Game 1: No. 6 Kansas vs. No. 1 Gonzaga – Preview and Prediction

It seems like it was YEARS ago that the Kansas Jayhawks were ranked No. 1, the hottest team in college basketball, and about to go on a run in March before it was wiped out by COVID-19. Fast forward eight months…COVID is still a thing, but KU basketball is BACK as the No. 6 Jayhawks open their 2020-2021 season on Thanksgiving Day down in sunny Fort Myers, Fla. against fellow behemoth, the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Jayhawks lost their two top players from a year in Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, but still return valuable pieces in Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack. 

  • Thursday, November 26, 2020, 12:30 pm CDT
  • Suncoast Credit Union Arena –  Fort Myers, Fla.
  • FOX
  • No. 6/5 Kansas faces No. 1/2 Gonzaga in the 2020-21 season opener at the Fort Myers Tip-Off, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, at 12:30 p.m. (Central) on FOX. Kansas is coming off a 28-3 season in which it was ranked No. 1 in both the final Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches’ polls. Gonzaga was No. 2 in both final polls.
  • Kansas and Gonzaga rank 1-2 in wins over the last 10 seasons (2010-11 to 2019-20). Gonzaga leads the way with 308, while Kansas is next at 299. Kentucky is third at 295. Since 2003-04, the Bill Self’s first season at KU, Kansas has an NCAA-leading 501 wins, while Gonzaga and Duke are tied for second at 494. 
  • Kansas has won its last two meetings against No. 1-ranked teams with last year’s win at Baylor (64-61, 2.22.20) and versus Duke, 77-75, on 11.15.16 in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. KU is 9-16 all-time against No. 1-ranked foes, including 4-2 under head coach Bill Self.
  • In facing No. 1 Gonzaga, Kansas is 18-7 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top five in the Bill Self era. In that span, KU is 15-5 when ranked lower than its opponent and 3-2 when ranked higher.
  • Kansas finished 2019-20 winning its final 16 games. The Jayhawks’ 16 straight victories rank third entering 2020-21 behind Dayton (20) and New Mexico State (19)

Bulldogs to Watch

Corey Kispert – 6’7”, senior, forward

Kispert is one of two seniors on the roster for the Zags. He’s also the top returning scorer for the Bulldogs at 13.9 PPG a year ago. Kispert also shot over 40 percent from three-point land at 43.8 percent in 2019-20.  

Joel Ayayi – 6’5″ junior, guard

Ayayi averaged 10.1 PPG last season as a sophomore for Mark Few’s squad. The 6’5” combo guard also pulled down 6.3 RPG in 2019-20, best among returners. With a couple of key departures from last year’s squad, expect Ayayi to play a bigger role this year for the Zags. 

Prediction

Season openers are always hard to predict, especially ones against two top-10 opponents, and even harder to predict in a COVID world where neither team had much in the way of preparation in the summer. With all the unknowns, I’ll go with the homer pick and pick the Jayhawks. Kansas seems to have a little more in terms of returning talent, as well as hire rated recruiting class. I’m looking forward to see how Marcus Garrett handles the point guard duties, taking over for Dotson. 

Ochai Agbaji, I believe, will be an x-factor of sorts for the Jayhawks this season. He showed some promising flashes as a freshman in 2018-19, but never seemed to put it all together last season. Kansas will need him to emerge this season. I say he steps up with a big performance against the Bulldogs to lift KU to a season-opening surprise.

Kansas 78, Gonzaga 74

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK

Season Record: 0-0 (0-0 ATS)

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.