Gonzaga has made two trips to the national championship game, annually tops the nation’s top programs in non-conference games and consistently wins more than any other program.
Even with all their success, there is still a corner of college basketball fans who insist on overestimating the Zags, a product of Mark Few’s system and poor conference.
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd proves the system works well in a major conference program.
Drawing on the rules of the game he had little help create in Spokane, Lloyd drafted Arizona into a dominant team in his first season in the desert.
Arizona State dominates the Pac-12 Conference and climbed to second in this week’s AP Top 25—just behind Few’s Zags.
“Weird, cool, awesome – I’m so proud of these guys, they have a great team,” Lloyd said. “They are family and I think they are happy for us.”
Gonzaga (23-2, 12-0 West Coast Conference) put in another dominant season, claiming his 10th consecutive FIFA World Cup title with a pair of victories last week. The Zags win an average of 27 points per WCC game, one of the most dominant conference seasons in the last 25 years, according to KemPom.com.
Gonzaga was the unanimous No. 1 in the poll released Monday, and could conclude an undefeated season of the World Churches Championship with a win in San Francisco and 23rd in St. Mary’s this week.
“They can win everything,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romare said after losing 86-66 to Gonzaga last week. “They have size, they have the ability to score, they can guard.”
So is the case with Arizona.
The Wildcats (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) are third nationally with 84.8 points per game — Gonzaga leads at 89.5 — and lead the Division I with an average of 20.4 assists. Arizona enters this week with a 2-1 lead over No. 16 in Southern California with games against Utah and Colorado.
12 big battle
The Big 12 races will go backwards and Saturday’s game between No. 5 Kansas and No. 10 Baylor could help turn things around.
The Jayhawks (22-4, 11-2 Big 12) are up 1/2 game over the Bears and 9 Texas Tech with two weeks left in the regular season. Kansas won five out of six, including 83-59 over Baylor on February 5, but the rematch will be in Waco. The Jayhawks also play the Kansas State contender on Tuesdays.
The Bears (22-5, 10-4) have been trying to cope since striker Chamois Chachoa lost to the Texas on February 12. Once again a win over TCU. The Bears followed that into Monday night by defeating Oklahoma State 66-64 in overtime after James Akingo hit the crosser with 14 seconds left.
Second Saturday offers
The Southeast Conference holds a pair of high-profile games on Saturday.
Third place Auburn (24-3, 12-2 SEC) finished in this week’s poll after losing to Florida last week, but still tops the SEC with a win over Kentucky’s sixth. The Tigers meet Ole Miss on Wednesday before heading to Knoxville on Saturday for a 17th match in Tennessee.
The Vols lost at No. 18 in Arkansas on Saturday, but were knocked out by Kentucky earlier in the week.
The Razorbacks (21-6, 10-4) tied Tennessee two games behind Auburn and are hoping for another Top 25 win as Kentucky arrives in town.
The Wildcats (22-5, 11-3) rebounded from the loss to Tennessee with a nine-point win over Alabama on Saturday and played for LSU on Wednesday.
8 seed Villanova (21-6, 14-3 Big East) took a big win last week, beating No. 11 Providence 89-84 on the road to keep the brothers on hand in the Big East race. The Wildcats, who are a game and a half behind, face another team trying to catch the brothers when they play 21st UConn on Tuesday.
Husky (19-7, 10-5) won three in a row, but lost their first encounter against Villanova with a score of 85-74 on the road.
In the Big Ten, expect a physical match between No. 15 in Illinois and No. 22 of Ohio State on Thursday.
The Illini (19-7, 12-4 Big Ten) and big man Kofi Cockburn are just half a game behind the 4th seed Purdue and are out for a win over Michigan State. The Buckeyes (17-7, 10-5) are a long shot at catching Purdue for the Big Ten title, but they netted a big win by rebounding four-down late to beat Indiana 80-69 in overtime Monday night.
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