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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule will include PK Invitational, home dates with two D-I newcomers

Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Texas coach Shaka Smart meet after their PK80 matchup, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in the Moda Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Texas coach Shaka Smart meet after their PK80 matchup, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in the Moda Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule continues to take shape with a yet-to-be announced matchup at the Phil Knight Invitational and home games against two Division I newcomers.

The Zags have agreed to play in the PKI on Nov. 17 in Portland, but there hasn’t been an announcement on their opponent. The Oregonian reported last November that Oregon will face BYU as part of the event at the Moda Center.

The PKI adds to Gonzaga’s November schedule that includes a road trip to Texas (Nov. 13) and three games in four days (Nov. 26, 27 and 29) at the Orlando Invitational. Pairings for the holiday tournament haven’t been announced.

Gonzaga, ranked No. 1 in several preseason rankings, will entertain Tarleton State on Dec. 14 and Bellarmine on Dec. 21. The Texans, based in Stephenville, will be in their first season in the D-I Western Athletic Conference after leaving the D-II Lone Star Conference.

The Texans are coached by Billy Gillispie, considered a rising star in the 2000s before his career was sidetracked by health issues, DUI arrests and allegations of player mistreatment.

Gillispie turned around UTEP’s and Texas A&M’s programs prior to a two-year stint at Kentucky. His last Division I head coaching job was at Texas Tech in 2011-12. He was the head coach at Ranger Junior College from 2015-2020.

“Gonzaga has had as much success as anyone in the country for a long time and is as good as it gets program wise,” Gillispie said in a school release. “The game will be a great challenge for our program, but a challenge we will look forward to as we begin our Division I experience.”

Tarleton State, which finished 18-12 last season, will visit UCLA on Nov. 20, Texas A&M on Dec. 2 and Pepperdine on Dec. 23.

The timing of the Tarleton State game falls after GU’s three-game stretch with home games against Arizona (Dec. 5) and Washington (Dec. 12) sandwiched around a Dec. 8 showdown with Tennessee, projected by many as a preseason top 10 team, in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Bellarmine, a private Catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky, is joining the D-I Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN). The Knights were members of the D-II Great Lakes Valley Conference since 1978-79.

The Knights qualified for the last 12 D-II national tournaments and won the title in 2011. They finished 20-8 last season, their lowest win total since finishing 17-11 in 2008.

The Gonzaga-Bellarmine game is just two days after the Zags take on Texas Tech, likely a top 15 team, on Dec. 19 at the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix. GU lost to Texas Tech 75-69 in the 2019 Elite Eight.

“Coach (Chris) Beard has done another phenomenal job of building Texas Tech back to a national power like he has done at all his other previous schools,” coach Mark Few said in GU release. “We are looking forward to playing in a high-level, nationally relevant game in a city where our program has some great memories. Personally, it will be a very special experience honoring a great man, and a friend, in Jerry Colangelo.”

Other matchups in the Colangelo Classic at Talking Stick Resort Arena included BYU vs. Arizona State, San Francisco vs. Grand Canyon and San Diego vs. Northern Arizona. Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd’s son, Liam, is in Grand Canyon’s incoming recruiting class.

The Zags have two more openings to fill on their nonconference slate before WCC play begins on Dec. 31. Gonzaga is scheduled to entertain North Florida (Nov. 20), Cal State Bakersfield (Nov. 22). North Florida shared the ASUN regular-season title with Liberty last season.

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