Baylor – Alex Staab, Contributor
As the season has progressed, it’s obvious that the Baylor and Gonzaga men’s basketball teams have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack as the top two overall seeds.
However, they may just have the order wrong.
Let’s keep Gonzaga in the top two, but Baylor’s strength of schedule blows Gonzaga out of the water. While Baylor is in the Big 12 Conference, producing wins over teams like No. 15 Texas Tech and then-No. 9 Kansas, it almost becomes no question. Further, they have a 13-point win over the No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini, who are on the threshold of the one-seed line per the latest rankings.
Gonzaga, on the other hand, has … Pacific? Although the Bulldogs have Top-25 opponents sprinkled in here and there, it just doesn’t match up with what Baylor has had to go through to this point of the season.
Strength of schedule means nothing if you don’t have a talented team as well, and the Bears certainly have one in Waco. Head coach Scott Drew has three players averaging more than 13 points per game, with Jared Butler leading the way at 17. As anyone familiar with the sport knows, games aren’t won exclusively by points — they’re won in all facets of the game.
That’s where Baylor’s defense comes in. They effectively stymied a talented group from Illinois, limiting Illini star Kofi Cockburn to just seven points and four rebounds. In fact, that defensive unit, despite having a stronger schedule than the Bulldogs, has held opponents to nearly 60 points per game (62.8). With the Bears averaging 87.0 per game, that’s an average margin of victory of 24.2 points.
The Bulldogs and Bears were supposed to meet back in December, but COVID-19 issues canceled the game. The Bears haven’t played a game in 14 days as of publication. That last game was an 83-69 at No. 6 Texas back on Feb. 2. They aren’t scheduled to play again until tomorrow in a home game against Oklahoma State.
Gonzaga – Francisco Alonzo, Contributor
According to the NCAA’s ranking, Gonzaga is ranked No. 1, thanks to an incredible record of 20-0 bred from their enormous offensive potential. They have started the season with great performances and are the clear favorite for the title this year.
There is no team with more offensive talent in the entire nation. The Bulldogs feature players like Cody Kispert, Joel Ayayi, Drew Timme and Anton Watson — all among the most efficient offensive players in the nation.
Timme is the leader in points per game with an average of 19.4 points while also contributing 7.3 rebounds per game. Kispert averages 19.2 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. Ayavi averages 11.3 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists. That’s a lot of production, not to mention one of the best freshmen in the country, Jalen Suggs, who averages 14.2 points per game.
The team also has one of the best defenses in the league, being ranked 13th in the nation. Despite not being the best defense, they aren’t in trouble during games thanks to the incredible amount of points the team generates offensively.
Baylor is another school with great players, also undefeated this season with a record of 17-0. They are the strongest threat to take the number one position from Gonzaga with players like Jared Butler, MiCao Teague or Davion Mitchell. However, with an undefeated streak of 20 games this season, Gonzaga has shown why they are deemed the best team.