The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in the nation, and just concluded an undefeated regular season, the first in program history, with an exclamation point — their 51st-straight victory at home. Now, of course, the Bulldogs play in the West Coast Conference, not the Big 10, so the ever-so-constant tired and lazy excuse of “they never play anyone” is ringing the loudest it has in recent memory amongst the vocal idiots of the college basketball realm. So, excluding the romp through the WCC, let’s not forget that the Zags also dispatched Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa, and Virginia during the non-conference slate. Behind a potential top-5 pick in Jalen Suggs, another potential player of the year in Corey Kispert, and one of the best big men in college not named Luke Garza in Drew Timme, the Zags boast one of the top offenses in the nation and a pretty solid defense to boot. I’m sorry if it hurts so much for you to admit it, but Gonzaga is legitimately one of the best teams in the nation.
Everyone around the nation knows the three names of Suggs, Kispert, and Timme by now. In any other year, on almost any other squad in the nation, junior guard Joel Ayayi would be the face of the team. That is how deep the Gonzaga starting rotation runs this year. Ayayi’s 11.3 points per game are good for fourth on the squad, but to see his value, you look immediately at those rebounding totals. His 6.8 rebounds per game are second on the squad, and his 5.3 defensive rebounds per game lead the team. The genius that is Ayayi’s game is he does everything so quietly, seamlessly, and most importantly, cleanly. Every team of stars has its underappreciated glue guy. Joel Ayayi is that guy for Gonzaga.
It is not an accident that the Gonzaga Bulldogs are undefeated this season. They are having one of the most dominant seasons by Ken Pomeroy metrics since the 2015 Kentucky Wildcats. So far this season, there has not been a single team that has been able to figure out how to stop the Gonzaga offense. Offensive-oriented squads, like Iowa, have not been able to keep up for the full 40 minutes. Defensive-oriented squads, like Virginia, have gotten blown out of the water. The Zags’ offense is a marvel to watch. It is the culmination of years of work by Mark Few and his coaching staff, and it is finally running at its pinnacle thanks to the players at the helm. Jalen Suggs is one of the most hard-nosed guards in the nation and his court-vision is nearly unmatched. Corey Kispert is one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the country. Drew Timme’s footwork in the post is the things dreams are made of. And we haven’t even talked about Andrew Nembhard, the former starting point guard for Florida who has absolutely flourished under Mark Few’s systems.
Gonzaga is not a perfect squad. They boast one of the best backcourts in the nation but combine that with one of the thinnest frontcourts in the top 25. If both Drew Timme and Anton Watson get into foul trouble, Mark Few can look to Oumar Ballo and Ben Gregg to absorb minutes, but the dropoff in production is severe. The Gonzaga guards are great defenders on the perimeter and this helps mask the fact that the rim protection is a bit sub-standard for an elite-level squad. The majority of the seven-man rotation is probably head to toe the best in college basketball. After that, talented freshmen such as Julian Strawther and Dominick Harris are waiting in the wings, but they have not seen many quality minutes during competitive play this season.