Favored Gonzaga's odds to win 2022 NCAA Tournament improve with Drew Timme returning; Zags will be preseason No. 1 team

Great news for the Gonzaga basketball program as the Zags will get back star big man Drew Timme for the 2021-22 season.
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The 2020-21 Gonzaga basketball team looked like the best in school history and one of the best in NCAA history for its first 31 games of the season as the Zags entered the national championship game at 31-0. Alas, Coach Mark Few's club came up short again of its first title as it was dominated in an 86-70 loss to Baylor. Believe it or not, the 2021-22 club might be better on paper with the news Wednesday that Drew Timme will return to school. That bumped the Zags to +700 favorites to win the 2022 national championship at William Hill Sportsbook.

Few lost starters Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Jalen Suggs to graduation/the NBA, but those were all expected. The 6-foot-10 Timme could have declared for the draft after a sophomore season in which he was named the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year, first-team All-West Coast Conference and second-team All-American in averaging 19.0 points on 65.5 percent shooting (third nationally) as well as 7.0 rebounds.

However, Timme isn't considered a great prospect as things stand – he's not among the Top 75 players on the CBS Sports Big Board for the 2021 NBA Draft. Should Timme have another monster season, and he certainly will be a preseason national Player of the Year favorite, then perhaps he can raise his stock considerably.

"After reviewing options with my family, I've decided to return to Gonzaga," Timme said. "I am excited to come back to Spokane and continue my collegiate career. I appreciate everything I've learned so far from the Gonzaga coaching staff, and look forward to growing my game more. I love playing at GU, being a part of the program, and can't wait to play in front of the best fans in the country again."

With Timme and fellow starter Andrew Nembhard back and Few bringing in the nation's No. 2 recruiting class – led by consensus No. 1 player Chet Holmgren, a 7-footer from Minnesota who is considered an early favorite to go first in the 2022 NBA Draft – the Zags will be preseason No. 1 in just about every poll. CBS Sports' Gary Parrish has them No. 1 in his current Top 25 And 1 rankings.

In addition, the Zags add Iowa State transfer guard Rasir Bolton, who averaged 15.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for the Cyclones last season, earning third-team All-Big 12 honors.

The 2022 Final Four will be held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It will be the sixth time the city has hosted the national semifinals and last did in 2012 when Kentucky defeated Kansas 67-59 to cut down the nets. Gonzaga is priced +150 to make the Final Four again. The Bulldogs' full schedule isn't out yet, but they reportedly will play Duke on Nov. 26 in Las Vegas.

Three schools are +1200 second-favorites to win the 2022 national title: Michigan (which brings in the No. 1 recruiting class), Villanova and UCLA. Bruins star Johnny Juzang has declared for the NBA Draft but has kept his college eligibility intact. If Juzang stays in the draft, UCLA's odds will get longer. 

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SportsLine Staff