In a normal year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs would have played four games by now, most likely four easy-cupcake contests at home. The games would have been broadcast on ROOT Sports, and we would all be formulating our takes about this team while acknowledging the real test doesn’t come until Feast Week.
Gonzaga would be taking part in one of the better MTEs of the Thanksgiving weekend. There would be the guarantee of playing at least two teams, possibly a championship matchup with another top-five team.
Of course, 2020 has been anything but a normal year. So we enter into Nov. 25, the official start of college basketball season, and a non-conference slate that was put together piecemeal with as much disarray and changing circumstances as possible. The start of the 2020-21 college basketball contains just as much uncertainty as the end of the 2019-20 season. In other words, buckle up.
Mark Few and company have done their part to at least make it exciting for the preseason AP No. 1 team. The Zags open the season with a gauntlet of opposition, playing the likes of the Kansas Jayhawks, Baylor Bears, Auburn Tigers, and Iowa Hawkeyes (sorry Southern) in the first three weeks of the season.
Those games are as certain as certain can be right now, which is with a huge asterisk. Already, Baylor coach Scott Bear has tested positive for COVID-19 and will quarantine. The Tennessee Volunteers, a theoretical opponent for the Zags on Dec. 2, have paused all team activities after an outbreak among its Tier 1 personnel.
As much as we’d like to forget it exists and watch and cheer for our Zags like normal human beings, the specter of COVID-19 will loom over every practice and game. That is just the state of the nation right now. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed thousands upon thousands of people worldwide, and college hoops are about to tip-off. It is weird and it is what the season will be.
And of course, of all years it has to be so weird, it is the year the Zags are blasting along on the bullet hype train. Expectations on the year for most people start on the Final Four and end on the national championship—and those expectations are hardly crazy! A squad that finished the season as a theoretical No. 1 seed is returning plenty of important pieces, as well as welcoming its top recruiting class in school history. They go a couple players deep at virtually every single position.
I expect there will be a lot of news posts this year, much more than we normally do during the season. I hope there is the chance through it all to have the energy for a few statistical deep dives and other musings, because I am ridiculously excited about this team. I am crossing my fingers every day that we just get to see a full season happen, and watch it unfold safely.