Way-too-early polls come to consensus that Gonzaga could enter 2024-25 as top-10 team

Apr. 10—If the last basketball season was about exceeding expectations for Gonzaga, the next one could be all about delivering on them.

It's far too early to project how college basketball rosters will transform over the next three months, let alone predict what they'll look like in October, but that hasn't stopped national analysts and reporters from taking a stab with preseason polls that went live just hours after — or in one case, hours before — Monday's national championship game between UConn and Purdue.

As of Wednesday morning, none of the 1,400-plus college basketball players who'd entered the NCAA transfer portal came from Mark Few's roster and most media outlets came to the consensus that Gonzaga's cast of projected returners — Ryan Nembhard, Graham Ike, Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg among them — will overshadow the loss of do-it-all forward Anton Watson, allowing the Bulldogs to enter the season as nothing worse than a top-10 team.

Of the 11 way-too-early polls consulted to get a sense of how pundits feel about Gonzaga's chances in 2024-25, three — ESPN, The Athletic and 247Sports — listed the Bulldogs at No. 2 in the country, and many of the others included them in the top 10.

"Ryan Nembhard and Graham Ike form one of the best inside-outside duos in the country, and Mark Few will also welcome Pepperdine transfer Michael Ajayi and welcome back former Eastern Washington transfer Steele Venters — who missed this past season with injury — to provide added perimeter pop," ESPN's Jeff Borzello wrote.

Two of the three websites featuring Gonzaga at No. 2 came to a consensus that Duke, led by top recruit Cooper Flagg, would open the season as the No. 1 team in the country. The third,, gave the nod to Kansas, which lost 89-68 to the Zags in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32.

"Yeah, Gonzaga is very well-positioned to succeed, and that's before even getting to (Braden) Huff, who we believe has legitimate star potential in college basketball," The Athletic wrote. "Gonzaga has another real chance to cut down the nets next season."

Sports Illustrated's Kevin Sweeney and Fox Sports' John Fanta listed Gonzaga at No. 4 and 5, respectively, while Michael DeCourcy of The Sporting News (No. 6), Ryan Young of Yahoo! Sports (No. 6), Gary Parrish of CBS Sports (No. 7), James Fletcher III of On3 (No. 8) and Jon Rothstein of FanDuel (No. 9) all agreed the Bulldogs deserved a spot inside the top 10.

"GU has already added athletic combo forward transfer Michael Ajayi to the mix, a player one WCC coach told me was the best NBA prospect in the league a year ago at Pepperdine," SI's Sweeney wrote.

Just one preseason poll, from USA Today, listed the Zags outside of the top 10, slotting Few's team in at No. 14.

Most of Gonzaga's rotational players, including all four returning starters, indicated to The Spokesman-Review they planned to be back next season. The loss of Watson was partially offset by the addition of Ajayi, who led the West Coast Conference in scoring (17.2 ppg) and finished second in rebounding (9.9 rpg) last season.

Venters is expected to be back on the court for GU by the end of the summer. The Bulldogs, who used just 11 of 13 available scholarships last season, could explore any number of intriguing possibilities on the recruiting trail or in the transfer portal.

Gonzaga faces another daunting nonconference schedule in 2024-25, filled with teams that appeared in many of the way-too-early polls.

After UConn's second consecutive national title, the Huskies could lose up to four or five starters but are still expected to bring back a top-10 roster ahead of their Dec. 14 meeting with Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden in New York.

It's unclear if Gonzaga will play out the remainder of a six-year series with Kentucky after the departure of longtime coach John Calipari to Arkansas. If those two do link up for the third time in as many years, it could be a Top 25 showdown between the Bulldogs and Wildcats at Seattle's Climate Pledge Arena.

For now, Kentucky is still considered a Top 25 team by the majority of media outlets. Another nonconference opponent, San Diego State, is receiving some Top 25 consideration.

Among the eight teams participating in this year's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Gonzaga, Arizona and Creighton are the ones who've received nods in the way-too-early polls.

After winning two of three games against Gonzaga last season, Saint Mary's is expected to bring back three starters, including reigning WCC Player of the Year Augustus Marciulionis. The Gaels were a trendy top-20 pick, appearing as high as No. 13 and as low as No. 25 in preseason rankings.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Duke is the betting favorite to win the 2025 national title at +1000 while Gonzaga and Auburn are tied for the 11th-best odds at +2500.