Just another adjust-on-the-fly week during a crazy college basketball season.
Gonzaga sidestepped the upset bug that bit No. 3 Villanova and No. 5 Houston earlier this week. The Bulldogs reached out to both schools – hoping to fill scheduling voids caused by COVID-19 issues – as coach Mark Few continues to try to test his team as much as possible prior to the NCAA Tournament.
For a time, all three programs had open weekend dates but nothing materialized.
Instead, the top-ranked Zags (18-0) had their hands full with Pacific before pulling away 76-58 on Thursday in Stockton, California. They’ll face BYU on Monday in Provo, Utah, likely the biggest obstacle remaining on GU’s regular-season schedule.
Houston, which lost to East Carolina on Wednesday, elected to avoid three road trips in a seven-day span and scheduled a home date with Our Lady of the Lake University on Saturday before traveling to face South Florida on Wednesday.
Villanova’s priority was rescheduling a Big East game and the Wildcats, who fell to St. John’s on Wednesday, will face Georgetown on Sunday.
“That’s how the scheduling has gone, quite frankly, maybe even all the way back to the Florida thing (season-opening event) that came together fairly late,” Few said of trying to find replacement games this week. “All the head coaches were great and everybody tried. Listen, everybody has their reasons and has to do what best for their own programs.
“We looked at a lot of options and then the (West Coast Conference) got involved and probably wisely so, they made the teams that could play, play. That’s probably what we needed to do.”
Few has been active pursuing marquee nonconference games since late summer. The Zags were flexible early on when the Orlando (Florida) Invitational and a date with Tennessee ended up being canceled. That led to contests against Kansas, Auburn and West Virginia.
A Dec. 5 meeting versus No. 2 Baylor didn’t take place because of COVID issues in GU’s program. Few and Bears counterpart Scott Drew remain in contact, although chances of a reschedule seem slim. Drew and Few talked about navigating ever-changing schedules – and discussions about a big four-team event – with Andy Katz on a recent March Madness 365 podcast.
“We put our game together and then we said, ‘You know what, let’s make it even bigger,’ ” Drew said. “At the time Gonzaga, us, Virginia and Villanova were the top four and we were trying to pull off our own pod and play a round-robin opening weekend where we play all three. If things had gotten canceled even more, that’s what we were going to put together.”
Following Thursday’s win over Pacific, Few was appreciative of the opportunity to play, even with frequent COVID interruptions.
“I feel great that we’ve got 18 games in,” he said. “I was looking at all the teams across the country and some of them had seven or eight. Monday, knock on wood, that’ll be our 19th game, which I think is a credit to our medical staff and people in Spokane. And I think it’s a great sign for college basketball with a good portion of us slogging away and getting these games in. It’s huge this year.”
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