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Gonzaga continues residency at or near top of preseason polls

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 22, 2020

Gonzaga senior forward Corey Kispert will be one of the top returners in the West Coast Conference.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga senior forward Corey Kispert will be one of the top returners in the West Coast Conference. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

No matter what poll one looks at, it’s clear Gonzaga is going to be at or near the top when the college basketball season begins in late November.

NCAA.com’s Andy Katz has Gonzaga at No. 1 in his latest Power 36, the same spot as his initial rankings five months ago that came out shortly after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Zags have been No. 1 since March in Gary Parrish’s daily Top 25 and 1 poll on CBSsports.com for the 2020-21 season.

That opinion isn’t unanimous. NBCsports.com’s poll in August, after stay-or-go decisions by college players that declared for the NBA draft, has Gonzaga at No. 3, behind Villanova and Baylor.

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein puts GU at No. 6, behind Villanova, Baylor, Iowa, Virginia and Wisconsin.

It’s also clear that the Zags could be facing several marquee matchups early on if their schedule unfolds as many expect. Gonzaga will probably open the season at the Orlando (Florida) Invitational, followed by the Jimmy V Classic, which has been moved from New York City to Orlando.

The Orlando Invitational field includes Auburn, Belmont, Boise State, Michigan State, Saint Louis, Siena and Xavier. Michigan State is No. 12 and Saint Louis is No. 36 in Katz’s Power 36. Auburn and Boise State just missed the top 36.

The Zags face No. 10 Tennessee and No. 2 Baylor meets No. 13 Rutgers in the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader. It’s possible Gonzaga also could tangle with Baylor while both teams are in Orlando.

Gonzaga’s original schedule included contests against No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 20 Texas. The GU-Texas game could be moved to the 2021-22 season. It’s not clear if the matchup with Texas Tech will take place this season.

The Zags were No. 2 in the AP poll and No. 1 in the NET rankings when the NCAA announced on March 12 the cancellation of the 2020 men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Division I programs are busy trying to organize schedules after the NCAA announced the season would start on Nov. 25. Nov. 10 was the original starting date.

Teams can play a maximum of 27 regular-season games, including an MTE (multiteam event like the Orlando Invitational).

The West Coast Conference is expected to stay with a 16-game schedule for the third consecutive year. Conference games will likely begin Dec. 31.

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