“Was Gonzaga A Fraud All Along?” is a stupid take

So, I’m scrolling through Twitter earlier today and I see a tweet that was, essentially, “I bought into a fraud with Gonzaga”.

I get gut reactions and someone not thinking this one through. We are all guilty of it, but you know me. I try to put things in historical perspective as often as I can. One game be damned.

In the basketball world, KenPom has become one of the most relevant sources of, well, relevancy. Their Adjusted Efficiency Measure changed the analytical world enough so that it had a huge impact on Vegas line setting. It is pretty easily the most cited tool for comparing teams, for gambling purposes or otherwise. You can argue minute differences between it and some others, like LMRC, Sagarin, etc,, but that is a different discussion, different day. KenPom makes it easy to compare teams across years, so I did.

Here is the list of teams to finish with an AdjEM number of 33 or higher, since tracking it began in 2002.

RankTeam, YearAdjEM
1Kentucky, 201536.91
2Gonzaga, 202136.48
3Kansas, 200835.21
4Virgininia, 201934.22
5Duke, 200234.19
6Baylor, 202133.87
7Wisconsin, 201533.72
8Ohio St., 201133.47
9Duke, 201033.29

Nine teams in 20 years. And yes, this year’s Gonzaga squad is one of them. Number two, in fact. So is this year’s Baylor team, at number six. But Weez, Baylor just beat Gonzaga, they have to be higher, right? I would venture a guess if the basketball gods decreed there has to be a rematch of that game, the line would still open around Gonzaga -3, down from the -4.5 it was in the actual meeting.

Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As for the above list, neither of the top two won the championship that year, and three of the top five didn’t. Only four of the nine teams on the list won the championship game: Kansas 2008, Virginia 2019, Baylor 2021 and Duke 2010.

So, if you insist on a team having to win the championship to be the greatest, then i guess Kansas 2008 is your answer for best team of the last 20 years. Just know they would probably be a pick ’em at best against Gonzaga this year.

So, no. Gonzaga was not a fraud. They just had a game where their most talented player had two quick fouls, got killed on the offensive glass and turned it over a bit too much early, which lead to another Top 9 Team All-Time taking 28 more shots in a game.


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