The Gonzaga women’s basketball team finally has the beginnings of a nonconference schedule.
The Zags also have a chance to start building an impressive résumé on Nov. 28-30, when they face Oklahoma, South Dakota and unofficial preseason No. 1 South Carolina in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“We are very excited to be part of this field,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. “We always try to schedule a high-level tournament early in the season to give us an assessment of what our strengths are, and where we need to improve.
“This will be a great opportunity for our team.”
The tournament is the first piece in a preseason schedule that is still incomplete. By this time last year, the Zags had already played two games.
GU went on to post one of the best seasons in program history, finishing with a 28-3 overall record and projected to host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games before the event was canceled due to COVID-19.
The Bulldogs return an experienced core, including reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year Jill Townsend and First-Team All-WCC selection Jenn Wirth.
However, the pandemic has made scheduling much more difficult. The Zags open the WCC portion of their schedule on Dec. 28; their first scheduled home game is Jan. 2 against Saint Mary’s.
It’s still unclear whether fans will be allowed at GU home games. However, tickets are available for $25 each day in the Bad Boy Mowers event.
As of Friday, South Dakota is experiencing the second-highest incidence of COVID-19 in the nation. However, tournament organizers are taking extra precautions.
All members of each team’s traveling party will be tested regularly for COVID-19 once they arrive in Sioux Falls. All traveling members will remain in a controlled environment during their stay.
“Everyone we’ve worked with on this event has been wonderful, and I know it will be among the best-run tournaments in the country,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “After working through a preseason that has looked really different than previous years, these three games will be great to determine where we are as a team early in the season.”
Games will be played at Sioux Falls’ Sanford Sports Complex, a 160,000-square-foot, five-sided facility with nine basketball courts, including the 1950s/1960s-inspired Heritage Court.
The 3,200-seat Pentagon is home to the Sanford POWER Basketball Academy and the NBA G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The tournament will be among the most challenging in recent history for GU, which faces Oklahoma on Nov. 28, South Dakota the following day and South Carolina on Nov. 30.
Oklahoma (12-18 last season) is coming off three straight losing campaigns but has a strong tradition. In their most recent game with GU, the Sooners pulled ahead early in a 75-62 first-round NCAA Tournament victory in Seattle in 2017.
South Dakota has recently emerged from the shadow of rival South Dakota State. After going 28-6 and reaching the NCAAs two years ago, the Jackrabbits went a program-best 30-2 last year.
The marquee team is South Carolina. NCAA champs in 2017, the Gamecocks went 32-1 last season and were projected as the top overall seed in the tournament before it was canceled.
South Carolina is a preseason No. 1, according to Lindy’s and ESPN. The Associated Press poll will be released next week.
Last year, GU won the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida, defeating Dayton, Middle Tennessee and Purdue.
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