The WCC continued to roll out details of its composite men's basketball schedule on Monday, announcing all ESPN television assignments and some start times for the 2011-12 season. As part of a renewed television deal the league secured with ESPN earlier this summer, the Worldwide Leader In Sports will air a minimum of 30 games - 21 conference and nine non-conference - featuring WCC teams.
Gonzaga will feature in a league high 12 of the televised contests on the ESPN family of networks, including five previously announced non-conference games against Michigan State, Illinois, Notre Dame, Xavier and Butler. As we reported last week, WCCSports.com had previously listed television assignments for six non-conference games, including the five Gonzaga ones mentioned above. Late last week, the broadcast information associated with those games was deleted from the website, only to be announced again on Monday as part of the 30 game announcement. Only one detail from the information the website posted last week has changed: the start time of Gonzaga's December 3rd date at Illinois has been moved earlier, to 12:15 pm Pacific.
Gonzaga's seven nationally televised league games will run across seven consecutive Thursdays in January and February, ending with four especially formative contests against BYU, Saint Mary's, Santa Clara, and BYU respectively. Gonzaga will also play in front of a national audience at Saint Mary's on January 12th (ESPN2), at home against San Francisco on January 19th (ESPNU), and at Portland's Chiles Center on January 26th (ESPN2). All seven of the games will air at 8:00 pm Pacific.
The conference tournament, which will be hosted at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the fourth consecutive year, will expand to five days, with a "first-round" beginning on Wednesday, February 29th. A second-round, quaterfinals (ESPNU) and semi-finals (ESPN2) will take place over the next three days, culminating in the championship on Monday, March 5th, to be aired on either ESPN or ESPN2 at the network's discretion. The conference tournament will remain one of the earliest of the 32 conference tournaments to finish before the NCAA Tournament in late March.
The BYU-Saint Mary's contest on December 29th (the night after Gonzaga and Portland kick off the conference basketball season in Spokane) will be the first league match up of the year broadcast by the network. BYU also announced on Monday that all BYU home basketball games not broadcast on ESPN will be broadcast on their own BYUtv network. The network is also tentatively scheduled to broadcast whatever games of the conference tournament ESPN does not. While Gonzaga's road date against BYU will be nationally televised, BYUtv's coverage will make several other WCC games available for viewing on some cable platforms in Spokane and around the Pacific Northwest. According to Wikipedia, BYUtv is available in 60 million homes across 17 states, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The 21 conference and nine non-conference games will count as 51 "appearances" by the WCC on ESPN this season (a conference matchup counts as two appearances, one for each WCC team taking part in the game). The terms of the new television contract guaranteed the WCC a minimum of 48 appearances on the network over the next eight years.
In other scheduling news, as of last week Gonzaga was still searching on the Craigslist-style scheduling website, Basketball Travelers, for a fourth school to participate in what would be the first GU-hosted tournament of the Modern Zag Era. Many in the college basketball community were surprised when the website apparently crashed this past Friday during the height of one of college basketball most critical months for scheduling. As of Monday afternoon, the website was still not available for viewing.
The proposed, four team tournament would theoretically run November 21st-23rd in Spokane, featuring six games over the three nights. It would almost assuredly not qualify as a "qualifying regular season multiple team event." The NCAA manual stipulates that any school not participating in a "qualifying regular season multiple-team event" is allowed up to 29 regular season games. Thus, with nine non-conference match ups already announced and 16 conference games on the books, we can expect the announcement of no more than four additional non-conference games in the coming weeks.
While the remaining add ons are likely to feature lower profile teams from around the Pacific Northwest, some previously rumored opponents can be eliminated from the discussion. DePaul, New Mexico and Baylor - each rumored at various points to be on Gonzaga's schedule - have announced their own 2011-12 non-conference basketball slates. None of them include Gonzaga. Oklahoma State, who is waiting for the Zags to reciprocate the unpleasant end of a home-and-home series started in Spokane last year, will not play Gonzaga until the 2012-13 season as part of a previously scheduled agreement.
Regardless of whether Gonzaga's proposed tournament succeeds or falls through, this will mark the first season since the 2004-05 campaign that the team has not participated in a qualifying regular season multi-team event such as the Maui Invitational, the Old Spice Classic, or the CBE Classic. The Zags only played 27 regular season games that '04-'05 year. They won all but four of them.
Click below for the latest version of the Zags' working 2011-12 schedule:
2011-2012 Gonzaga Men's Schedule (all times PST)
Nov 11th - vs. Eastern Washington University TBA
Nov 14th - vs. Washington State University TBA
Nov 26th - vs. Western Michigan University (at Spokane Arena) 1:00 pm
Nov 30th - vs. University of Notre Dame 8:15 pm, ESPN2
Dec 3rd - @ University of Illinois 12:15 pm, ESPN2
Dec 10th - vs. Michigan State University 6:00 pm, ESPN2
Dec 17th - vs. Arizona (at Key Arena in Seattle) TBA, CBS
Dec 20th - vs. Butler 6:00 pm, ESPN2
Dec 28th - vs. Portland, TBA
Dec 31st - @ Xavier 5:00 pm, ESPN2
Jan 5th - vs. Pepperdine TBA
Jan 7th - vs. Santa Clara TBA
Jan 12th - @ Saint Mary's 8:00 pm, ESPN2
Jan 14th - @ Loyola Marymount TBA
Jan 19th - vs. San Francisco 8:00 pm, ESPNU
Jan 21st - vs. San Diego TBA
Jan 26th - @ Portland 8:00 pm, ESPN2
Feb 2nd - @ BYU 8:00 pm, ESPN2
Feb 4th - @ Pepperdine TBA
Feb 9th - vs. Saint Mary's 8:00 pm, ESPN2
Feb 11th - vs. Loyola Marymount TBA
Feb 16th - @ Santa Clara 8:00 pm, ESPN2
Feb 18th - @ San Francisco TBA
Feb 23rd - vs. BYU 8:00 pm, ESPN2
Feb 25th - @ San Diego TBA