And then there were two.
Baylor and Gonzaga stand as the last two undefeated teams of the 2016-17 season with matching 15-0 records. The Bears have ascended to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 while the ‘Zags are fifth. Together, they’ve played a combined eight games that have been decided by single digits as they’ve run to their perfect records.
One team nearly gave both their first L of the season, playing them to a one-possession game with an opportunity to take the final shot of the game.
Iowa State has come as close as anyone at topping the nation’s last blemish-free programs. The Cyclones lost to Gonzaga, 73-71, in November, and to Baylor, 65-63, last week.
“They’re 30-0,” Cyclones coach Steve Prohm told NBCSports.com, “and we were in a possession game with both of them.”
Baylor faces its toughest test of the season tonight at No. 10 West Virginia while Gonzaga has Loyola Marymount on Thursday before hosting No. 21 St. Mary’s on Saturday.
Here’s what Iowa State had to say about the two teams still hanging on to perfection.
What’s allowed them to remain undefeated?
Prohm: “The length, the size up front, the skill. When you’re building a team, that’s what you look at. You want a skilled four, you want a five with motor, back to the basket and then guards who can make plays off the dribble and make shots. I think Gonzaga’s guards are terrific. They shot it really well against us. We gave them too many threes.
“Both coaches do a great job. They both recruit really, really well. They’ve done a great job.”
How to beat Gonzaga
Prohm: “Gonzaga really, really wants to get that thing up and down the floor. The biggest thing against Gonzaga is you’ve got to slow them down and then you’ve got to decide how you want to guard (7-foot center Przemek) Karnowski. Do you want to play him one-on-one, double him? The one thing we had success is we were able to run them over some and slow them down with some three-quarter court pressure to slow the game down a little bit.
“The more you can slow them down, change defenses is big.”
Point guard Monte Morris: “It’s going to be a night where they’re not shooting it great.”
How to beat Baylor
Prohm: “They don’t attack all night. Gonzaga wants to be in the 90s. Baylor’s OK with 65-63 because they’re going to slow you down on their end of the floor defensively because they’re going to make you work against their zone.”
Morris: “Guys making shots out of the zone. It’s about guarding them well, slowing (Johnathan) Motley down and making other guys make plays, and your guys making plays.”