While football may be a Thanksgiving tradition, the NCAAB Kansas vs Gonzaga pick has a chance to steal the sports world show on Thursday. Even tryptophan can’t subdue the excitement for the #6 Jayhawks and #1 Bulldogs meeting up in what is the first game of the season for both teams.
While COVID robbed fans of March Madness last season, we at least get an early preview of what could’ve been as Kansas was #1 and Gonzaga #2 when last season came to a screeching halt. The Bulldogs are the preseason #1 in 2020, and are a -4 point favorite in this neutral court matchup that will be held as part of the Ft. Myers Tipoff.
Kansas Kind of an Unknown
The Jayhawks were well on their way to a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament as they were ranked #1 in the nation heading into Big 12 postseason play. The 28-3 record Bill Self’s team compiled last year now is thrown away as a lost season, and KU must start anew without two big pieces of last year’s team, Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson.
The loss of Azubuike could be the biggest, literally, as the 7-footer had 13.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last year and was a massive paint presence. Dotson had 18.1 ppg last season, and perhaps made a mistake in declaring for the draft after his sophomore year as he signed with the Bulls as an undrafted free agent.
So who will step up and what new faces will contribute in the NCAAB Kansas at Gonzaga pick? Self will go with four upperclassmen in his starting lineup, led by one of the best defenders in the country in Marcus Garrett, whose offense should also improve with the departure of Dotson. The x-factor against Gonzaga will be 5-star recruit Bryce Thompson, playing in his first collegiate game.
Gonzaga Likes Their Core
The Bulldogs were 31-2 entering the 20/19/20 postseason, but were ranked behind Kansas because of a perceived weaker schedule. Like the Jayhawks, coach Mark Few took a loss of his own when Filip Petrusev opted to return home and play professionally in Serbia. Petrusev averaged 17.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg last season en route to being named the WCC Player of the Year last season.
The loss of the 6’11” Petrusev as well as 6’10” Killian Tillie, a fellow All-WCC 1st team selection, leaves Gonzaga pretty thin in the front court. Kansas is replacing Azuibuike with 6’10” Jr. David McCormack so they are still pretty big and experienced on the blocks. Few still likes what he has in his ‘new’ post players though as 6’10” Drew Timme averaged 9.8 ppg as a freshman and Anton Watson averaged 5 and 3 in his first year in college hoops last season as well.
Gonzaga is the younger team in this matchup, as sophomores Timme and Watson are joined by Jalen Suggs in the starting lineup. The freshman was 6th in the ESPN 100, making him the most touted recruit to ever join the ‘Zags program. Despite some youth, the Bulldogs still have solid leadership in redshirt Jr. Joel Ajayi, as well as Sr. Corey Kispert who put in 13.9 ppg last year to earn All-WCC 1st team honors as well.
Free NCAAB Kansas vs Gonzaga Pick
The losses of Azuibuike and Dotson are crucial ones for Kansas, and even though the Bulldogs need to replace key players, the Gonzaga program seems more capable of playing with the ‘next man up’ mentality.
That being said, this game could go either way on a neutral court and with such a strange offseason/preseason. These teams could give us a show that comes down to the last bucket, so it’s best to take the points.
Kansas 76 – Gonzaga 73
Free Pick: Kansas +4