Blog Entry

Gonzaga and Butler agree to two-year series

Posted on: July 6, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 11:47 am
By Matt Norlander

The two most endearing, identifiable non-BCS programs in college basketball have finally agreed to a home-and-home.

And this is no scheduling tweak that causes fans to wait more than a year; Butler and Gonzaga will play each other this upcoming season and the next. This year's game will be played Dec. 20.

It is great news for the sport. From the inaugural Champions Classic, to the Veterans Day game on the aircraft carrier that disposed of bin Laden's body, to the always-exciting Maui Invitational and so much more, the first six weeks college basketball's regular season has gotten better and better. This announcement is sweet, delicious icing.

These kinds of makes-so-much-sense-it-should-have-
happened-sooner matchups give the early-season slate more lubrication. There's an inflated sense of importance, urgency and intrigue. Gonzaga and Butler may not have a lot of identifiable players next year, but that doesn't much matter. They'll both still be very solid teams, and the front of the jersey sells.

And everyone knows Mark Few and Brad Stevens. Two of the nicest coaches in the game who've done it right and stand to be pillars of the sport for the next two decades. It's Butler and Gonzaga. No two other teams from non-BCS schools could draw a television rating like this. Most intra-BCS games couldn't either. So my only question is -- why make this only a home-and-home? Add another, annual layer to the college basketball season by scheduling this game each season, you two schools.

This game could have implications come seeding time as well, as both programs are now regularly scheduling themselves into tough games out of conference. Since this game comes near the end of non-conference play, we'll have a formed idea not of what these teams are, but what they can be. Late-December games are tricky, though, as Christmastime can cloak a club's identity and potential.

Some speculation/backstory on how this came to be ... Gonzaga clearly postponed its series with Memphis in an attempt to make this short-term duel with Butler possible.  The school won't directly admit that, but that seems to be what's at play here. Gonzaga had been thumped by the Tigers, going 1-5 the past six seasons. But it all worked out well for everyone involved, because Memphis picked up the other big non-BCS school with national appeal: Xavier. It's a good trade-off.

As the photo indicates, the teams have played before -- just once. Butler beat the Zags, 79-71, in 2006 at the NIT Season Tipoff.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB

Since: Jul 6, 2011
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:00 pm

Gonzaga and Butler agree to two-year series

I really think Memphis is the non-BCS school with the largest fan base so saying that Gonzaga-Butler creates the best non-BCS matchup seems like a complete over statement of fact and seems to be more racially based than fact based. Just because these two schools typically feature more white players doesnt mean it has a better draw than Memphis-Gonzaga did or than Memphis-Xavier will.

Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: July 6, 2011 12:10 pm

Gonzaga and Butler agree to two-year series

i'm not a huge college basketball fan, but matchups like these, and tourneys like the Maui Invitational, Champions Classic and the Great Alaska Shootout definitely make things more interesting than watching Georgetown beat up on the Little Sisters of the Poor every year in their tune-up games...

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2011 12:10 pm

Gonzaga and Butler agree to two-year series

Awesome, can't wait. It's a major accomplishment for two programs, who with a fractions of the budge the big boys have, continue to succeed year in and year out. The programs are clean with high graduation levels, something that the rest of the collegiate world has failed to recognize anymore.   

Since: Mar 14, 2008
Posted on: July 6, 2011 12:08 pm

Gonzaga and Butler agree to two-year series

Bulldogs are going to roll!

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