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Marquee nonconference matchups against Texas, Duke, UCLA highlight Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule

Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard  (Associated Press)

As it often does, Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule will give the Bulldogs a handful of opportunities to stack up quadrant 1 and quadrant 2 victories over marquee opponents before opening West Coast Conference play.

One month after releasing its WCC schedule, Gonzaga unveiled its full 2021-22 slate on Friday. The 30-game schedule opens with two exhibition games before nine nonconference contests at McCarthey Athletic Center and five more at neutral-site locations.

Before Gonzaga’s much-anticipated home matchup on Nov. 13 against Texas, a game that could pit two top-five programs against one another, the Bulldogs will play two exhibition games against Eastern Oregon (Oct. 31) and Lewis-Clark State (Nov. 9) and one home nonconference game with Dixie State (Nov. 9).

It’s still unclear how many of GU’s early games may be played without Mark Few after GU’s longtime coach was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence while returning from his vacation home in Hayden Lake on the night of Sept. 6.

When GU hosts Texas, it’ll mark the fourth meeting between the two schools, as the Bulldogs attempt to run their all-time record against the Longhorns to 4-0. In the last meeting, GU beat UT 76-71 at the PK80 Invitational in Portland on Nov. 26, 2017.

GU will follow with two more games at the Kennel, against Alcorn State (Nov. 15) and Bellarmine (Nov. 19), before traveling to Las Vegas for the Empire Classic.

The Bulldogs will play Central Michigan on Nov. 22 at T-Mobile Arena before squaring off with UCLA on Nov. 23 in a Final Four rematch that could be one of the most intriguing games on college basketball’s nonconference calendar in 2021-22. The Bruins are returning all five starters from last year’s team that went on a surprise run in Indianapolis to set up a national semifinal showdown with Gonzaga.

Though the Empire Classic ends on Nov. 23, the Bulldogs will stay in Vegas to play Duke in another high-caliber nonconference game on Nov. 26. The Blue Devils are entering the 42nd and final season under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski and will be led by freshman Paolo Banchero, a five-star prospect from Seattle who was considering the Bulldogs before signing with Duke.

Gonzaga returns home for a single game against Tarleton State (Nov. 29) before traveling across the state to play Alabama (Dec. 4) in the Battle In Seattle at Climate Pledge Arena. The Crimson Tide are projected to start the season inside the Top 25 after losing to UCLA in last year’s Sweet 16.

Four of GU’s final five nonconference games will take place in Spokane, as the Bulldogs host Merrimack (Dec. 9), Washington (Dec. 12), Northern Arizona (Dec. 20) and North Alabama (Dec. 28). The fifth game is a Dec. 18 neutral-site matchup with Texas Tech in the Jerry Colangelo Classic at the Footprint Center in Phoenix. The Bulldogs and Red Raiders haven’t played since 2019, when Texas Tech beat Gonzaga 76-69 in the Elite Eight before eventually advancing to the national championship game where it would lose to Virginia.

After wrapping up the nonconference slate, Gonzaga won’t get the benefit of an extended break. The Bulldogs open WCC play on the road at San Diego just two days after hosting North Alabama at the Kennel.

Times and television information for GU’s nonconference games will be released soon.