Why 2021 will be the year of the Gonzaga Bulldogs
Any college basketball fan worth his or her salt is familiar with Gonzaga. Over the past 20 years, the Bulldogs have risen to become not just a strong mid-major program, but a national powerhouse. They’ve been hugely successful by any measure, and have won fewer than 30 games in a season just twice since the 2012-13 campaign.
As good as they’ve been though, the one thing Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has yet to do is cut down the nets after winning the NCAA Tournament. The best they’ve done is a runner-up finish to North Carolina in 2017, which also doubles as the program’s lone Final Four appearance to date.
All of that may very well change in 2021, as this year’s unit looks to have everything it takes to win it all.
Gonzaga is undefeated and beating elite teams
As of this writing, Gonzaga is the top-ranked team in the country and carries a 9-0 record. The Bulldogs haven’t gotten to that point by beating up on weak opponents either. Among their quality wins are Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa, and Virginia, and they’ve beaten three of those top-25 teams by double-digits. That includes a 23-point thumping of Virginia.
this, this was a special game.— Gonzaga Kennel Club (@ZagKennelClub) December 26, 2020
The team shoots better than 55% from the field, and four players are averaging more than 10 points per game. They also share the ball well, ranking fifth nationally with more than 21 assists per contest. Corey Kispert leads the way with more than 21 points per game, while point guard Jalen Suggs is a handful on both ends. In addition to averaging 15.1 points and nearly six assists per contest, the freshman averages 2.6 steals per game as well.
Looking for weaknesses
The Zags may not be an elite defensive unit, as they’re just 80th in the country in rebounding. However, they’ve at least shown an ability to get by against other top-level squads. Against Iowa, for instance, while Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza scorched the Bulldogs for 30 points on 13-for-18 shooting, the rest of the Hawkeyes shot just 22-for-57 (less than 39%).
Gonzaga starts its West Coast Conference schedule on Saturday. This isn’t a bad league, and it may have been able to send as many as three teams to last year’s NCAA Tournament (we’ll never know, of course, as March Madness was one of the first casualties of the pandemic). BYU and Saint Mary’s are strong programs that combined to win 50 games a season ago, and San Francisco upset Virginia earlier this year before giving two Pac-12 programs scares of their own.
This team won't let a tough schedule stand in the way
Having said that, it’s well within the realm of possibility for Gonzaga to run the table. The Bulldogs are balanced, they have several weapons capable of offensive explosions any time they step on the court, and they’ve proven to not be intimidated by any program.
College basketball fans have grown accustomed to seeing the Bulldogs on big stages each spring. It certainly looks like this could be the year they win it all and hang a national championship banner in the rafters of the McCarthey Athletic Center.