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West Coast Conference deals with wave of postponements

Conference play might finally tip off on Thursday.

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Arizona State
San Francisco begins the New Year with a 13-1 record. While the Dons have not played a conference game yet, they scheduled a non-conference showdown with Loyola Chicago for Thursday afternoon.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

January is nearly a week old, and no West Coast Conference team has played a single conference game yet.

The San Francisco Dons-Gonzaga Bulldogs game will not take place this Thursday, as originally scheduled due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns with the Zags. Both programs are working with the WCC to reschedule.

This is not the first time rescheduling is needed, and probably won’t be the last. In the past week, the conference has seen nine games postponed.

Scheduling is currently very chaotic in the WCC, as it is with the rest of college basketball. Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara postponed their Thursday night matchup. Portland and LMU did too, and they already set the new date for Jan. 17.

Outside of all these scheduling issues, the WCC is having one of its best seasons as four teams have the potential to make the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga, BYU, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco are all projected to make it to the Big Dance.

San Francisco’s 13-1 record in non-conference play is their best record since 1976-77. The Dons had already missed their conference opener against Saint Mary’s that was supposed to happen on Jan. 1 due to COVID-19 issues with the Gaels. Before that game was postponed, coach Todd Golden talked about the value of that game because it was a good chance to get a Quad-1 victory.

The Dons’ game against Gonzaga was going to be another big one as the Zags are currently No. 4 in the AP Top 25 Poll. Although these two key WCC games were postponed, San Francisco will not be left without a game on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the school announced a game against Loyola Chicago that will take place at the Lifetime Activities Center on the campus of Salt Lake City Community College. This should help the Dons keep their momentum going as they have played just one game in the last two weeks.

“We have a really good, tough, old team,” Golden said late last month. “These guys are a joy to be around. My hope is we continue to get better and our maturity continues to show up. When other teams start fatiguing or hitting walls, I just hope our team busts through those walls.”

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs haven’t had the same smooth ride they had last season when the only game they lost was the NCAA championship game. Gonzaga’s current 11-2 record is still impressive, especially considering that the losses came to Duke and Alabama, who have both been ranked in the top-10 this season. However, the Zags are still adjusting, and being on pause because of COVID-19 is not ideal.

Mark Few’s team had a non-conference game against Washington cancelled on Dec. 12 due to COVID issues with the Huskies. With Thursday’s postponement, the Bulldogs have now officially seen three WCC games affected by concerns with their own program.

With all these schedule changes, it seems like a game will finally be played (fingers crossed). BYU is scheduled to host Pacific on Thursday for the first conference game of the season, and the only WCC game for that day even though four were originally scheduled. BYU has not had COVID-19 issues this season, but the Cougars haven’t played a Division I team since Christmas.

“We just have to piece it together as we go,” BYU coach Mark Pope said on Tuesday. “Looks like we have two games this week, we are super excited about that. We are talking to Pacific and St. Mary’s literally every day, like three touchpoints, and so far it looks good. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to play two.”

Pacific has not played since Dec. 22 as the Tigers’ games against Santa Clara and Pepperdine were postponed.

During this week’s press conference, Pope said there have been a lot of ideas thrown around, but that all he asks for is some leeway.

“What I’m hoping is that they’ll give us some flexibility with this, especially if you are the team that gets canceled on,” Pope said. “I’m hoping the league actually gives us some flexibility, if we lose a game, to find the best possible game we can since there is no way we are playing an even league schedule.”