Gonzaga Bulldogs Living Up to Favorites Status Heading into Sweet Sixteen


Gonzaga cheerleader

With the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the books, we have a true front-runner and it’s the same team that was the favorite as the tournament began- Gonzaga. Of the 16 teams left standing, they impressed more than anybody else during the first two rounds.

They crushed Norfolk State in the opening round 98-55 and then whalloped a really good Oklahoma Sooners team, beating them by 16 in the round of 32. Currently 28-0, the Gonzaga Bulldogs seem to be the clear favorites to lift the trophy in the end, with the Baylor Bears the most likely contenders.

It makes perfect sense, given that during most of the regular season, the Zags and the Bears were on another plain, elevated above the rest of the college basketball world. You can find Gonzaga priced at +160 to win it all, with Baylor paying off at +450.

Then there is a significant drop-off to the next two contenders, the Michigan Wolverines and Houston Cougars, who are both valued at +900. With four more wins, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will become just the eighth team to achieve an undefeated national championship season, and the very first of the modern era. Since the inception of the tournament in 1939, the list includes San Francisco (1955-56), North Carolina (1956-57), UCLA (1963-64, 1966-67, 1971-72, 1972-73), and Indiana (1975-76).

Modern era is defined as since 1985, when the field expanded to its current format of 64 teams (with of course the first four play-in games making it a quasi-field of 68).

Up next for the top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs is a regional semifinal where they’re priced at (-1000) vs. fifth seeded Creighton, who are backed to the tune of (+650). You’ll have Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Jamie Erdahl on the call, from historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The game tips at 2:10 EST on CBS. The highest Gonzaga have ever finished is national runner-up, in 2017. That season also marked their first and only Final Four appearance, but they have reached the Elite 8 four times and the sweet sixteen 11 times, including the last six!

While some might still brand them a “mid-major” in some respects, it’s a shoe that actually stopped fitting about a decade ago. They’re a true national power now, but don’t write off Baylor either.

baylor basketball jersey

Looking for their first Elite 8 since 2012 on Saturday, and then potentially their first Final Four since 1950 on Monday, the #1 seeded Bears are favored at (-265) over Villanova, who are priced at (+225). That game is also at Hinkle, tipping at 5:15 EST, with Brian Anderson, Jim Jackson and Allie LaForce broadcasting the game.

It’s a weird tournament, sure, with a lot of upsets and strange occurences, but these teams have held serve lived up to their billing thus far.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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