Gonzaga on pace to become the greatest college basketball bet ever

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are in the midst of a magical season. They have steamrolled their way to a perfect 28-0 record and are the current No. 1 ranked team in the nation. The most impressive thing about this Zags squad compared others, however, is that they’re on pace to become one of the best college basketball bets. Ever.

With just two regular season games remaining before the WCC tournament, Gonzaga is currently 19-5-1 against the spread this season, cashing an incredible 79.2 percent of the time. If the Zags can maintain that percentage, it would be the best ATS mark in a NCAAB season dating back to 1997-98 (as far back as our records go).

That percentage would be slightly higher than the Central Michigan squad that went 22-6 ATS back in 2002-03 and, of course, the Wichita State team from 2013-14 that entered the tournament 34-0 SU while holding down a 25-7 ATS record.

Here are the Top 10 ATS seasons (Since 1997-98 and with at least 25 lined games)

1. Central Michigan (2002-03): 22-6
2. Wichita State (2013-14): 25-7
3. Hawaii (2001-02): 20-6
4. Tulsa (1999-00): 19-6
5. Cal Poly SLO (2005-06): 19-6
6. Davidson (2014-15): 22-7
7. New Mexico (2007-08): 23-8
8. Saint Louis (1999-00): 20-7
9. Kent State (2001-02): 20-7
10. Michigan (2010-11): 22-8

After starting the season 2-2 ATS (three of its first seven games had no line posted), Gonzaga rattled off 11 ATS wins in a row and, for the most part, has done so easily, covering the chalk by an average of nine points per game during those 11 contests.

A lot of people will denounce the Zags come tournament time because of the conference they play in, but since the start of conference play the Bulldogs are 12-3-1 ATS and have managed to do that against some monster spreads. They’ve faced a staggering average spread of -18.7 points during WCC play, making that ATS success even more remarkable. 

Those numbers include being favored by 20 or more points 10 times this season, going a profitable 6-4 ATS in those games. That’s impressive simply because talented teams playing in weaker conferences can become complacent, especially when they’re consistently beating teams by 20-plus points.

The sweet spot for bettors looking to jump on the Gonzaga bandwagon is when it is a big, but not huge favorite. When the Bulldogs are listed between -10 and -19 this season, they’re a perfect 8-0 ATS.

For those saying, “talk to me when they actually play someone good”, they only need to look to the Zags’ non-conference slate. Earlier this season, Gonzaga topped No. 4 Arizona 69-62 as a 4.5-point fave and No. 12 Florida 77-72 as a 3.5-point fave on neutral courts. The Bulldogs also have impressive non-conference wins over Iowa State (neutral court) and Tennessee (at Tennessee), going 1-1 ATS in the process. All four opponents will likely be tournament teams. 

Gonzaga visits San Diego Thursday, where it is currently a 22.5-point road fave, before closing out the regular season versus BYU at home Saturday. It is 2-0 SU and 1-0-1 ATS against those teams this year. Then it’s on to the conference tournament, where Mark Few’s crew will face heavy chalk once again.

Looking back at ATS success in terms of tournament hopes, the 2013-14 Wichita State team mentioned above was cruising before it ran into a very good, yet underachieving No. 8 seed Kentucky team in the second round of the tournament that year. That Shockers were sound defensively, but had nowhere near the resume that this Gonzaga team boasts and ranked just 65th in scoring (75.2). 

This season’s incarnation of Gonzaga is very balanced, ranking 10th in scoring (85.4 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (51.4), while at the same time ranking ninth in points against per game (61.7). The Bulldogs also force a lot of tough shots, ranking second in defensive field goal percentage (36.9) and fifth in defensive 3-point percentage (29.4)

So, with two regular season games remaining, Gonzaga is inching closer to the greatest college basketball bet in recent history and will always hold a special place in the hearts of NCAA hoops bettors – regardless of what happens when the “Madness” of March begins. 

Andrew Caley is the associate editor at Covers. You can follow him on Twitter @Covers_Caley.


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