I have to admit that I have written - and subsequently deleted - three different posts about the recent Washington State scheduling news. I've attempted to diagnose why I've felt the need to delete those pieces and I think there are several contributing factors. Part of it is due to my understanding that college athletics is driven by money (spoiler alert: Santa Claus may not be real, either), part of it lauds Gonzaga for understanding their nonconference schedule needs to be loaded given their conference situation, and another part of it probably has to do with the fact that Washington State, while they may cry foul, pulled the same stuff on Gonzaga when the Zags were the lowly program in Eastern Washington.
While I may address the Washington State situation a bit more later in this post, I think it is super important to understand the facts. The biggest fact to me from this week, Domantas Sabonis aside, is that the staff is loading up the nonconference schedule in 2014-15. This past season, Gonzaga's strength of schedule was dependent on their success in Maui. As we all know, that didn't happen and the Bulldogs resume took a massive hit. While they likely still would have made the tournament as an at-large, to say they were a lock would have been a lie.
2014-15 will not be that way. In addition to giving Washington State fans a reason to cry foul and call the Zags every derogatory word in the dictionary, the Gonzaga Bulletin also gave us a bunch of goodness about next year's schedule. Whereas last year we were trying to spin West Virginia as a quality win, this year those opportunities will be bountiful. Here's what we know at this point
On the schedule:
NIT Season Tip-Off
Known in the works:
These are the big nonconference matchups that I am aware of right now. The NIT Season Tip-Off will feature the Zags as well as St. John's, Minnesota, Georgia, and Western Kentucky. Obviously, that is not a power group of teams so the staff went out and scheduled some big time contests against the likes of UCLA, Arizona, etc. They aren't done either, the Bulletin claims that more big-time matchups are likely on the way.
Of course, there will be a variety of other contests against mid-major teams but it is great to see the staff loading up in a year when this team should be poised for big things. I am a firm believer that Gonzaga should be very aggressive with their schedule which is why I was very outspoken when the 2013-14 schedule was released. While there were rumors that several deals fell through - especially as it relates to the Battle In Seattle - the Zags need to have several major matchups on their schedule ever year.
The other really fun piece of all this is that it means Arizona, UCLA, and potentially SMU will be coming to Spokane in 2015-16. Tent City, get ready.
As for the Washington State madness, I just don't care enough to write about it. If you want to read more, John Blanchette does a nice job summarizing what is going on. He includes quotes from both sides, some historical references, and other assorted facts. To me, his concluding sentences capture what all this uproar is really all about:
But if nothing else, this twist gives Cougar fans statewide renewed motivation to detest the rival coach and hate on Spokane.
Some probably think that's a grand tradeoff for a home game.