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Gonzaga will entertain San Francisco in WCC opener on Jan. 2

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 8, 2020

Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert celebrate an Ayayi basket during a home win over BYU last June.  (Associated Press )
Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert celebrate an Ayayi basket during a home win over BYU last June. (Associated Press )

Gonzaga will open its West Coast Conference schedule with one of its two one-game weeks.

The Zags will face San Francisco on Jan. 2 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, two days after USF-San Diego and BYU-Pepperdine stage conference openers.

Gonzaga’s other one-game conference week (vs. Pacific on Jan. 23) also falls in the first half of the nine-week, 16-game schedule, released by the WCC on Thursday. The schedule is subject to change with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The conference release didn’t address if fans will be permitted to attend games.

Gonzaga is expected to be a heavy favorite to win the WCC title, with BYU and Pepperdine among the top contenders. The Zags have won or shared eight consecutive WCC titles and 19 of the past 20.

Dates to circle on GU’s schedule: vs. BYU on Feb. 6, at BYU on Feb. 27 in the regular-season finale; vs. Pepperdine on Jan. 14, at Pepperdine on Jan. 30; and at Saint Mary’s on Jan. 16, vs. SMC on Feb. 18.

The WCC is entering the third year with a 16-game schedule, one of the measures approved by the conference when the Zags were considering joining the Mountain West. There was discussion within the WCC about returning to the traditional 18-game slate, but the conference ultimately voted to stay with 16 games.

This will mark the third straight season Gonzaga’s lone game against Portland will be at the Chiles Center. GU also has a single meeting with Loyola Marymount.

“Some of the things that came into play, since we’ve gone to the 16 games our numbers are the best they’ve ever been as a conference,” Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said. “Last year, we were in position to have three teams in the (NCAA) tournament and probably be wearing white uniforms (as the lower seed).

“It’s indisputable that taking two games off the (conference) schedule and adding the ability to schedule correctly with those two games, which for us, one of those games was North Carolina.”

Six WCC teams won at least 20 games last year and seven finished in the top 150 of the NET rankings. GU finished No. 1, BYU No. 9, Saint Mary’s No. 31 and San Francisco No. 83.

Gonzaga will have two split weeks (one home game and one away) after the opener vs. San Francisco. The Zags entertain Santa Clara on Jan. 7 before visiting Portland two days later. The following week brings Pepperdine to the McCarthey Athletic Center and a road trip to face Saint Mary’s.

The Zags have a pair of two-game home weeks (LMU on Feb. 4, BYU on Feb. 6; and Saint Mary’s on Feb. 18 and San Diego on Feb. 20). They face three two-game road weeks, including the last weekend of the regular season (Pacific on Feb. 25 and BYU on Feb. 27).

The WCC Tournament is scheduled for March 4-9 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The WCC preseason poll and television schedule will be released at a later date.

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