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USF-Gonzaga to be third consecutive game postponed due to Bulldogs’ COVID-19 issues

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 3, 2022

Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (3) is double teamed by San Francisco forward Dzmitry Ryuny (22) and San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sat., Jan. 2, 2021, in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (3) is double teamed by San Francisco forward Dzmitry Ryuny (22) and San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sat., Jan. 2, 2021, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga’s basketball team won’t be cleared from COVID-19 health and safety protocols in time to avoid a third consecutive West Coast Conference postponement.

Thursday’s highly anticipated WCC showdown between No. 4 Gonzaga (11-2) and San Francisco (13-1) at McCarthey Athletic Center has been postponed due to the Bulldogs’ recent COVID-19 outbreak, according to a school release. The news was first reported Monday morning by Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

The Zags have yet to play a conference game after road contests last Thursday and Saturday against San Diego and LMU were also postponed. Monday’s news release didn’t specify whether GU’s next game, this Saturday against Pepperdine in Spokane, would go on as originally scheduled.

With GUw unavailable, USF moved quickly to line up another opponent for Thursday. The Dons will play Loyola Chicago in a game featuring two of the country’s top mid-major programs, Norlander reported Monday night. The game, featuring a USF team ranked No. 34 in NET and a Loyola Chicago team ranked No. 18, will be held at Salt Lake Community College in Utah.

According to a tweet from Norlander, “Sources said WCC is meeting today to determine next steps and alterations (with) league schedule.” Noting the importance of having all four of the WCC’s top teams – Gonzaga, USF, BYU and Saint Mary’s – play each other twice, Norlander also tweeted, “WCC lost all its games over the weekend b/c of COVID. With GU/BYU/SMC/USF as the top four teams, the emphasis needs to be making sure those four all play each other twice in reg. season.”

All seven games on the WCC’s opening week schedule were scrapped due to COVID-19, and it’s unclear how many teams from the league will be cleared to play this Thursday, which also features games between Pacific and BYU, San Diego and Pepperdine, Portland at Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara.

Thursday’s contest will be the fourth total game on GU’s schedule either postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. The Bulldogs’ mid-December game against Washington was eliminated because of the Huskies’ COVID-19 outbreak and the teams opted not to reschedule the rivalry matchup, instead choosing to play next year in Spokane.

It’s possible the Bulldogs would look outside the WCC to make up for the lost games on their schedule, and Kentucky coach John Calipari recently said during a postgame radio interview he’s spoken with GU’s Mark Few about an impromptu nonconference matchup if the Zags and Wildcats continue to run into COVID-19 issues.

“I was on the phone with Mark Few yesterday, he talked about Tubby (Smith), what a great guy he was, but what we said is, if we have someone cancel, let’s go Gonzaga, we’re playing,” Calipari said.

Mirroring national guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pac-12 Conference recently adopted new health and safety policies that require an isolation period of only five days after a positive COVID-19 test. The SEC and ACC are also using following procedures, but it’s yet to be seen if and when the WCC will enact the measures.

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