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GCU men’s basketball picked to finish 2nd in WAC by coaches

A general view shows the Utah Valley Wolverines and the Grand Canyon Lopes during a semifinal round game of the WAC Conference Tournament. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

Grand Canyon University’s men’s basketball team is well-positioned for its best finish in the Western Athletic Conference in four years.

The Lopes were picked to finish second in the nine-team conference in a poll of WAC coaches, notching 52 points.

GCU ranks behind conference power New Mexico State, who earned 64 points in the preseason poll, a year after the Aggies went 16-0 in conference play.

The Antelopes are trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. The school moved up to Division I basketball in 2013.

GCU is led by first-year coach Bryce Drew, who took the job after Dan Majerle was fired during the offseason.

Majerle filed a lawsuit in May against the university, alleging breach of contract and bad faith regarding whether he was fired for cause or not.

Drew comes to the Valley after spending five seasons coaching Valparaiso University of the Horizon League and Vanderbilt University of the Southeastern Conference.

His success varied by league, with Drew winning more than 60% of his games at his alma mater Valparaiso before going 40-59 in Nashville with the Commodores.

Drew’s success at GCU will be aided by the presence of senior center Alessandro Lever, who was named a first-team All-WAC player in the same coaches poll.

Lever joins teammates Jovan Blacksher and Oscar Frayer, who were second-team selections for the All-WAC team.

The Lopes have yet to announce their non-conference schedule for the 2020-21 season but start conference play against Tarleton State, who they play on back-to-back nights on Jan. 8-9.

The team’s home conference opener is against Chicago State on Jan. 15 at GCU Arena, with another game against the Cougars the following night in Phoenix.

The 2020 NCAA men’s basketball season is allowed to start no sooner than Nov. 25, per guidelines put out by the association earlier this month.