Why Gonzaga is deserving of being title favorites


Why Gonzaga is deserving of being title favorites


Led by Chet Holmgren, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are off to a 10-2 start in the 2021-22 regular season. They are the early favorites to win the title.

A look at college basketball odds today shows how dominant Gonzaga is expected to be this season. They are priced as the heavy favorites to win the national championship after falling to the Baylor Bears in the 2021 final.

Gonzaga had Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs in 2020-21. This time it’s Holmgren, Julian Strawther, and Drew Timme. They have lost just two of their first 12 games, and their net rating is the fifth-best in the country behind Louisiana State, Houston, Baylor, and Arizona.

The Mark Few Factor

Mark Few’s impact on the Bulldogs cannot be overstated. Gonzaga had a 630-125 record in the Few era coming into the season. They were a solid, if unspectacular, program when he arrived in 1999.

Few has changed that. Gonzaga is a fixture in March Madness. They have considerable recruiting power, and they have had two separate streaks of eight consecutive conference championships.

While the 2021 season ended in disappointment, Few’s role should not be glossed over. They were one game away from becoming the first unbeaten Division I team since 1976. His winning percentage is the best in men’s college basketball history, and they are on a run of 22 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament (21 of which are under Few’s leadership).

The title might have eluded Few and the Bulldogs to date, but that shouldn’t count against them as contenders as we head into 2022. A master of Xs and Os and a guru of player development, there is no question Few will get the very best out of this Gonzaga team.

Holmgren is Unstoppable

Chet Holmgren is arguably the most dominant player in college basketball this season. The seven-foot forward was the High School Player of the Year in 2021, earning five-star recruit rankings from ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports.

The mix of height, wingspan (7’6), and his ball-handling skills make Holmgren a player who can take over a game at both ends. He’s got the instincts and physical tools to be a menace defensively while providing a scoring threat both inside and outside with a supreme perimeter shot for a seven-footer.

Many draft experts already tab Holmgren as a lock to go in the top three of the 2022 NBA Draft. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has the Gonzaga phenom first overall in his latest mock draft, ahead of Duke rival Paolo Banchero and Auburn’s Jabari Smith.

Of course, having an elite prospect doesn’t guarantee success, but Gonzaga is fortunate to have plenty of great talent around Holmgren. Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, and Andrew Nembhard have all featured on draft boards.

These Bulldogs are more than an exhibition of Holmgren’s upside. His presence, though, is significant for their title chances. His skill set and size can swing close games, which could be the difference between heartbreak and ecstasy in March Madness.