Gonzaga men’s basketball is officially set to play the University of Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 19, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The matchup between the unofficial preseason No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the country according to the NCAAs latest Power 36 rankings will be broadcast live nationally on CBS Television Network at 9 a.m. PST.
Being played at the Sanford Pentagon, home of the NBA G League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the game will have a limited number of spectators in the stands. They are required to be wearing masks as well as following other guidelines that adhere to the statutes of the states involved in the game. It’s the first official game on GU’s schedule that has accommodation for fans to attend in person.
CBS Sports' Matt Norlander reported that Sioux Falls may have been an intriguing neutral site for the two teams to play at given the Sanford Pentagon's connection to Sanford Health, that can provide rapid COVID-19 testing for players and coaches before the game.
“Two of the best men’s college basketball teams in the country are going to be playing on Heritage Court and televised nationally on CBS — what more could you ask for?” said President of Sanford Sports Steve Young, according to a Gonzaga Athletics news release. “Gonzaga has always been a team at the top of our wish list to play at the Pentagon, and Iowa is loaded with talent.”
Reports of the game’s scheduling first emerged on Oct. 6, as GU was searching for a replacement for its previously scheduled Dec. 19 contest versus Texas Tech in Phoenix, Arizona. Iowa was also in search of a new opponent to fill its nonconference schedule after its originally scheduled game in Sioux Falls against Oregon State on Dec. 22 fell through.
This will be the first time that the Zags will be hosted at the Sanford Pentagon, and playing Iowa will be the first time GU goes against a Big Ten Conference opponent since being handed a 64-82 loss against the University of Michigan in the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship last season.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark Few and what his program has accomplished for quite some time,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery according to a Gonzaga Athletics news release. “Adding a game of this magnitude to our schedule will be a good early test for our basketball team and prepare us for league play.”
The Zags have faced Iowa on three occasions, most recently in 2015 when they defeated the Hawkeyes 87-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but the context of this season’s scheduled game should make for an even more intriguing contest.
Iowa went 20-11 last season and finished fifth in the Big Ten, unsure if a NCAA tournament berth was in their favor before the NCAA postseason’s abrupt cancellation. This season however, Iowa is favored to win the Big Ten title, primarily due to the return of Wooden Award runner-up and All-American center Luka Garza to the lineup.
The Hawkeyes also be retaining five other players with starting experience to their roster, including Connor McCaffrey, who led the NCAA in assist-to turnover ratio last season. According to a Gonzaga Athletics news release, Jordan Bohannon, Jack Nunge and Patrick McCaffrey are all back from injuries that kept them out of commission last season. This makes for one of the most experienced rosters that the Zags are set to go up against this season.
“We are looking forward to playing against an extremely talented Iowa team,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said according to a Gonzaga Athletics news release. “We have the utmost respect for Fran McCaffery and his program. We are excited for the opportunity to compete in the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls in a nationally televised game on CBS."
Along with Baylor, this is only the Zags second nonconference opponent officially scheduled so far, but including the four-team opening weekend tournament in Orlando that includes Auburn, Houston and Texas Tech, and Jimmy V Classic set against Tennessee, GU looks to have a full nonconference slate of high-caliber opponents that will prove the team’s strength heading into WCC play.