In what fans are already billing as the Battle of the Bulldogs, Brad Stevens' much-heralded Butler squad will visit the McCarthey Athletic Center on December 20th to face Gonzaga in the first year of a home-and-home arrangement.
The contest represents one of the precious nuggets of specific information currently available about next season's schedule. Outside of the Battle In Seattle against Arizona three days earlier on December 17th, the Butler matchup is the only game with a concrete date attached to it.
Tuesday's addition of back-to-back NCAA Tournament runner up Butler might be the biggest boon yet in a 2011-12 non-conference schedule that was already shaping up to be elite. An unprecedented amount of BCS teams (five) are coming to the northwest to play the Zags - home games against Michigan State, Notre Dame, Baylor and Washington State (yowza!) and away contests against Illinois and Xavier are confirmed.
more after the jump...
According to a mixture of message board Zeitgeist and the Craigslist of college basketball scheduling, the Zags are still working with some respected names to fill even more scheduling holes.
Two holes that appear not to need filling, however, are the remaining dates that were at one time linked to an early season event in K2.
Earlier this year, rumors circulated that Gonzaga was attempting to organize and host an exempt tournament sometime in November or December.
On June 14th, the program buttressed these rumors by advertising on Basketball Travelers that they needed only one more team to complete a four-team field for a tournament in Spokane on December 20th-22nd. The pitch noted in capital letters that it was the "last chance" for a fourth team to sign on to the tournament, in which each team would play each other team over three days.
So now that Gonzaga has a game scheduled on one of those three days, is the Butler game part of a tournament?
It appears highly unlikely. Butler will take on Stanford in Palo Alto on either December 22nd or 23rd. The 22nd is the final day of the proposed tournament in Spokane. Playing on the 23rd would mean Butler would play games on four consecutive days, the last of which would not be at the same site as the first three. This would be...just, no.
Since proposed December dates in July are notoriously tentative, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the tournament was pushed back a day to December 19th-21st. That's still unlikely, though. In that scenario, Gonzaga would host the tournament roughly 48 hours after returning from a potentially draining game in Seattle versus Arizona. I just can't see Mark Few agreeing to play four games in five days, even if all the games are in his home state.
The prospect of K2 hosting a tournament is an intriguing one. Not only would it serve as an opportunity to sell some high-major teams on coming to Spokane in the future, but it would also be financially viable. Spokane proved its willingness and adeptness at hosting games featuring non-local teams during recent men's and women's NCAA Tournaments.
The more incisive question might be, was the Butler game originally part of a tournament that fell through? If it was, what happened to the third team who had agreed to play?
Of course, Butler may have nothing to do with the proposed tournament at all. For all we know, the event could have fallen through in the past few weeks and the Gonzaga staff could have adjusted the date of a Butler game that had been in the works for awhile in order to fill a pre-Christmas vacancy.
Don't be surprised if we never know the answers to these questions.
But don't be surprised if a December 22nd game pops up on the schedule, either.