Kansas, Gonzaga expected to open college hoops season in matchup of top-ranked teams

By Gary Bedore, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Basketball

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas, barring an unforeseen circumstance in the ever-changing world of COVID-19, is expected to open the men's basketball season in Florida, but not in Orlando as originally planned.

The Jayhawks, in response to ESPN canceling the Wooden Legends event Nov. 25-26 in Orlando, have agreed to face Gonzaga on Nov. 25 and a yet-to-be-determined team on Nov. 27 in Fort Myers, Fla., a source told The Star on Tuesday. KU has not made an official announcement about playing in the event, which hasn't been finalized.

Jon Rothstein, college basketball insider for CBS Sports, also reported that KU would face Gonzaga and added that the Zags would meet Auburn on Nov. 27. The fourth team would play Auburn on Nov. 25 and then KU on the 27th. Matt Norlander of CBS also reported Tuesday morning that KU had agreed to be in the event, which is not a tournament but a showcase event.

ESPN on Monday announced that it would not be holding any of its early-season multi-team event tournaments in Orlando. That affected KU, which was to play Boise State on Nov. 25 and either UCLA or Seton Hall on Nov. 26 in the Wooden Legacy. Also KU was to play Kentucky on Dec. 1 and one other game against a yet-to-be determined foe in the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.

The games in Fort Myers will likely be held at Suncoast Credit Union Arena, the home of Florida SouthWestern State College.

Gonzaga is expected to be ranked in the top five in the country in preseason polls. In fact, has Gonzaga its preseason No. 1 team.

"Gonzaga's roster took a hit when Filip Petrusev decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility to pursue a professional opportunity overseas. But the Zags are still loaded in the frontcourt and plenty talented enough to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament thanks in part to the return of Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi," wrote Gary Parrish of "Those two, plus sophomore Drew Timme, should serve as a nice nucleus for Gonzaga, which is also adding four top-100 prospects to the roster, most notably five-star guard Jalen Suggs and four-star center Oumar Ballo. So Mark Few has a chance to record at least 30 victories for the fifth consecutive season (provided there are enough games on the schedule)."


In an interesting twist, KU was ranked No. 1 and Gonzaga No. 2 in the final AP poll last season. Both were expected to be No. 1 seeds before the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. KU was expected to be the overall No. 1 seed.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review's Jim Meehan pointed out the programs "also rank one-two nationally in winning percentage over the last decade. The Zags are first with a 308-51 record (85.8%) with the Jayhawks second at 299-66 (81.9%)."

The two teams are expected to play a two-game home-and-home series starting during the 2021-22 season. The first game would likely be played in Allen Fieldhouse in December of 2022 with a return trip to the Zags' McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane in December of 2023.

KU, which will be looking for one additional nonconference game to fill its 2020-21 nonconference schedule, announced part of its nonconference slate Monday. The Jayhawks will meet Kentucky on Dec. 1 at a yet-to-be-determined location in the Champions Classic, possibly Indianapolis. KU will play host to North Dakota State on Dec. 5, Creighton on Dec. 8, Omaha on Dec. 11 and Tarleton State on Dec. 13. KU will travel to Tennessee on Jan. 30.

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