by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
Well, some of the little guys ain’t so little anymore (see Butler, Gonzaga), and even though power conference schools are finally starting to see the value in scheduling these games, it is not a common practice for schools like North Carolina and Kentucky to go on the road to Xavier or VCU. We might see more games like last season’s Duke-Butler neutral site contest, but we may never a witness a program like Duke travel to Hinkle Fieldhouse to play visitor to the Bulldogs.
The new trend in scheduling—and it’s an awesome one if you ask this guy—is for the more successful mid-majors to schedule games against one another. Yesterday, according to the Indianapolis Star, it was announced that Butler, owner of the bonkers back-to-back national title game appearances, and Gonzaga, the original giant killer that is isn’t slowing down any time soon, agreed to a home-and-home series beginning this season in Spokane on December 20.
“It’s an exciting series, and it’s going to benefit both teams and help them prepare,” Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves said.
Sure, there is some risk in this move for both teams. This Bulldog battle is a huge early season test for both teams since each will have serious question marks going into next season, and if either (or both) of these teams is sitting on the bubble with a loss to the other on Selection Sunday, there will be some perspiration involved.
But Mark Few and Brad Stevens know from experience that you don’t get to the top by playing Savannah State and IUPUI. Kudos to them for doing what so many other power conference members (I think it’s safe to call Butler and Gonzaga power conference caliber now) won’t do.
For college basketball fans, it’s a no brainer. There is nothing not to like about this December bracket-buster matchup. Just don’t forget to circle December 20 on the calendar.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and former forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.