A few hours before Gonzaga and Baylor were set to tip off Dec. 5 in Indianapolis, it was announced that the game would not be played due to two positive COVID-19 tests in the Bulldogs’ program.
Both coaches — the Zags’ Mark Few and the Bears’ Scott Drew — announced that they were open to rescheduling the matchup.
But no make-up game has materialized. And for college basketball sports betting fans, that’s a good thing because it has become apparent when the No. 1 and 2 teams should meet: Monday, April 5, in the national title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Gonzaga and Baylor sat atop Monday’s AP Top 25 as they have every week this season. Since the preseason poll came out in October, no other team has received a single No. 1 vote.
And the gap between the Big 2 and the other 355 Division I teams has grown since the season tipped off in late November.
In the advanced analytics world, Gonzaga, after Monday’s 82-71 win over BYU, is No. 1 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Baylor is No. 2. The two teams are flipped in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings. Pomer
Currently, Gonzaga (35.47) and Baylor (35.29) rank as the second- and third-best teams in the KenPom era, which stretches back to the 2001-02 season, trailing only the 2015 Kentucky team that went 38-1 and won the national title. The Bulldogs have the nation’s No. 2 offense and No. 6 defense. Baylor is third in both categories.
The difference at KenPom between the Bears and No. 3 Michigan (28.30) is 6.99, the biggest in any rankings over the past 19 seasons.
Gonzaga and Baylor are a combined 36-0 with just three games decided by single digits. Together they’re 13-0 in Quadrant 1 games and 5-0 against Quad 2, according to the NCAA’s NET ratings.
The two seemingly overtake each other at KenPom.com with every game played. We’ll see what that means for the Bears, who are currently slated to go 18 days without a game after recent cancellations. Baylor’s next scheduled game is Feb. 20 against Oklahoma State, followed by Iowa State at home Feb. 23 and Kansas on the road Feb. 27 to close out the regular season.
Gonzaga recently shuffled its schedule, moving up games against Pacific and BYU. The Bulldogs have four regular-season games remaining.
The biggest threat to the Zags and Bears is an invisible opponent: the pandemic.
The NCAA’s decision to play all 67 tournament games in Indiana could help limit the spread of COVID-19 — and it certainly will cut down on travel.
Teams that play in the First Four on March 18 will compete in West Lafayette and Bloomington, just 67 and 55 miles, respectively, from Indianapolis.
Before the NCAA Tournament became an Indiana-only event, a team like Stanford — a candidate to play in the First Four as a No. 12 seed — would have had to travel to Dayton, Ohio (2,413 miles), and could have been assigned to a regional in an originally scheduled site like Providence, R.I. (another 800 miles).
But in order to reach the Final Four, Gonzaga and Baylor — and the other 66 teams — have to play the games. Program pauses could lead to chaos in a tournament that is slated to take place over 18 days.
With other COVID-19 variants making their way to the United States, the NCAA — or the leagues themselves — should strongly consider doing away with conference tournaments this season.
Here are this week’s picks. The numbers for the spreads are based on game predictions at KenPom.com.
Wednesday, February 10
Northern Iowa at Drake -11: The Panthers are a disappointing 6-12 in a season in which they were considered a serious challenger for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Northern Iowa doesn’t guard shooters well, which should be a problem against the Bulldogs (top 40 nationally from both 2- and 3-point range), who should have some extra motivation after seeing their perfect season tarnished by a loss at Valparaiso on Sunday. DRAKE
Thursday, February 11
Nebraska at Wisconsin -11: A visit to the Big Ten’s worst team is just what the Badgers needed after three double-digit losses in their past five games.
The Cornhuskers are a bad shooting team, and Wisconsin enters the game with the nation’s ninth-best defense.
The Badgers aren’t particularly good on the offensive glass, but with 6-foot-11 Nate Reuvers and 6-10 Micah Potter, they’ll have a size advantage against Nebraska, which isn’t a good rebounding team on with end of the floor. WISCONSIN
Friday, February 12
Georgia Tech at Clemson -3: The Yellow Jackets beat the Tigers by 18 three weeks ago. Since then, Clemson is 3-2 with losses to Florida State (by 19) and Duke (by 26) and wins over Louisville, North Carolina (by 13) and Syracuse (by 17).
The losses came on the road, the wins at home.
Clemson is 1-4 — 0-5 ATS — in road games this season. At home the Tigers are 8-1 SU and 6-2-1 ATS, and they’ve covered all five times as a home favorite of three or less. CLEMSON
Last week: 3-0