Gonzaga has made two trips to the national championship game, annually beats the nation’s top programs in nonconference games and wins more consistently than any other program.
Even with all their success, there’s still a corner of college basketball fans who insist the Zags are overrated, a product of Mark Few’s system and a weak conference.
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd is proving that system works just fine at a major-conference program.
Leaning on the playbook he helped Few create in Spokane, Lloyd has molded Arizona into a dominating team his first season in the desert.
Arizona is dominating the Pac-12 Conference and moved up to No. 2 in this week’s AP Top 25 — right behind Few’s Zags.
“Weird, cool, awesome — I’m proud of those guys, they’ve got a great team,” Lloyd said. “They’re family and I think they’re happy for us.”
Gonzaga (23-2, 12-0 West Coast Conference) has put together another dominating season, clinching its 10th straight WCC title with a pair of wins last week. The Zags are winning by an average of 27 points per WCC game, one of the most dominating conference seasons in the last 25 years, according to KemPom.com.
Gonzaga was the unanimous No. 1 in the poll released Monday and can wrap up an undefeated WCC season with wins at San Francisco and No. 23 Saint Mary’s this week.
“They could win the whole thing,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said after an 86-66 loss to Gonzaga last week. “They have size, they have scoring ability, they can guard.”
So can Arizona.
The Wildcats (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) are third nationally with 84.8 points per game — Gonzaga leads at 89.5 — and leads Division I averaging 20.4 assists. Arizona enters this week with a 2 1/2-game lead over No. 16 Southern California with games against Utah and Colorado coming up.
BIG 12 BATTLE
The Big 12 races is going down to the wire and Saturday’s game between No. 5 Kansas and No. 10 Baylor could help shake things out.
The Jayhawks (22-4, 11-2 Big 12) have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Bears and No. 9 Texas Tech with two weeks left in the regular season. Kansas has won five of six, including 83-59 over Baylor on Feb. 5, but the rematch will be in Waco. The Jayhawks also play rival Kansas State on Tuesday.
The Bears (22-5, 10-4) have been trying to adjust since forward Tchamwa Tchatchoua was lost to a season-ending knee injury against Texas on Feb. 12. Baylor ended up beating the Longhorns, but lost at Texas Tech before bouncing back with a win over TCU. The Bears followed that up Monday night by beating Oklahoma State 66-64 in overtime after James Akinjo hit a jumper with 14 seconds left.
SEC SATURDAY SHOWDOWNS
The Southeastern Conference has a pair of marquee games on Saturday.
No. 3 Auburn (24-3, 12-2 SEC) dropped a spot in this week’s poll after losing to Florida last week, but still leads the SEC by a game over No. 6 Kentucky. The Tigers face Ole Miss on Wednesday before heading to Knoxville on Saturday to play No. 17 Tennessee.
The Vols lost at No. 18 Arkansas on Saturday, but knocked off Kentucky earlier in the week.
The Razorbacks (21-6, 10-4) are tied with Tennessee two games behind Auburn and are hoping for another Top-25 win with Kentucky coming to town.
The Wildcats (22-5, 11-3) bounced back from the loss to Tennessee with a nine-point win over Alabama on Saturday and play LSU on Wednesday.
No. 8 Villanova (21-6, 14-3 Big East) picked up a huge win last week, beating No. 11 Providence 89-84 on the road to keep the Friars within reach in the Big East race. The Wildcats, who trail by 1 1/2 games, face another team trying to catch the Friars when they play at No. 21 UConn on Tuesday.
The Huskies (19-7, 10-5) have won three straight, but lost the first meeting against Villanova 85-74 on the road.
In the Big Ten, expect a physical game between No. 15 Illinois and No. 22 Ohio State on Thursday.
The Illini (19-7, 12-4 Big Ten) and big man Kofi Cockburn are just a half-game behind No. 4 Purdue and are coming off a road win against Michigan State. The Buckeyes (17-7, 10-5) are a long shot to catch Purdue for the Big Ten title, but picked up a big win by rallying from four down late to beat Indiana 80-69 in overtime Monday night.
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