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Gonzaga’s Odds to Reach Final Four Fade as Petrusev Turns Pro

Filip Petrusev taking a hook shot over a defender
Filip Petrusev is leaving Spokane to turn pro in his native Serbia, but Mark Few will still have one of his most-talented teams ever. Image by @casey_lundquist (Twitter).
  • Reigning WCC Player of the Year Filip Petrusev is leaving Gonzaga to turn pro in Europe
  • Gonzaga had the shortest odds to reach the 2021 Final Four before the announcement
  • On the whole, Gonzaga’s odds to reach Indianapolis have faded

It’s not often that a new college basketball season kicks off with a mid-major sporting the shortest odds to reach the Final Four. That was the scenario we were headed for until yesterday, when Gonzaga’s Filip Petrusev, the reigning WCC Player of the Year, announced that he is leaving Spokane to turn pro in his native Serbia.

Oddsmakers responded by moving Gonzaga down the Final Four futures board. Formerly +123 favorites, the Zags faded to +132 (on average) and now find themselves looking up at Villanova. DraftKings has the longest price on the Bulldogs at +150.

2021 Final Four Odds

Team Odds at DraftKings
Baylor +125
Villanova +125
Gonzaga +150
Virginia +150
Iowa +175
Creighton +200
Kansas +200
Kentucky +225
Duke +275
Florida State +300
San Diego State +325
Wisconsin +325
Florida +400
West Virginia +400
Michigan +425
Oregon +425
Tennessee +425
UCLA +425
Ohio State +500
Auburn +525

Odds as of July 21. 

As a sophomore last season, Petrusev averaged 17.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game in just 26.0 minutes, leading gonzaga in both points and rebounds.

He shot 56.2% from the floor and 65.5% from the free-throw line, very respectable for a nearly-seven-footer.

What Does Gonzaga Have Left?

In short, the Zags have a lot left. It’s expected that both wing Corey Kispert (13.9 PPG, 43.8 3P%) and point guard Joel Ayayi (10.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.2 APG) are expected to return despite currently having their names in the NBA Draft pool.

Mark Few is also bringing in his best recruiting class ever. Point guard Jalen Suggs is the no. 6 overall recruit at ESPN, the highest-rated player Few has ever landed. Suggs is just one of three top-100 signings; he will be joined by two-guard Dominick Harris (no. 59) and wing Julian Strawther (no. 62).

Perhaps most importantly, though, Gonzaga has someone to slot directly into Petrusev’s spot in the starting lineup. Sophomore Drew Timme, the no. 47 recruit in 2019, had a highly promising freshman season. The 6’10 Texonian averaged 9.8 PPG in 20.5 minutes while shooting 61.1% from the floor.

Encouragingly, his best games came in some of Gonzaga’s biggest. He poured in a season-high 20 points and grabbed 10 boards in the first meeting with arch-rival St. Mary’s, recording his second-career double-double. In the WCC championship game against those same Gaels, he scored 17 points on 7-8 shooting from the field.

Petrusev’s combination of size and skill proved too much for the smaller lineups in the WCC most nights. Timme’s will be the same.

Is +150 a Good Price?

As mentioned, the longest odds on Gonzaga reaching the Final Four are +150, which equals a 40% implied probability. Realistically, the Zags are unlikely to be challenged in the WCC next season. They may not have the rollicking environment of the Kennel for their home games, but the talent disparity between them and the likes of St. Mary’s and BYU is going to be wide.

It’s relatively safe to pencil Gonzaga into a #3 seed (or better) for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. They would have to string together four wins to reach the Final Four.

The best case scenario would look something like the 2019 tournament when Gonzaga entered as a 30-3 #1 seed. Based on KenPom’s predictive model, they had a 99% chance to beat Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 64, an 85% chance to beat Baylor in the Round of 32, a 74% chance to beat FSU in the Sweet 16, and a 61% chance to beat Texas Tech in the Elite Eight (a game they lost).

Multiplied together, Gonzaga had just a 37.98% chance to win all four.

Gonzaga’s 2019 Tournament Matchups

Round Opponent Win Probability Score
64 Fairleigh Dickinson 99% 87-49 W
32 Baylor 85% 83-71 W
16 Florida State 74% 72-58 W
8 Texas Tech 61% 72-69 L
TOTAL 37.98%

There is a chance that the 2021 team will be better than the 2019 team. But the 2019 team ranked as the second-best team in the country at KenPom (first on offense, 12th on defense) with a 32.85 adjusted efficiency rating.

That number would have put them first in 2016, 2017, and 2020.

Betting Gonzaga at +150 is not likely to have positive expected value by the time the 2021 NCAA Tournament arrives. It’s not a terrible price, but it’s not the kind of play that is going to lead to steady, long-term bankroll building.

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