Gonzaga plays at Saint Mary’s tomorrow in what is easily its toughest test on the WCC schedule. The Zags are chasing quasi-history, attempting blow away recent bests for conference scoring margin. Here’s how their current run stacks up to the best seasons since 1999.

   Gonzaga           17 WCC  13-0 27.3
 1 Duke              99 ACC  16-0 24.3
 2 Stephen F. Austin 16 Slnd 18-0 23.2
 3 Belmont           11 ASun 19-1 20.9
 4 Vermont           14 AE   15-1 20.9
 5 Saint Joseph's    04 A10  16-0 20.7
 6 Memphis           08 CUSA 16-0 20.3
 7 Gonzaga           08 WCC  13-1 20.1
 8 Utah              99 WAC  14-0 20.1
 9 Temple            00 A10  14-2 20.1
10 Gonzaga           09 WCC  14-0 19.7
11 Gonzaga           13 WCC  16-0 19.4

If Gonzaga manages to beat the Gaels, it will not be by 27 points or more so its current average will take a hit. But the Zags will be at least 20-point favorites in three of their last four games after this one, and they’ll be a 15 to a 20-point favorite in the fourth. If you assume they meet projections in each of their remaining games, they’ll finish with an average scoring margin of 25.5. There’s a realistic path for them to beat ’99 Duke’s mark while losing on Saturday.

This run is a commentary on Gonzaga’s strength this season as well as the general weakness of the WCC. That Gonzaga will have four of the top-12 seasons in conference scoring margin over the last 19 years is telling, as well. By the time the NCAA tournament starts, Gonzaga will have likely had seven games against Tier A1 opponents and that will be in the ballpark of the top Pac-12 teams and AAC teams. But it’s that next level of competition that is missing from Gonzaga’s schedule, with possibly just three additional games against Tier B2 foes.

One team that Gonzaga won’t be catching in the scoring margin department is 1991 UNLV who won all 18 games against the Big West by an average margin of 29.7. Like this season’s WCC, that season’s Big West was not a great test for one of the country’s best teams. It had a top 20 team in New Mexico State but that was the only team besides UNLV that finished with a winning overall record. At least BYU and San Francisco have been respectable competition in the 2017 WCC, but the lack of quality depth in the conference makes it difficult to assess exactly where Gonzaga stands in the college basketball world right now.

 

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1. opponents equivalent to a top-50 team at a neutral site.
2. opponents equivalent to a top-100 team at a neutral site.