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Villanova, PK80 highlight Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 12, 2017, 6:54 p.m.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few points his team in the direction of the championship game after defeating South Carolina in the seminfinals. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few points his team in the direction of the championship game after defeating South Carolina in the seminfinals. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The majority of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule has come out in bits and pieces so there were few surprises when the school released the full slate Tuesday.

The highlights have been known for some time. The marquee matchup pits the Zags against Villanova on Dec. 5 as part of the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Syracuse faces UConn in the other game.

Villanova won the 2016 national title and held the top spot in the AP poll for a sizable portion of the 2017 season. The Big East Conference champions were the No. 1 overall seed entering the NCAA Tournament but lost to Wisconsin in the round of 32 to finish 32-4.

Gonzaga, which lost to North Carolina in the NCAA title game last season, could face a pair of top 10 teams in the PK80 Invitational, a Thanksgiving holiday tournament in Portland honoring Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday. The Zags open against Ohio State, which won 17 games last season but has a new head coach in Chris Holtmann.

Florida, which advanced to the Elite Eight last season, and Stanford meet on the other side of GU’s bracket. Gonzaga edged Florida in the semifinals of the 2017 AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando. Duke, a candidate for the preseason No. 1 ranking, is a potential final-day opponent.

The best home game on Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule appears to be Creighton on Dec. 1. The Bluejays tied for third in the Big East last year, winning 25 games before falling in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Zags face return games on the road against San Diego State and Washington. GU thumped SDSU 69-48 and UW 98-71 in Spokane last season. Gonzaga has won 10 of the last 11 against Washington. San Diego State is coming off a rare down year, finishing sixth in the Mountain West.

Gonzaga opens with an exhibition game against NAIA College of Idaho on Nov. 4 before entertaining Texas Southern, champions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference last year, in the season opener Nov. 10.

The Zags’ other home games: Nov. 14 vs. Howard, Nov. 18 vs. Utah State, Nov. 29 vs. Incarnate Word, Dec. 16 vs. defending Big Sky regular-season and tournament champion North Dakota and Dec. 18 vs. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Game times and the television schedule for Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule will be released at a later date.

The Zags open West Coast Conference play Dec. 28 against visiting Pacific.

EWU schedule released

The Eastern Washington women’s basketball team will host 14 games as part of a 30-game schedule, coach Wendy Schuller announced Tuesday.

The Eagles play one lone exhibition on Reese Court against NAIA member Master’s University on Nov. 5.

The nonconference portion of the schedule consists of 12 games, including matchups against several Power 5 conference opponents.

“Once again I think we have a challenging schedule and it starts with a difficult non-conference schedule. Our team is still young, so it will provide us an opportunity to play on some big stages and grow up quickly,” Schuller said.

The Eagles, 19-14 last year, will face BYU, Oregon, Gonzaga and Purdue this season.

EWU opens the season Nov. 10 at Fresno State and Air Force, and opens its home schedule Nov. 17 against BYU.

Eastern returns home to play host to Utah Valley on Nov. 25.

The 18-game Big Sky Conference Slate begins at home on Dec. 28 against Northern Colorado.