The disappointment was palpable in the voices of Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Baylor’s Scott Drew when Saturday’s showdown in Indianapolis was called off due to COVID-19 issues.
Also palpable: The optimism both coaches expressed that the game would be played at a later date.
“I absolutely do think we will,” Few said in a CBS interview. “This is a season where we just have to have open minds and be flexible and be agile.”
Making it happen will require all of the above, but it seems possible. No doubt some Zags fans have scanned the teams’ upcoming schedules looking for openings. We did, too.
Here are some possible dates, with the disclaimer that we’re amateurs in this department compared to Few, Drew and T.J. Benson, who assists Few in compiling Gonzaga’s schedule.
Later this month would seem preferable for both programs, so let’s look at Dec. 23.
Gonzaga scrapped four home games between Tuesday (Dec. 8) and Monday (the outset of finals week) in response to COVID concerns. Assuming the top-ranked Zags don’t add a game during finals week, their next scheduled game is Dec. 19 vs. No. 3 Iowa in South Dakota, followed by Northwestern State’s visit Dec. 21.
No. 2 Baylor visits Kansas State on Dec. 19 and entertains Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 21. Could the teams squeeze in a Dec. 23 meeting before the Christmas break? It would be a major gift for basketball fans, but it’d be a tight fit, with both teams likely flying to a neutral site and following pregame COVID testing protocols.
The next option: Dec. 27, which has similar pluses and minuses as Dec. 23. They’d be coming out of a short holiday break instead of entering it and both teams have home games Dec. 29 – Baylor vs. Central Arkansas and Gonzaga vs. Dixie State.
Dec. 23 and Dec. 27 fit within a softer spot on their schedules, since both will be heavily favored in Dec. 21 and Dec. 29 contests.
Conference play occupies nearly all of January and February. Baylor tips off Big 12 play against Texas on Sunday.
Gonzaga has two one-game weeks in conference, but the first is probably a no-go. The Zags face Dixie State on Dec. 29 before their West Coast Conference opener vs. San Francisco on Jan. 2. Baylor faces Central Arkansas on Dec. 29 and Iowa State on Jan. 2. Dec. 31 is open, but that would require swift pre- and postgame turnarounds.
GU entertains Pacific on Jan. 23, in its second one-game week, but Baylor has games Jan. 18 (Kansas), Jan. 23 (Oklahoma State) and Jan. 27 (Kansas State).
The Bears only have two instances in conference with four-day gaps between games, and they play Monday both times. Gonzaga’s West Coast Conference games are Thursday/Saturday.
That brings us to one last possibility: Between Feb. 27 regular-season finales and their respective conference tournaments. The Zags would receive a double-bye into the semifinals March 8 if they finish as a top-two seed. The Big 12 tourney begins March 10.
There are open dates, but the timing isn’t ideal entering the postseason, with the risk of injury and the possibility the teams could square off again 3-4 weeks later.
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