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.