The two expected top teams in college basketball next season have suddenly agreed to a midsummer scheduling coup of sorts and will play each other in 2020-21. Say hello to potentially the best nonconference contest of the season: Gonzaga vs. Baylor in a battle of the respective No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the preseason CBS Sports Top 25 And 1.
In the past few days the schools have been working the logistics and now have verbal agreement in place to face each other this upcoming season. Baylor coach Scott Drew and Gonzaga coach Mark Few confirmed the scheduling arrangement Monday evening to CBS Sports.
“We will be playing Baylor this year in some form or fashion, as opportunities have opened up to do more of these type of games for the good of college basketball,” Few said.
The Zags and the Bears went a combined 57-6 last season and both were projected as No. 1 seeds when the season and NCAA Tournament was canceled March 12.
“Our team has tremendous respect for the Gonzaga program,” Drew told CBS Sports. “Games like this really prepare you for conference play and give your fans something to get excited for heading into the season. Games like this are great for college basketball.”
Rare is the scenario where two teams universally acknowledged as top-25 material — let alone potentially the two best teams in the sport — schedule a game for the very next season so deep into the summer. But the coronavirus pandemic has consistently provided logistical and financial hurdles into college basketball’s schedule in the past couple of months.
If the Zags and the Bears are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP Top 25 when they meet it would mark the 43rd time college basketball’s top two teams have squared off. The most recent meeting was No. 2 Kentucky’s 69-62 victory vs. No. 1 Michigan State in the Champions Classic on Nov. 5, 2019, the opening night of the 2019-20 season.
To those who are happy to see college basketball improvise to its benefit so deep into the summer: thank the Pac-12.
Drew and Few came together in recent days after the Pac-12 decided on Aug. 11 to eliminate nonconference competition in all of its sports through the end of December. When that happened, Baylor and Gonzaga had dates open up on their respective schedules. For Baylor that meant losing its mid-December game against Oregon in Las Vegas in the newly created Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge. Gonzaga was upended even more by the Pac-12’s decision: Few’s always-ambitious scheduling model had the Bulldogs scheduled to play three Pac-12 teams in December: home vs. Arizona and Washington, and vs. USC in Portland.
There is no exact date or location for the game yet because the schools are waiting on the NCAA to determine and announce what can be done about the start of the 2020-21 season. On Monday, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt announced, “By mid-September, we will provide direction about whether the season and practice start on time or a short-term delay is necessitated by the ongoing pandemic.”
Once there is clarity on if or how the nonconference season can be held, Gonzaga and Baylor will take the next steps necessary to setting a date and location.
Drew said he and Few “have a few possible dates, so [scheduling] won’t be a problem.”
Baylor and Gonzaga have faced off five times, the most previous being an 83-71 Gonzaga win over BU in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga is 5-0 all-time vs. Baylor.