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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Pac-12 decision likely costs Gonzaga games against UW, USC and Arizona

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 11, 2020

Rui Hachimura hits the game-winning shot over a pair of Washington defenders in Gonzaga's 81-79 victory on Dec. 5, 2018.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Rui Hachimura hits the game-winning shot over a pair of Washington defenders in Gonzaga's 81-79 victory on Dec. 5, 2018. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Pac-12 Conference’s decision Tuesday to postpone all sports competition until at least Jan. 1 figures to have a profound effect on Gonzaga’s nonconference basketball schedule.

The Zags were scheduled to face USC on Nov. 17 at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland and entertain Arizona (Dec. 5) and Washington (Dec. 12). Those games appear to be scrubbed by the Pac-12’s announcement, which came shortly after the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the fall football season because of COVID-19 concerns.

Arizona and Washington were by far the biggest home games on Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule. The Wildcats are projected as a No. 9 seed in ESPN’s latest bracketology with USC just outside the 68-team field. Gonzaga has dominated the rivalry against Washington with six consecutive victories and 13 wins in the last 14 meetings, but the past two meetings have gone down to the wire.

“The (Pac-12) decision to postpone fall sports is not a surprise, especially with the Big Ten coming out with it before. The basketball, all sports part of it, that was a surprise,” GU athletic director Mike Roth said. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fans that will go, ‘Well, how are we going to make those games up?’

“It’s way too early, but let’s face it, we’re not the only school that was playing quality Pac-12 teams. Other teams maybe from the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC or Big East that have games against (the Pac-12) are in the same boat we are.”

The Zags have won nine straight against Pac-12 opponents. GU has won its last three matchups against Arizona, including 69-62 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in December 2016, 91-74 at the 2018 Maui Invitational and 84-80 last December in Tucson. Rui Hachimura drilled a winning jumper in GU’s 81-79 win over Washington in December 2018. GU outlasted the 22nd-ranked Huskies 83-76 last December.

“It just means we’re going to have to adjust,” Roth said. “There has to be somebody else that was maybe on (UW, USC and Arizona) schedules, or Oregon’s or UCLA’s, maybe we could be working with them. I haven’t even gone to look.

“Coach (Mark) Few and his staff are really good at this stuff. I’m sure they’re already looking and, ‘Here’s somebody, let’s look at those dates.’ ”

Top Pac-12 nonconference matchups include Arizona-Illinois, Oregon-Michigan, Oregon-Baylor, Colorado-Kansas, USC-Kansas and UCLA-Kentucky.

The Zags’ current nonconference home games are North Carolina Central (Nov. 10), North Florida (Nov. 20), Cal State Bakersfield (Nov. 22), Tarleton State (Dec. 14), Bellarmine (Dec. 21) and Northern Arizona (Dec. 28).

Roth said there has been “behind-the-scenes talk” about delaying the start of college basketball to Jan. 1, but “it’s just been talk and not, ‘This is what it would look like.’ It might be the Pac-12 is ahead of the curve and it’s something that inevitably happens, but there’s risk, too. What if we still start in November and everybody else does but the Pac-12 starts in January?

“From my perspective, because we have had constant discussion in the (West Coast Conference) and I have with Coach Few, as long as we have madness (NCAA Tournament) it doesn’t really matter when. If it’s May Madness, I’m all in. In a perfect world, March Madness just fits.”

The Zags have plenty of quality games lined up: at Texas on Nov. 13, vs. Tennessee on Dec. 8 in New York City, vs. Texas Tech on Dec. 19 in Phoenix and a strong eight-team field at the Orlando (Florida) Invitational from Nov. 26-29. Those games are subject to change depending on how the SEC, Big 12 and ACC proceed with fall and winter sports.

The WCC announced nearly a month ago it was delaying the starting date for fall sports competition to Sept. 24. The decision impacted volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country, as well as traditional spring sports tennis, rowing and golf that also stage fall competition.

Roth anticipates the WCC will release more information in the next 24 to 48 hours and “we’re going to hear more around the country, too.

“I don’t know about the Power Fives, but in that same time frame we’re going to hear more from basketball conferences like ourselves. For us to really defeat this thing, we have to get more disciplined. Sacrifices might have to be made to defeat this thing and get back to some level of normalcy.”

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