INDIANAPOLIS — Gonzaga’s men's basketball team has made the improbable road to perfection look easy.
The history of the NCAA tournament says making history can get complicated.
When the road to the Final Four stays in Indianapolis this weekend, the Bulldogs will attempt to extend their perfect season in the same place that two others came to a raucous, abrupt halt. In memorable national semifinal games, 2015 Kentucky was defeated by Wisconsin and 1991 UNLV was beaten by Duke.
Here are some ridiculous stats that show off undefeated Gonzaga's historical dominance:
- Gonzaga is attempting to become the eighth national champion, and just the second in the last 45 years, to spend an entire season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. Saturday night’s opponent, the surprising UCLA Bruins, are the descendants of four national champions that never left the No. 1 spot.
- The 1992 Duke Blue Devils are the only national champion to spend a full season at No. 1 since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, the last undefeated national champion.
But the top-seeded Bulldogs’ recent string of success isn’t contained to the polls. Let’s go with perhaps the most eye-popping numbers:
- With their 85-66 victory over USC, the Bulldogs set an NCAA record by recording their fifth straight 30-win season.
- Gonzaga’s record of 61-2 is the best in the nation in the 2020s.
- The Zags were second-best from 2010-19 with a record of 304-56, one victory behind Kentucky.
- Gonzaga’s 264-66 record from 2000-09 was third behind Duke and Kansas.
- Gonzaga has won 27 consecutive games by double digits, which is the most by any team in the last 60 years.
- The Bulldogs have won 29 of their 30 games by 10 or more points. The one that wasn’t: West Virginia, a five-point victory.
- All season long the Bulldogs have paced the nation in scoring margin, winning by an average of 23 points per game. The teams with the second and third-largest scoring margins, Houston and Baylor, are potential opponents in the national championship game.
- With the exception of five games this season, the Zags have had at least four double-digit scorers in every game; five in six games, six in one game (at Pepperdine), and seven in one game (at Portland).
- Gonzaga could become the 19th national champion to lead the nation in scoring margin, but just the second in 11 tournaments. The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats are the only team to achieve that feat since North Carolina in 2009.
- The Bulldogs also rank first nationally in scoring offense (91.6), field goal percentage (54.9) and two-point percentage (63.7).
The road to the Final Four isn’t supposed to be easy, but the Bulldogs have coasted to a regional championship.
- The Zags are the sixth team to win each of their first four March Madness games by 15 or more points since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The last team to accomplish the feat was 2004 UConn, which went on to win the national championship.
“We're wise enough to know these are really, really special times,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “These are great accomplishments, and they need to be celebrated savoring this and really seizing the moment…. Don't misconstrue that for a lack of desire to keep this thing rolling. I think it's just the proper perspective.”
This weekend will mark the second Final Four appearance in Gonzaga history, four years after a narrow loss to North Carolina in the national championship game. Tuesday night’s contest marked the Zags’ fourth Elite Eight appearance since 2015, the most in the nation in the last six tournaments, one more than Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.
Throughout the postseason, Few, in his 22nd season coaching the Bulldogs, has said that all of the numbers mean nothing unless they win a national championship.
That sentiment was the same after cutting down the regional title nets on Tuesday. Should the Zags finish their season unbeaten, they'll be in elite company.
Since Indiana’s 32-0 1976 championship season, 1979 Indiana State was the only team to take a perfect record into the national championship game. The Sycamores, with Larry Bird, lost to Earvin (Magic) Johnson’s Michigan State.
Should Gonzaga go on to win the title, the Zags would be the eighth team to do so without a loss. UCLA has accomplished the task four times (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973) while Indiana (1976) North Carolina (1957) and San Francisco (1956) each did it once.
“It's hard not to think about it,” Bulldogs freshman Jalen Suggs said. “We try to keep our minds off of it and keep focused on the task at hand. It's a great accomplishment to be mentioned with those teams because they're amazing. Again, we just come in every day to play to the Gonzaga standard and for each other. I mean, this is the result that we get from that.”