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Orlando could become Gonzaga’s second home during non-conference season

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 15, 2020

Coach Mark Few and his Gonzaga Bulldogs may find a second home in Orlando, Florida. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Coach Mark Few and his Gonzaga Bulldogs may find a second home in Orlando, Florida. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team could be spending quite a bit of time in Orlando, Florida, during the nonconference season.

Orlando is expected to host eight college basketball events/tournaments during the first few weeks of the season, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein. The Zags are involved in two of the eight – the eight-team Orlando Invitational and a showdown against Tennessee in the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader.

The NCAA has yet to pin down a starting date for the season – Nov. 21 is the recommendation from the oversight committee – but numerous coaches, including Gonzaga’s Mark Few, and NCAA executives have endorsed some form of bubble environment that has worked successfully for the NBA relaunch in Orlando during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA Finals conclude in mid-October. The timing for the college events in Orlando likely falls between Nov. 21 and early December, but dates won’t be finalized until the NCAA Division I Council announces the starting date for the season. The council’s decision is expected Wednesday.

Major League Soccer had some issues early in quarantine before staging its MLS is Back Tournament in an Orlando bubble. The WNBA is playing games in Bradenton, about two hours from Orlando.

Gonzaga was already in the Orlando Invitational (Nov. 26-29) with Auburn, Boise State, Belmont, Michigan State, Saint Louis, Siena and Xavier. Pairings haven’t been announced.

The Jimmy V Classic, originally scheduled for Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, features GU versus Tennessee and Baylor versus Rutgers. Gonzaga and Baylor last month agreed to play this season, but they were working on a date. The national powers potentially could square off in Orlando with both teams already on site.

Gonzaga theoretically could play five to six games in Orlando over a 10- to 12-day span. NBA teams played every other day during seeding games and the first round of the playoffs.

The Zags are 9-0 with three Orlando tournament titles (2008, 2012 and 2016).

According to Rothstein, Orlando also will become the site of the Champions Classic (Kentucky vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Michigan State); Preseason NIT (Arizona, Cincinnati, St. John’s, Texas Tech); Myrtle Beach Invitational (Charlotte, Dayton, Furman, Loyola Chicago, Missouri, Nebraska, Pitt, Utah State); Charleston Classic (Charleston, Florida State, Houston, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Seton Hall, Tennessee, VCU); Wooden Legacy (Georgetown, Kansas, UCLA, Virginia) and Diamond Head Classic (Arizona State, Hawaii, North Texas, Oklahoma, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Seattle, Temple).

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