Once the University of Arizona hired away Tommy Lloyd to take over the men’s basketball program, it was only a matter of time before next season’s non-conference match-up in Spokane against Gonzaga was scratched. Jon Rothstein confirmed as much today on his Twitter account.
Tommy Lloyd tells me that next season's game between Arizona and Gonzaga in Spokane will not be played as initially scheduled.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 10, 2021
The Zags and Wildcats didn’t play against each other during the 2020-21 season thanks to COVID up-ending non-conference schedules across the country and the Pac-12’s waffling on whether its teams would even play a non-conference schedule. However, before that, Gonzaga had won the last three games against Arizona as the two programs regularly played home-and-away’s during the Sean Miller era.
Removing this game off the schedule is a bit of a bummer considering they have been the two most consistent and prominent programs on the west coast over the last decade, but Lloyd will need some time to get Arizona back on track. Additionally, both he and Mark Few are cognizant of the undue burden it would place on Lloyd’s efforts down in Tucson to proceed as scheduled, along with the emotions that would surround such a game so soon after Lloyd’s departure.
To be clear, Lloyd very much left Gonzaga on good terms and will assuredly continue to enjoy a close relationship with both Few and Athletic Director Mike Roth. Proceeding with this game as scheduled, however, would have likely been too much, too soon from both a basketball and personal standpoint. It’s likely that a few seasons will pass before the two programs resume the series.
With a spot in the non-conference slate now open, Gonzaga will be looking to fill it with another marquee match-up, and who better than another Pac-12 foe in the UCLA Bruins who are posed to enter next season ranked inside the top-5 and will offer a Final Four rematch that ended with Jalen Suggs’ all-time buzzer beater.
COLUMN: UCLA and Gonzaga — currently No. 1 and No. 2 in the @CBSSports Top 25 And 1 — are trying to schedule a November rematch of their classic Final Four game. It’s the continuation of a trend that hopefully becomes more common going forward.https://t.co/XQkfiaDrza— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) May 5, 2021
Mick Cronin has confirmed that the Bruins are interested in making that rematch happen, and all signs seem to be pointing to the two teams reaching an agreement. So, while the Zags may not get a chance at making it four-in-a-row against Arizona next season, there’s a very good chance that we’ll get a top-5 showdown in its place. That’s not a bad consolation prize.