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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s WCC opener against San Diego postponed due to COVID-19 issues in USD’s program

Gonzaga coach Mark Few (right) and San Diego counterpart Sam Scholl chat after the Zags’ win last February at the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team’s West Coast Conference opener Thursday against San Diego has been postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Toreros’ program.

Gonzaga and San Diego will work with the WCC to try to reschedule the contest.

The fourth-ranked Zags’ two-game road trip to open WCC play this week has been reduced to one game. Gonzaga’s contest vs. Loyola Marymount on Saturday is still on as scheduled, GU athletic director Chris Standiford said.

Postponements and cancellations have been soaring in college basketball in the past few weeks with the rise in COVID-19 cases spurred by the omicron variant. At least half of Tuesday’s 30 games were postponed or canceled.

In terms of rescheduling, the Zags have two one-game weeks in conference – at Pacific on Thursday, Jan. 20, and vs. Santa Clara on Saturday, Feb. 19. Given the increasing number of cancellations involving WCC programs, teams could face three-game weeks in the future beyond the customary Thursday-Saturday contests.

“I think it’s going to start to look a little bit like last year where you’re going to create matchups in a short period of time as other cancellations happen,” Standiford said. “If the pace continues, we’ll probably end up with the KenPom scenario that we had last year.”

The WCC last season adopted a Ken Pomeroy-generated analytics model – instead of win-loss records – to seed its tournament because teams played unbalanced schedules due to COVID interruptions. Gonzaga eventually played 15 of 16 conference games. BYU, Pepperdine, San Francisco and Pacific played 13 games. San Diego and Santa Clara played just nine.

Pomeroy generated a proprietary algorithm reflecting conference games completed, accounting for strength of opponent and location of the game, that yielded an adjusted conference winning percentage (ACWP) for each team.

San Diego, which had three 14-day pauses last season that resulted in 10 canceled games, announced Tuesday its men’s and women’s programs are on pause due to positive COVID cases.

The USD men apparently dropped below the WCC’s policy of having at least eight players available, regardless of scholarship or walk-on status, to start a game. Teams can opt to play with less than eight.

San Diego lost to UNLV 80-57 in Las Vegas on Dec. 22 before players had a short break for the Christmas holiday. The players were tested Monday.

Saturday’s San Diego-Santa Clara game also has been postponed. The Broncos’ WCC opener against Pacific on Thursday has been postponed due to COVID issues in Santa Clara’s program. Pepperdine’s men’s and women’s games against Pacific this week also were postponed.

Standiford said Gonzaga continues to “follow NCAA protocols and that’s to test symptomatic players. If you have a group of positives then you test more broadly. We don’t have any symptomatic players on our men’s team.”

This is the second straight season COVID-19 has caused numerous postponements just as the WCC season was set to begin. WCC officials reworked portions of the schedule over the Christmas break last year.

The CDC’s recent change, reducing isolation from 10 days to five for individuals that test positive, provided they don’t have symptoms, could shorten the amount of time players miss if those guidelines become the norm in college basketball. The NBA quickly moved to a six-day isolation for players that test positive if they are asymptomatic and meet other testing standards.

“First and foremost, we have to work with the Spokane Regional Health District,” Standiford said. “As of (Tuesday) we’re still under the previous guidelines.

“I’m certainly no medical professional and I can’t speak to the technical side. From my perspective, it would create some optimism to not have these really long pauses. I also think we’re in a heavily vaccinated environment (at Gonzaga).”

Loyola Marymount will be coming off a lengthy layoff when it entertains Gonzaga on Saturday. The Lions will take the court for the first time since a Dec. 21 road win over Bellarmine.

The Gonzaga-Washington game on Dec. 12 was canceled due to COVID concerns in the Huskies’ program.

The GU women’s team on Monday postponed Thursday’s home game against San Francisco in response to COVID issues in Gonzaga’s program. Saturday’s road game vs. Loyola Marymount was postponed earlier Monday due to COVID concerns in LMU’s program.