Gonzaga’s schedule is a work in progress, but the Zags’ rebounding ability seems to be in midseason form.
The Zags on Monday learned that ESPN had pulled the plug on their season-opening tournament in Orlando, Florida. Gonzaga has bounced back with plans to face Kansas on Nov. 25 in a four-team event in Fort Myers, Florida, according to a tweet from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander.
GU is expected to face Auburn on Nov. 27 in the second game of the multiteam event (MTE). The fourth team hasn’t been announced.
As nearly every college basketball program has learned in the past month or so, schedules are subject to change during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kansas, for example, would become at least the fourth different season-opening foe for Gonzaga.
The Zags were initially scheduled to entertain North Carolina Central on Nov. 10 before the NCAA pushed the starting date back to Nov. 25. GU was then expected to open at the Orlando Invitational, likely against Belmont or Siena. That tourney was shelved and replaced by a four-team event with GU facing Auburn and then either Texas Tech or Houston. Monday’s announcement erased that from Gonzaga’s schedule.
The addition of Kansas would give GU three matchups against probable preseason top-10 teams. Gonzaga is scheduled to meet Baylor on Dec. 5 in Indianapolis in potentially a No. 1-vs.-2 matchup. The Zags will tangle with Iowa on Dec. 19 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Iowa is No. 6 and Kansas No. 9 in ESPN’s preseason poll. Gonzaga is optimistic its contest with No. 11 Tennessee that was scheduled for Dec. 2 in Orlando will be played in a different location. Indianapolis is reportedly a potential site.
Kansas lost its top two scorers in Devon Dotson, who declared for the NBA draft after his sophomore season, and center Udoka Azubuike, but returns a solid core led by 6-foot-5 senior guard Marcus Garrett, who was named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Kansas and Gonzaga were first and second, respectively, in the final Associated Press poll last season. The order was reversed in the final NET rankings with GU at No. 1. Both were expected to be No. 1 seeds before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
The Zags and Jayhawks are expected to begin a two-game series with the first game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence in December 2022 and the return game at the McCarthey Athletic Center in December 2023.
Gonzaga is also working on scheduling a handful of home games at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Tarleton State is set to visit Dec. 8. Dixie State, a Division I newcomer based in St. George, Utah, will visit GU on Dec. 29, according to a school release.
Dixie State was 23-7 last year in its final year in NCAA Division II. The Thunderbirds have joined the Western Athletic Conference and will be in the first year of a four-year reclassification period to D-I.
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