SPOKANE – Perhaps the most intriguing home schedule in Gonzaga University men’s basketball history awaits the Bulldogs this season if the partial list of non-conference opponents announced Friday is any indication.
Four teams with 12 NCAA Final Four appearances will tip off in the McCarthey Athletic Center this season, and that’s not even counting the four Final Four appearances by the University of Arizona that will provide the competition for the Battle in Seattle.
Washington State University, which visits Nov. 14, is the most removed from the NCAA Final Four among the four schools visiting the McCarthey Athletic Center, the Cougars finishing second in the 1941 NCAA Tournament.
The University of Notre Dame, with one Final Four appearance to its credit in 1978, will face the Bulldogs Nov. 30. The Fighting Irish were pre-tournament era champions in 1927 and 1936 when the Helms Trophy was presented to the national champions. Gonzaga visited UND last season in the inaugural hardwood meeting between the two Catholic institutions.
The most decorated of the Final Four teams dotting the Gonzaga schedule is Michigan State University, head coach Tom Izzo bringing his troops to town Dec. 10. The Spartans have been to eight Final Fours – six under Izzo – and won national titles in 1979 and 2000. The Bulldogs lost a hard-fought 75-71 contest to the then-second-ranked Spartans at the Breslin Center on the MSU campus early in the 2009-10 season, the series resuming this coming season after taking last year off.
Butler University, which has been in each of the last two NCAA Tournament title games, comes to town Dec. 20 in a much-anticipated battle of Bulldogs. Butler lost to Duke in the 2010 NCAA Championship and to the University of Connecticut last season. Butler has won the only meeting of the Bulldogs to date, claiming the 2006 Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT title in Madison Square Garden.
Arizona and the Zags will square off Dec. 17 in Seattle’s KeyArena as Gonzaga makes a regular-season trip to Seattle for the ninth straight season. The Wildcats have made four NCAA Final Four appearances and won the title in 1997. The teams played one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history in 2003, the Wildcats claiming a 96-95 double-overtime Second Round victory at the University of Utah that was immediately dubbed an ESPN Classic.
“This is without a doubt the most aggressive home schedule we’ve played,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “And the Battle in Seattle continues to bring in top-notch opponents and this year is no different.”
The remainder of the schedule will be announced as it becomes finalized.