As the great Jon Rothstein points out on a weekly basis: College basketball scheduling in 2020 is wilder than a goat rodeo. I’ve never been to one of these famous goat rodeos, but I’m going to assume they are pure chaos. Chaos is probably the word that best describes what college basketball teams are going through this season.
Gonzaga had five games canceled the last 10 days, namely their showdown against second-ranked Baylor on December 5th. Meanwhile, BYU and San Francisco have already played EIGHT games this season. Saint Mary’s plays their eighth tonight. As a reminder: a school needs to play 13 games this season to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Some teams are already more than halfway there, while others like St. Bonaventure are just starting their season today because of Covid-related pauses and cancelations. Wilder than a goat rodeo, indeed.
Gonzaga’s program was put on pause from active competition, but the phone calls made by Mark Few, Athletic Director Mike Roth, and scheduling guru TJ Benson all continued their fast and furious pace. Few and Baylor head coach Scott Drew seem dead set on playing their game this season, but with the Bears now on a Covid pause, that could complicate things a little bit. Does Gonzaga try and reschedule the four other mid-major schools at some point? Here are some potential dates, with the caveat that I know very little to what goes in to these game contracts.
It doesn’t appear that Gonzaga will add a game before Iowa this coming Saturday. Baylor, if they return from their pause this week, would start Big 12 play on Saturday against Kansas State. Both GU and BU are scheduled to play December 21 and December 29. Unless they both cancel games with mid-major opponents, the realistic window to play each other dwindles down to a five-day span from December 23-27. In a vacuum, this wouldn’t be a huge deal. However, it’s Christmas time. Typically, athletes get a few days to go home and enjoy the holidays (if they’re even allowed to go home, given their protocols).
The second possibility would be January 20 or 21. That is Gonzaga’s second conference “bye” week, in which they only play Saturday, leaving the rest of the week open. Baylor plays Monday/Saturday that week, leaving the possibility open for both schools to squeeze in a Wednesday or Thursday match-up. From Gonzaga’s perspective, I think this would work fine. They are no strangers to playing big games in the middle of conference play in the past (Stanford, Memphis, Butler, etc). However, from the Bears lens, this would be their fourth game in 10 days, with the first three being West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Kansas. That’s about a brutal of a stretch as you can get.
The other factor with this match-up is television. I think they’ll be able to find a venue fairly easily, even if Gonzaga has to travel to Waco to get it done. This was originally scheduled to be a national CBS game on a Saturday morning. If they play this the day after Christmas (possible!) then that time frame works. Otherwise, they need a new time, and unless the original contract states that CBS has to be involved, it’s likely a new TV partner will emerge.
This seems like the easiest game to reschedule, given that the two schools are a 90-minute bus drive away from each other. If Gonzaga and Baylor can’t find a way to play in that December 23-27 window, it feels like this game could fit in there instead.
The other realistic option is January 20 or 21. As mentioned above, Gonzaga has just one game that week (Saturday vs Pacific). That same week, Idaho has a bye. The Big Sky placed one bye week into each team’s schedule for potential make-ups or pauses in activity. The week before and the week after, Idaho plays two games at home, and then play a home-and-home with Eastern Washington. In other words, they don’t leave Moscow for an entire month. Why not drive over to Spokane during that bye week and play Gonzaga on January 20? Assuming both teams are healthy and don’t have any conference games to make-up, and Gonzaga still wants to play a sub-300 KenPom team, this date feels realistic.
Last week, NAU sent out a press release saying: “NAU and Gonzaga are working together to explore the possibility of rescheduling the game. An announcement will be made at a later date in regards to any possible rescheduling.”
As with Idaho, the Lumberjacks have a built-in bye week in their conference schedule. Conveniently, it’s the final week of Big Sky Conference play. Their final game is February 26. Gonzaga’s is February 27. Both teams will then wait over a week before playing in their respective conference tournaments. Of course, Gonzaga may not want to risk injury at that point of the season playing another sub-300 KenPom team. But they did this several times in the first 15 years of Mark Few’s tenure, bringing in teams like USC Upstate, CSU Bakersfield, and Longwood to play during that long nine-day layoff prior to the conference tournament.
The Southern and Tarleton State games have zero chance of being rescheduled just based on geography. But I think, and I actually do expect, that the Baylor game and one of those two Big Sky games, will be rescheduled at some point. As for now, we wait for Iowa this coming Saturday. If you hadn’t heard, the Hawkeyes have taken over the top spot in KenPom’s offensive rankings, something Gonzaga has held for the heavy majority of the last two seasons. If you like offense, Saturday is going to be a treat.