The Gonzaga Bulldogs saw their perfect record in conference play get spoiled in stunning fashion last week as a 21-game straight-up win streak came to an end with a 60-47 upset loss against Saint Mary’s.
But while the loss to the Gaels as heavy 15-point favourites denied Gonzaga a seventh straight WCC Tournament crown, the Bulldogs still enter the NCAA Tournament as a top seed and closely trailing the favourites as a +600 wager on the March Madness odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Gonzaga was a scoring machine during its march to a perfect 16-0 SU record in conference play, with the Bulldogs offence generating a tops-in-the-nation 88.8 points per game.
But over a decade of dominance in regular-season action has failed to translate into the ultimate success at March Madness. The Bulldogs have reached the Final Four just twice in 20 straight tournament appearances since 1999, and also failed to get out of the first weekend of tournament action following their last 16-0 campaign back in 2013.
The Bulldogs have also produced mixed results against nationally ranked teams this season, narrowly knocking off Duke 89-87 as 8-point underdogs on the college basketball odds early in the campaign before dropping consecutive decisions to Tennessee and North Carolina.
That bodes poorly for Gonzaga, who enjoy a favourable path to the Final Four in the West Region but might have to contend with the two ACC powerhouses on the final weekend of the tournament.
Heartened by the return to action of Zion Williamson, the Blue Devils have emerged as a clear +225 favourite on the March Madness futures, ahead of the Virginia Cavaliers at +550, while the Tar Heels closely trail the Bulldogs at +800 on those betting lines.
Williamson returned to action following a six-game absence just in time to help Duke rebound from a late season-swoon and march to the ACC Tournament title with victories over Syracuse, North Carolina, and Florida State.
The Cavaliers closed out their schedule on a 12-1 SU run to claim a share of the ACC regular-season championship, but Virginia faltered in tournament play with a 69-59 loss to the Seminoles as 8.5-point chalk in semi-final action. Virginia has advanced past the Sweet Sixteen just once in nine trips to the NCAA Tournament since 1997.
And, in addition to a 103-90 loss to the Tar Heels as 3-point underdogs back on December 15, Gonzaga has also come up short in two previous March Madness meetings with UNC. The Tar Heels have also covered on 15 occasions during a reliable 18-3 SU run since New Year’s Day, and will avoid a tournament clash with rival Duke until a potential matchup in this year’s national championship game.