The return of Drew Timme, Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton triggered the return of high expectations for Gonzaga, which is business as usual for the program.
The Zags came away big winners following the NBA draft withdrawal deadline, welcoming back All-American Timme and double-figure scorers Strawther and Bolton. In the span of roughly 36 hours Tuesday and Wednesday, Gonzaga’s roster gained experience and serious offensive firepower. It didn’t go unnoticed in those way-too-early college basketball rankings.
Gonzaga soared from No. 22 to No. 2 in NCAA.com’s Andy Katz’s latest Power 36. North Carolina remained No. 1 with Kentucky dropping one spot to No. 3. UCLA, defending national champion Kansas, Houston, Indiana, Baylor, Texas and Duke rounded out the top 10.
“The Tar Heels return nearly the entire core group, save for Brady Manek, from last season’s national runner-up,” Katz wrote. “Drew Timme’s decision to return keeps the Zags in the hunt for a No. 1 seed again.”
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman elevated Gonzaga to No. 1, followed by North Carolina, Houston, Creighton, Kansas, Baylor, Kentucky, UCLA, Arkansas and Villanova.
“When Timme opted to come back, the Zags became the preseason No. 1 team,” Goodman wrote. “He joins Strawther and Bolton, but the key to how far they can go come March will be in the backcourt with the development of sophomores (Nolan) Hickman and (Hunter) Sallis.”
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish’s kept GU at No. 4 in his initial post-deadline poll because “I’ve always had Timme and Strawther projected to be on Gonzaga’s roster next season. So their announcements had no impact.” But Smith’s commitment did as Parrish bumped the Zags to No. 1 in his updated rankings Thursday night.
CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein has North Carolina at No. 1, followed by Gonzaga, Creighton, Houston and Kentucky. The Zags were sixth in Rothstein’s May 6 rankings.
Seth Davis moved Gonzaga moved from 10th to third, behind Kentucky and North Carolina, in The Athletic’s top 25. Former No. 1 UCLA dropped to sixth.
Gonzaga is No. 6 in ESPN’s rankings released prior to Timme’s decision and the draft withdrawal deadline – a rise of 10 spots from the outlet’s previous poll. Why? Because Timme had dropped out of the top 60 in ESPN’s draft rankings and players not projected not to be drafted are considered returning until there is definitive word otherwise, Jeff Borzello wrote.
Gonzaga will be in the running for No. 1 in the AP preseason poll for the third consecutive season. The AP Top 25 typically is released in October.
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