The 2019-2020 Gonzaga basketball season has just begun. Both the men’s and women’s teams are looking to continue their success and cement themselves as top college basketball programs in the country.
With every quality team comes a schedule of worthy opponents. The Zags’ nonconference schedules are created in a way to give both teams an opportunity to improve each game.
There are three different types of games that are scheduled when it comes to the makeup of teams for the nonconference basketball schedule: home-and-home games, neutral court games and buy-games.
A home-and-home series is when teams agree to play each other over a period of time (typically a 4-year period) at each other’s stadium twice. Examples of home-and-home games for the Zags include University of North Carolina for the men’s team and Stanford University for the women’s team.
Neutral court games come in two different forms. The first form is two teams agree to play each other at a neutral site once, which normally involves the use of a promoter and compensation. The second form is a multi-team event (MTE), where teams agree to play a series of teams at a neutral site and in a tournament format. These games are unique in that the NCAA allows for teams to go to the same MTE once every four years.
“There’s far more neutral sites [for women’s games],” said Craig Fortier, women’s basketball assistant coach.
Buy-games are games in which schools are compensated to come to an opponent that reached out to them and play one game. Examples include when the men’s team played Alabama State and University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff this season.
Although the team on the schedule may not be a big name, Chris Standiford, deputy director of athletics, said that these games are valuable due to the importance of having more home games on the schedule for students and fans.
“[Buy-games are] two home games in the season,” Standiford said. “You want to play North Carolina and we want to play high-level teams, but we still need to have home games for our students, season-ticket holders, sponsors, et cetera.”
Standiford said the importance with these kinds of games are all based on analytics, specifically relating to how many wins highly ranked teams — those competing for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament — can get.
With this in mind, when the coaching staff for both the women’s and men’s teams sit down and look at who they want to play, they want to play big teams while also understanding that they have to get as many wins as possible to make a solid case for the NCAA tournament.
The basketball teams’ recent successes is a major contributor to why teams in bigger conferences avoid playing GU.
“Getting teams to do home-and-homes is really hard,” Standiford said. “Every coach wants to play a team [which] they can beat on the road and they can beat at home, or that can really help elevate their program in a national profile.”
Both Standiford and Fortier said there is no sense of intimidation when it comes to trying to schedule games with high-level opponents.
When the opportunity arises for either program, both said that having high-level teams like UNC and Stanford agreeing to play GU in a home-and-home series is a testament to how far the program has come and how much respect it has gained on a national level. And even though a majority of students were upset with the timing of the UNC game in Spokane this year, Standiford said students should be thrilled to have them coming in the first place.
“We have to get them here before we choose what date we have,” Standiford said.
The increasing quality of GU’s opponents at home also stands as a signifier of increasing respect for both programs in the past two decades.
“Where we were 20 years ago and where we are today is night and day,” Standiford said. “The idea that we’ve had Notre Dame, Michigan State and now North Carolina, et cetera, that have agreed to play home-and-homes against us, that’s something that was inconceivable 20 years ago.”