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    The AP Poll preseason No. 2 won’t be a top seed in March Madness this time, but Gonzaga is still in the mix to win the national championship. The Zags have one of the most dynamic offenses in college basketball, led by veteran big man Drew Timme and a triumvirate of guards who can shoot opponents into nothingness.

    The Bulldogs closed out the regular season on a seven-game winning streak that included a 77-68 victory over archrival St. Mary’s. Gonzaga also has wins against Alabama, Xavier, Kentucky, and Michigan State to hang its hat on. Outside of the strange one-point home defeat to Loyola Marymount on Jan. 19, the Zags have only lost to teams currently ranked in the AP top 20.

    Last National Championship: None

    Last Final Four: 2021

    2023 Title Odds: +2000 (as of March 6, 2023)

    Why Gonzaga Will Make a Run

    Gonzaga is atop KenPom and T-Rank’s adjusted offensive efficiency metrics, both by a sizable margin. Defenses can pick their poison among some of the most talented scorers in America. Timme is virtually automatic inside, and the Zags have five players in their rotation who shoot better than 35 percent from three. And of those shooters, you better not leave Malachi Smith open – Belleville’s finest is splashing on almost every other triple he takes.

    The Bulldogs are first in Division I in points per game (88.0), first in field-goal percentage (52.9 percent), and 16th in three-point percentage (38.2 percent). Good luck keeping up with them, too; Gonzaga scores 12.9 fastbreak points per contest.

    Why Gonzaga Will Exit Early

    Gonzaga can score with anybody, but can they defend anybody?

    This is not the finest defensive team Mark Few has had in Spokane, and defense has been what’s bitten the Bulldogs in some of their tournament losses over the years. Gonzaga doesn’t defend the three-point line well, and it’s not especially imposing at the rim.

    It’s a risky thing to rely so strongly on your offense in the NCAA Tournament. Defense almost always travels, but shooting can come and go much easier. If the Zags encounter a team that can cause them more problems offensively than usual, or if they simply go cold one night, they might not have it in them to get the crucial stops any team needs to win a national championship.

    What It’ll Take to Win

    The Bulldogs will have to outscore everyone in their path to ascend atop that elusive pedestal. Gonzaga also can’t play its typical level on defense and expect to claim the title. But this team won’t become a defensive juggernaut overnight. If the Zags are to win it all, they’ll have to explode on the scoreboard to paper over their defensive deficiencies.

    To put it another way, Gonzaga has to play to its strengths more than most other teams. If the Bulldogs aren’t connecting from deep and/or Timme isn’t pouring on the points in the paint, then it’s unlikely they can go six games without someone outdoing them. But with how elite this team is with the ball, it’s possible for the Zags to score their way to a title.

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