College basketball continues to load up on elite, must-see games for its upcoming season.
The latest late-offseason upgrade features two Final Four contenders — Gonzaga playing Iowa — in a game to be played on Dec. 19 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, sources told CBS Sports. The Sanford Pentagon (the same site hosting the tournament field formerly labeled the 2020 Battle 4 Atlantis) will be witness to the fourth meeting ever between the Bulldogs and Hawkeyes.
Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 in CBS Sports’ Top 25 And 1 preseason rankings. The Hawkeyes are No. 5.
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The game is a goodie, and not just because Gonzaga could be the best team in college basketball. This tilt would also will feature the lock-of-locks preseason pick for national player of the year, Iowa center Luka Garza. The senior big man opted to return to college basketball after being a consensus First Team All-America/Big Ten Player of the Year. He averaged 23.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a season ago; Iowa was well on its way to the 2020 NCAA Tournament, thanks in large part to Garza’s play.
Garza won’t be the only potential preseason All-American selection in this game. Gonzaga guard Corey Kispert leads maybe the most well-rounded starting five in the sport. The Zags are loaded yet again and have championship aspirations.
Gonzaga was able to fill this opening on its slate because, just as it did with securing Baylor for a Dec. 5 game in Indianapolis, Iowa was both a desirable, high-quality opponent and a team that was willing and wanting to play the Zags on a neutral court. The contracts for the game have not yet been signed, sources said, but that is expected to happen soon. Both teams really want this game. For Gonzaga, the game will replace a scheduled matchup on the same date in Phoenix against Texas Tech. For Iowa, the game replaces its Dec. 22 scheduled matchup in Sioux Falls against Oregon State.
It remains to be seen if any fans will be allowed to attend. The Sanford Pentagon is an attractive option in part because Sanford Health is a business partner with the basketball facilities and the rapid-response testing is promised to be as robust as any neutral-site event college basketball will have this regular season.
The addition of Iowa means Gonzaga will now face at least four top 25-level teams. On top of the Hawkeyes and Baylor, Gonzaga is scheduled to play in Jimmy V Classic in Orlando on Dec. 2 against Tennessee, and also the Orlando Invitational field in November, which is currently highlighted by Michigan State and Saint Louis. Iowa’s schedule is much less clear at this point. Unlike Gonzaga and its 16-game WCC conference schedule, the Hawkeyes are expected to play a 20-game Big Ten slate, which will include a home game against a high-profile ACC opponent in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the usual rivalry game against Iowa State.