NCAA Championship Favorites Gonzaga Bulldogs Are New No.1 Team in the Country

Gonzaga Bulldogs. Photo provided by Fan Go Sports.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the newest No.1 team in the nation in the latest AP Poll, not for the first time, though they earned fewer first-place votes than the Auburn Tigers, who are the No.2 team at the moment.

The NCAA Championship favorites, who went to the final last year but surprisingly lost to the Baylor Bears, are 6/1 to go all the way this time around and, per college basketball betting sites, have taken up 33.66 percent of total bets from the top bookmakers so far.

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The Bears’ first loss to Texas Tech put Gonzaga in a great position to go No.1 and another Bears loss, this time to Oklahoma State, left the path clear.

The Tigers had been on an impressive trajectory and made their own case to be ranked at No.1 but the Zags ended up blowing out BYU and Santa Clara during the week, making it a lot harder for them to go top.

Auburn could go to No.1 this week, though, as the Bulldogs will only play San Francisco, while they will play Kentucky.

The top 10 programs for Week 11 are right below:

Rank   Team               Points  Previous Rank

1 Gonzaga (25) 1,486     2

2 Auburn (36) 1,482     4

3 Arizona 1,320     6

4 Purdue             1,255     7

5 Baylor             1,238     1

6 Duke             1,205        8

7 Kansas 1,192     9

8 Wisconsin 1,056     13

9 UCLA             1,041       3

10 Houston 1,036     11

As mentioned above, Baylor’s time at the top ended via losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The losses marked the first time the Bears lost back-to-back home games in nearly six years and also cut their winning streak to 21 games. The reigning NCAA champs are currently the fourth favorites for the title at 13/1. The Duke Blue Devils are second in such regard at 8/1 while the Purdue Boilermakers are 10/1.

Bears senior shooting guard Matthew Mayer told reporters the Baylor coaches were “not happy” after the pair of losses.

Meanwhile, No.16 Southern California also had a previously undefeated season halted in its tracks through losses to Stanford and Oregon, though not consecutively as they beat Oregon State between the losses. Seton Hall dropped out of the poll from the 20th spot following poor results against DePaul and Marquette.

UCLA dropped down six spots to No.9 after getting up to the third berth in last week’s poll, thanks to an overtime loss to Oregon. The Ducks’ win marked the 700th victory in coach Dana Altman’s career.

“You’re either humbled and hungry like they were trying to pull off the so-called upset, or you’re arrogant without cause because we’ve won nothing,” Bruins head coach Mick Cronin said angrily in the wake of the loss.

It’s worth noting that there will be no unbeaten teams in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Zags were on their way to going unbeaten, as they did last season, and had hopes of becoming the first unbeaten champ since Indiana 1976 but it isn’t to be.

Baylor and USC were the only unbeaten teams heading into last week but they’ve both experienced losses ahead of the highly anticipated March Madness period. History suggests either one of them will win the championship at the end of the season, though the Trojans are way down the favorite chart and are 40/1 to become champions in April.

The Bears played their first game of the campaign bereft of freshman Jeremy Sochan, with the forward having suffered a sprained ankle prior to the streak-ending loss to Texas Tech. Who’s to say Baylor would have won with him in the lineup? But Sochan is averaging 7.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists a game and they didn’t lose until his availability was cut short.

USC played a few hours earlier than Baylor and was favored to beat unranked Stanford. The Cardinal hadn’t played since Christmas because of COVID-19 concerns but pulled off the upset, winning 75-69 to record their first victory over a Top 5 program since 2007. They were also coming off a 14-game losing streak vs. the AP poll’s Top 5 since beating the Bruins during said year.

The Trojans went 1-for-7 in the last five minutes, also missing three free throws.

The last three times all remaining unbeaten sides lost on the same night, one of them went on to win the title. History certainly favors the Bears and Trojans but Gonzaga will look to have their say.

The 2022 NCAA Tournament will kick off with the First Four on Match 15-16 in Dayton, Ohio.