Gonzaga Non-Conference Schedule Review
Gonzaga is coming off another Elite Eight appearance and a No. 1-seed worthy season, and the team is expected to be a national contender yet again this time around despite losing four starters.
St. Mary’s should be a serious challenger for the Zags, and BYU, San Francisco and a few other teams thought to finish in the middle of the conference might trip Gonzaga up here or there. But per usual, the biggest tests for the Bulldogs will be in the non-conference. As always, head coach Mark Few took advantage.
After a few tune up games, Gonzaga will face its first power-conference competition of the season Nov. 15 when it heads to College Station to take on Buzz Williams and his Texas A&M Aggies. A&M seems to be rebuilding with a head coaching change and some roster turnover, but Williams will get his guys up for this one.
At the end of the month, the Bulldogs will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas, from Nov. 27-29. In its first of three guaranteed games, the team will battle Southern Miss, with its second game coming against Seton Hall or Oregon on the following day, depending upon results. In its final game, Gonzaga will tip off against one of North Carolina, Michigan, Iowa State or Alabama. This tournament will provide Gonzaga with likely two serious tests that will catch the committee’s eye come Selection Sunday.
On Dec. 8, the in-state rivalry with Washington in Seattle at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Huskies maintain an all-time 29-18 lead over Gonzaga, but the Zags have won 12 of the last 13 matchups, including the most recent four. The Bulldogs extended the streak in 2018 with an 81-79 home victory with Rui Hachimura serving as the hero.
The Huskies lost some key pieces from last season but should still be in the mix to finish in the top four of the Pac-12. They will provide Gonzaga with yet another much-needed Q1 or Q2 game that the Zags can point to when the selection committee is deciding how to seed them.
If that wasn’t enough, Few has put even more meat on the docket. On Dec. 14, his team will head to Tucson to play at Arizona, then just in case the Zags don’t organically meet North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis, they’re guaranteed to get them Dec. 18 in Spokane in one of the biggest home games the program has ever seen.
After a disappointing campaign the last time around, the Wildcats should be much stronger for the 2019-20 year with a host of highly-talented freshmen joining their ranks. UNC will yet again be UNC, serving as one of the premier programs in the entire nation.
Gonzaga has some recent history with both schools. The Zags and Wildcats have played nine total times, all since 2001, with Arizona leading the series, 6-3. They’ve met once in the NCAA Tournament – a second round game in 2014 that Arizona won, 84-61 – and each of the previous two seasons, with Gonzaga taking both of the most recent meetings. As the Bulldogs have continued to grow and gain prominence as a West Coast power, the doors to play some of the other top western programs have opened, and it’s exciting to see home-and-homes with some other marquee schools in their time zone.
The Bulldogs have advanced to the Final Four once in program history, getting all the way to the national championship before the Tar Heels ended their dreams in 2017. North Carolina secured its sixth national title with the 71-65 victory, then promptly added Gonzaga to its schedule for a home-and-home. In last year’s game in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels again came out victorious, 103-90, one of Gonzaga’s four losses for the entire season. This time around, though, the game is in Spokane, and the Zags will be hungry for revenge.
This is a very difficult non-conference slate, and once again, Few has set his team up to receive a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga won’t need to go through it’s entire out-of-league docket undefeated to curry serious favor with the committee, but if it does, you can fully expect the team to be a No. 1 seed in March again barring a string of surprising losses in WCC play.