At the start of this season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were ranked 14th in the preseason top 25. The Baylor Bears were unranked. Now as college football season comes to a close tonight and college basketball season takes center stage on the amateur front, the Bulldogs and Bears are the only two remaining undefeated, with the Bears likely taking over the No. 1 spot in this week’s poll. (Gonzaga will be somewhere in the top-five, my guess would be No. 4.)
I highly doubt either of these teams will run the table, although with Gonzaga having the better chance due to the conference that they play in, it isn’t impossible. Let’s take a look at both teams and the key pieces that have helped them reach this point unscathed.
After being overshadowed by Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince in past seasons, the Bears’ new star is Johnathan Motley. Motley is nearly averaging a double-double (15.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG) and is slowly but surely creeping towards the top of the Player of the Year race in the Big 12. It hasn’t been all Motley, though. Miami transfer Manu Lecomte has fit in quite nicely in his new role as the Bears’ starting point guard. In fact, Lecomte hit the big shot this past weekend against Oklahoma State to put the Bears over the top and keep them undefeated.
Thus far, Baylor has recorded wins over Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville, and Xavier—as well as conference foes Iowa State and Oklahoma State. This is already one of the best resumes in the nation, and they have an inside track at a top seed in the tournament. They face their first big road test of the year Tuesday night, as they travel to take on No. 7 West Virginia in a top-10 showdown.
After some changes to the Washington basketball program that made him uncomfortable with his situation, former top-10 recruit Nigel Williams-Goss decided to take his talents to Gonzaga. And in doing so, try to help the Bulldogs reach that elusive Final Four.
Goss picked up right where he left off at Washington, averaging 15.3 PPG and leading the Bulldogs in scoring. He poured in a career high 36 points last Thursday at San Francisco, and has been their most consistent backcourt threat this season. California transfer Jordan Mathews has been a nice addition to the team as well, currently averaging 11 PPG next to Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins in the backcourt.
As for the low post, that belongs to the giant himself, Przemek Karnowski. At 7-1, 300 lbs, Karnowski is nearly impossible to cover down low. If he gets the ball right next to the hoop, you either need to bring immediate help or hack away because that ball is going in if he gets a clean look. He isn’t the most mobile player, but his presence down low is essential to this team’s success going forward. With their key wins so far being against Iowa State and Arizona, the Bulldogs will look to bolster their resume next Saturday night against 19th-ranked Saint Mary’s.
Run it Back
Wednesday, January 4th: No. 18 Butler, 66 — No. 1 Villanova, 58
This time last week, I thought I’d be talking about Villanova in the undefeated discussion. Turns out, Butler had other plans. The defending champs took their first loss of the season in the house that Brad Stevens built. (OK fine, he didn’t build it, but he did help put Butler on the map.) Kamar Baldwin was the star for Butler, capping the win with a fantastic steal and score on Villanova’s star player, Josh Hart. Hart was held to just 13 points, six under his average of 19 per game. With only six points off the bench, Villanova didn’t have the depth to keep up with 25 bench points from Butler.
Saturday, January 7th: No. 18 Butler, 85 — Georgetown, 76
Happy Butler week to all. The Bulldogs capped off their great week by defeating Georgetown in overtime. It was another great performance for Kamar Baldwin with 16 points, five rebounds and four steals, while playing 41 minutes. Butler was able to withstand 41 combined points from L.J. Peak and Jagan Mosley in the overtime win, and now set their sights on No. 10 Creighton Wednesday night.
Here’s a look at some of the best games from this upcoming week.
CFB National Title Game, so no, there aren’t any hoops games worth watching. Go Clemson! Please end this Alabama nightmare and save college football.
No. 2 Baylor at No. 7 West Virginia—7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN.
First big road test for the Bears, who will likely be No. 1 come tip-off time.
No. 16 Xavier at No. 1 Villanova—7:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1.
Nova won’t be No. 1 by then, but this could still be the game of the night.
No. 8 Duke at No. 12 Florida State—8:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network.
Grayson Allen tried to trip someone again. Let’s all freak out. While we’re all doing that, Duke faces a very tough test in the Seminoles and their star Dwayne Bacon.
No. 18 Butler at No. 10 Creighton—9:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1.
As I said earlier, Butler will look to continue its winning ways with a road win over Marcus Foster and Creighton.
If the Madness began today…
If the tournament started today, these would be the four No. 1 seeds:
South Region: Baylor Bears (No. 1 overall seed).
Midwest Region: Kansas Jayhawks.
East Region: Villanova Wildcats.
West Region: UCLA Bruins.
As of now, the only real controversy here is having UCLA over Gonzaga out west. If the Bulldogs end the season unbeaten or with one loss, I’m sure they’ll move to the top spot. For now, UCLA looks like the better team. Especially with their win at Kentucky. Baylor is the No. 1 overall, and rightfully so.
Kansas is the top dog in the Midwest, but as the season goes on, I’m sure Kansas or Baylor (or both) will fall out of a top seed simply because they are in the same conference. And, it’s tough to see any conference getting two No. 1 seeds. Villanova, even with last week’s loss, is still a top seed for now, but Duke is close behind, ready to overtake the top spot with another Wildcat stumble.