After First Loss, Gonzaga No Longer Favored For NCAA Title


Matthew Jordan

Monday, February 27, 2017 12:52 AM UTC

Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 12:52 AM UTC

Members of the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers can pop the champagne. That historic Bobby Knight club will remain the last team to win a national championship without a loss following No. 1 Gonzaga’s stunning upset on Saturday.

Gonzaga likely will fall from the No. 1 spot in both polls when those are released Monday after the Zags suffered their first loss of the season Saturday in their home finale, 79-71 to BYU. The Cougars beat the AP No. 1 team for the first time in six tries. BYU now has many wins over Gonzaga over the last four seasons (4-7) as the rest of the West Coast Conference combined (4-66).  

The Cougars also joined Saint Mary's and Memphis as the only teams to beat Gonzaga multiple times on the Bulldogs' home court under Mark Few (since 1999-2000). BYU was a 20.5-point underdog on NCAA basketball odds. It was +1350 on the moneyline offered at South Point in Las Vegas. Gonzaga ended a string of 15 consecutive games where it didn't trail in the second half.

The Zags were up 16 at one point, but they missed 13 of 29 free throws (season-low 55.2 percent) and had 16 turnovers. They shot just 3-for-16 from 3-point range. It was their lowest percentage since they went 3-for-19 (15.8 percent) against UCLA in the Sweet 16 of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga was seeking to become the first team since Kentucky in 2014-15 to finish the regular season without a loss. The Zags were trying to join 2012 Kentucky, 2014 Florida and 2015 Kentucky as the only No. 1 overall seeds in NCAA Tournament history to enter without a loss in league play (the No. 1 overall concept was introduced in 2004). All three of those made the Final Four. Gonzaga never has.

While the polls figure to adjust Monday, with Kansas likely to move to No. 1, the various sportsbooks already have shifted their NCAA title odds. Gonzaga had been the betting favorite on BetOnline’s NCAA odds but is now a +750 fourth-favorite. As long as the Zags don’t lose in this week’s West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, they should be the No. 1 seed in the West Region for the NCAA Tournament.

BetOnline’s new NCAA title favorite is North Carolina at +600. That could change by Monday night, though, as UNC, the ACC leader, has a tough game at No. 18 Virginia. Then the Heels close the regular season Saturday at home vs. No. 10 Duke (+1100).

Kansas is right behind North Carolina on NCAA picks at +650. The Jayhawks already have clinched their 13th straight Big 12 title, which is amazing. Bill Self became the fourth head coach in Division I history to win 17 or more regular-season conference championships. UNC’s Roy Williams could join this group if the Heels win the ACC regular-season title.  KU hosts Oklahoma on Monday and then closes at Oklahoma State on Saturday ahead of the Big 12 Tournament.

UCLA (+700) and Big East regular-season champion Villanova (+850) are the only other schools below +1000. The Bruins had the most impressive win last week, 77-72 at No. 4 Arizona on Saturday. That snapped the Wildcats’ 21-game home winning streak. Arizona (+1400) and Oregon (+1200) remain tied atop the Pac-12, with UCLA one game back in the loss column.

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