SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University women's basketball program has put together arguably its best non-conference home slate in the program's history in 2012-13.
Bulldog head coach Kelly Graves, starting his 13th year at the helm, announced the full non-conference slate Friday, which features 15 total contests; nine home games - including its exhibition contest, and is highlighted by a Thanksgiving Tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
"This year's schedule is very competitive, it has a little of everything; home, road and neutral," explained Graves. "This is the kind of schedule that will prepare us for what I anticipate to be a very competitive and challenging West Coast Conference campaign."
Of the eight true non-conference home games - not including the exhibition game versus Eastern Oregon University, Nov. 3 - two are against opponents from the Pacific-12 Conference and two against Big Ten Conference members, along with the Zags battling two teams for the first-time in school history.
"The home schedule is as aggressive as we have ever been," stated Graves. "It gives us the opportunity to play national recognized and Top 25 teams."
The Pacific-12 Conference members heading to the McCarthey Athletic Center in 2012-13 are Stanford University (Sun., Dec. 2) and Washington State University (Sat., Dec. 29). The Cardinal made their 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament Final Four and fifth-consecutive last season, while the Cougars are coming off a season that saw them win 13 games; the most since the 1995-96 campaign.
The historic home campaign also features contests against the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University; both members of the Big Ten Conference. It will be the first-time in school history Gonzaga will have hosted two Big Ten Conference schools at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Wisconsin is the Bulldogs regular-season home opener, set for Friday, Nov. 16. The Badgers have gone to the post-season five of the last six seasons, including an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010. This will be the second-ever meeting between the two schools. Wisconsin won the only other meeting; an 80-77 victory at the Coors Classic in Boulder Colo., during the 1990-91 season.
Ohio State (Mon., Dec. 17) has been on a tear as of late, putting together a string of 10-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including Sweet Sixteen splashes in 2004-05, 2008-09 and 2010-11, and has won the Big Ten Conference title six of the last seven seasons. The Buckeyes finished 25-7 a season ago and 11-5 in league. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Rounding out the home slate for the Zags in 2012-13 is a first-time meeting with Northeast Conference member Monmouth University (Sun., Nov. 18); local match-up with Eastern Washington University (Tue., Dec. 4); along with Cal State Fullerton (Sun., Dec. 9) and the University of Idaho (Thur., Dec. 20).
Unique to the Bulldogs schedule this year is their trek to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the 2012 Hardwood Tournament of Hope set for Nov. 20-22. Gonzaga will open the tournament against Missouri State University Tuesday, Nov. 20. Depending on the outcome, Gonzaga will then either play the University of Louisville, a member of the Big East Conference, or the University of Central Florida. Other possible opponents - from the other side of the bracket - are Oregon State University, UC Santa Barbara, Mississippi State University and Winthrop University. All games will be played at the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center.
Gonzaga last played outside the United States during the 2005-06 season when it played in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas Virgin Islands.
"This trip is the marquee event of the season," said Graves. "There are excellence teams in the tournament and three games in three days will test our depth and toughness and the competition level will test our abilities. I am really looking forward to it."
The Bulldogs only have three true road contests on their schedule. They will open the regular season in California playing at UC Riverside (Fri., Nov. 9) and at USC (Sun., Nov. 11). The only other road contest is set for Saturday, Dec. 15 at Portland State University.