With Timme’s return, Gonzaga & Houston now 2023 co-favorites

Drew Timme's return makes Gonzaga one of the nation's teams to beat against in the 2022-23 campaign.

Gonzaga is now in line to be the preseason college basketball favorite for the second consecutive year.

Big man Drew Timme announced Wednesday that he will return for another season with the program after initially entering the NBA draft in early April. He used nearly every minute up until Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m. ET early-entry withdrawal deadline to make his decision, tweeting his simple announcement with 45 minutes remaining.

Timme has earned second-team All-American honors in each of the past two seasons, winning the West Coast Conference Player of the Year award last year. Gonzaga is 90-7 during Timme’s three seasons, making an appearance in the national championship game in 2021.

There was a realistic chance that the Bulldogs would not return any starters this season, as Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard had already made their decisions to leave. Timme joined Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther in making announcements to return in a 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 18.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season, helping Gonzaga earn the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. He scored 19.0 points and grabbed 7.0 rebounds during his sophomore season.

DraftKings had Gonzaga priced at 14-1 to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament immediately following the championship game in April, but the last two days have impacted the betting market. The Bulldogs are now at 10-1, joining Houston as the co-favorites at DraftKings. Meanwhile, offshore sportsbook BetOnline has Gonzaga priced as the +800 ‘chalk.’

Duke was initially the +900 favorite, but the Blue Devils have fallen to 13-1. North Carolina (11-1), Kansas (12-1) and Kentucky (12-1) have not seen an adjustment to their price since April.

Gonzaga returns former five-star recruits Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis, who were both backups last year. Key reserve Anton Watson and LSU transfer Efton Reid will be in the mix for playing time.

The Bulldogs are also expected to land former Chattanooga star Malachi Smith, who was the SoCon Player of the Year last season. On3’s recruiting service gave Gonzaga a 99 percent chance of snagging Smith from the transfer portal.

Strawther averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds last season, starting all but one game. Bolton put up similar numbers, averaging 11.2 points, 2.3 assists and 2.4 rebounds while starting all 32 games. He led the team in 3-pointers (64) and 3-point percentage (46.0).

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