1 against RPI Top 25 teams and 3-1 against RPI Top 50 teams (with the one loss being the OT thriller in Arizona).
Still not enough? The Zags are ranked #3 in the country in BPI, or Basketball Power Index, which is a rating system accounting for a final score, strength of opponent, pace of play, and absence of key players.
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And if you STILL think this isn’t enough to justify Gonzaga’s ranking, then listen up. Gonzaga sits at #3 in the nation in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. Ken Pomeroy uses a mathematical equation for his rankings, rating the offense, defense, points scored, and points allowed per possession for each team. The point here being, receiving a high ranking on kenpom.com is a really, really good thing.
(If you aren’t aware of Ken Pomeroy and his rankings, I highly encourage you to read more about his system here)
The numbers do not lie, folks. In terms of depth and talent, Gonzaga can compete with anyone. Statistically, the Zags are one of the best teams in the country. They have all the pieces. They have the talent. They have the leadership. They have the drive. And you better believe they’ve earned that ranking.
Though I’ve spent some time trying to prove the “trolls” wrong, I think it’s important to note that there has been a great amount of support for Gonzaga’s new ranking as well. If I’m going to call out the naysayers, I’m also going to thank the people who have studied up on this team and supported them. You guys rock.