Dear basketball fans,
It’s time to wake up—Gonzaga basketball is leading the pack again.
After outlasting then No. 1 Duke in the Maui Invitational title game and dismantling North Dakota State on Monday, the Zags are No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Portland Trail Blazers insider and Gonzaga alum Jamie Hudson sounded off on the Zags early-season success, including their recent win over the Blue Devils.
"If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that the Zags would beat Duke (ranked Number 1 at the time) outside of the NCAA tournament, when the Blue Devils had a potential number one draft pick, I probably wouldn’t have believed you," Hudson said. "The crazy thing for Gonzaga is that they are without one of their best players, forward Killian Tillie. He’s missed every game so far with an ankle injury."
The Zags are 7-0 despite losing the Gonzaga big man for two months. Tillie, who averaged 12.9 points and shot 58 percent last season, had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his ankle this fall. Senior guard Geno Crandall will also miss six weeks after suffering a fractured right hand in Monday’s practice.
The last time Gonzaga sat atop the AP Top 25 was during the 2016-17 season, the year they reached the NCAA National Championship game, where they lost to North Carolina.
Blazers forward Zach Collins, who played a crucial role in the Zags championship run in 2017, says he likes what he's seeing from his former team so far.
“They’re playing really well," Collins said. "All preseason long I’ve been hearing that they could be as good as the team that made it to the Final Four. So hopefully they keep it going.”
The next challenge for Gonzaga is coming up this Saturday as the Zags travel to Creighton for a Best in the West vs. Best in the East showdown. They will next face Washington on Dec. 5, Tennessee on Dec. 9 in Phoenix and North Carolina on Dec. 15, the two teams' first meeting since UNC edged Gonzaga for the NCAA title.
"The UNC-Gonzaga rematch from the 2017 National title game has all of Zag Nation marking their calendars for December 15th when the Bulldogs square off with the Tar Heels," Hudson said.
If Gonzaga can make it through December, mark your calendars for the Final Four. We’ve got a legit contender on our hands.