Last season, the Kansas Jayhawks and Gonzaga Bulldogs finished their regular season schedules as the top two teams in the nation. Both were expected to be one seeds in the NCAA tournament, and it seemed inevitable that the two squads were on a collision course, destined to matchup in the Final Four. But then COVID-19 happened, and all of the sudden, there was no March Madness, and both teams were robbed of their shot at winning the national title.
After 260 days … it's Game Day Zag fans! We're thankful for your support!
🏟️ SunCoast Credit Union Arena
💻 Live Video – https://t.co/5lyKBnbBLl
📻 Live Radio – https://t.co/QluZDIkHQW
📊 Live Stats – https://t.co/QoLDBRm5mJ
🗒️ Game Notes – https://t.co/cFjSWMcV8y pic.twitter.com/anEsNWzq80
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) November 26, 2020
So, it seems fitting that last year’s top two teams will open up the season this year to kick off what is sure to be the strangest NCAA Men’s Basketball season ever. Some of the names on the back of the jerseys have changed, but the names on the front haven’t, and this is an absolute blockbuster matchup!
- Gonzaga Bulldogs (0-0) at Kansas Jayhawks (0-0)
- Suncoast Arena, Fort Myers
- 10:30 AM PST
- TV: FOX
The Gonzaga Bulldogs enter this year ranked number one in the preseason AP Poll, a first in program history, and the Zags will get tested right away, as they play the 6th ranked Kansas Jayhawks today from Fort Myers, Florida. Gonzaga lost reigning WCC player of the year, Felip Petrusev, from last year’s squad that went 32-1, but likely have the deepest and most talented roster that Mark Few has ever had in Spokane. The Zags always test themselves in the non-conference, and this year is no different as they have games scheduled against Auburn, Iowa, and Baylor after this game. Is Gonzaga as good as their billing? We will find out very soon!
Waited a long time to say this but…
𝙄𝙏’𝙎 finally 𝙂𝘼𝙈𝙀𝘿𝘼𝙔 🙌 pic.twitter.com/wvR1di6Qug
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) November 26, 2020
For Kansas, the Jayhawks lost their two best players from last season as Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike are both gone, but the Jayhawks don’t rebuild; they reload. Kansas returns the reigning National Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Garrett, and they have talent all over the floor. Kansas has owned the Big 12 for decades, but this year, despite their top-10 ranking nationally, the Jayhawks are playing a bit of an underdog role, as it is the Baylor Bears that are favored to win the Big 12 this season, not the Jayhawks.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (0-0)
Mark Few has the best backcourt in the country. They have Joel Ayayi, a potential first-round NBA draft pick that emerged as one of the best guards in the nation last season, running the show. But they also have the highest-rated recruit in the history of the program, in super athlete Jalen Suggs, making his college debut today. If that’s all they had in the backcourt, Gonzaga would likely have the best guard tandem in the nation. But wait, it gets better.
Corey Kispert is somehow a bit of an afterthought playing the three for Gonzaga, and he is a preseason All-American! The Zags also brought in Andrew Nembhard, a kid who was one of the best passing guards in the nation last year for the Florida Gators, where he averaged 11 points and 6 assists a game. There were questions as to whether or not he would be cleared to play today, but he is good to go and gives Gonzaga an absolutely absurd backcourt with several players able to handle the ball and shoot the rock.
Kansas Jayhawks (0-0)
While the Zags are the number one team in the preseason AP Poll, it’s Kansas that kenpom ranks at number one. The Jayhawks will have to replace their starting point guard, which is never easy, and losing Azubuike in the paint is going to hurt as well, but this team still has enough talent to win a national championship this year. Marcus Garret might just be the best on-ball defender in the nation, and it will be interesting to see who he guards today, as Gonzaga has so many capable ball handlers.
Similar to Gonzaga, the Jayhawks are never afraid to play anybody, and we see that personified in their schedule, as they have non-conference games lined up against the Kentucky Wildcats and the Creighton Blue Jays. If Kansas can run the table in the non-conference, you can expect them to be ranked number one in every poll and hit Big 12 play ready to give Baylor a run for their money.
Who Do I Like?
After the longest offseason in the history of college hoops, the pent-up demand for hardwood action is at an all-time high. To see two programs of this stature matching up on opening day is certainly a treat. On this Thanksgiving Day, I can say one thing that I am particularly thankful for is the return of college basketball and games like this one of the schedule!
This line opened up with Gonzaga laying a point and a half. It seemed a bit light considering everything that Kansas lost from last year, and with the Zags being the nation’s consensus top team. The early betting sharps have been hammering Gonzaga, and the line has been on the move ever since. You are going to want to shop this line as I see some Gonzaga -3’s out there, as well as some -3.5’s and even a couple of -4’s.
I am siding with the sharps in this one. While I think that the Kansas Jayhawks are a very talented basketball team, I also think that they are going to need some time to gel. They lost a lot from last year, and it’s going to take a while for them to get a rotation going. Gonzaga doesn’t have this problem, and they should be at full power from opening tip.
Yeah, Nembhard and Suggs are new, but they aren’t going to be called on to handle the pressure, as Ayayi and Kispert will be able to shoulder the load in crunch time. I also don’t see anyone on the Kansas roster that is going to be able to hold Gonzaga big man Drew Timme.
Timme was amongst the most efficient players in the nation last season, and this year, he is poised to break out. The Zags have elite guards and ball handlers all over the floor to distract opposing defenses away from the big man in the middle, Drew Timme, and he is going to get a lot of one on one looks.
This game will be competitive and tightly contested, but I just see too much talent on this Gonzaga roster to lose this game. Even if the Jayhawks are able to slow down one or even two of these Zags studs, there are several more guys waiting in the wings to step up. The Zags win this one going away and coast to the win and cover. Give me the Gonzaga Bulldogs, laying -3 points today in their season opener against the Kansas Jayhawks, let’s call it an 86-75 final score!