Gonzaga-Kansas series remains on hold in complex college landscape

Mar. 24—Gonzaga and Kansas agreed to a two-game series back in March 2020 — not long after the NCAA Tournament was canceled by the COVID pandemic with the Jayhawks ranked No. 1 and the Zags No. 2 — with the first contest 21 months down the road.

Obstacles soon formed on that road and neither game — one for Dec ember 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence and one for December 2023 at the McCarthey Athletic Center — took place.

"It was on the books and then stuff happened and we were talking about the league and all that, COVID," coach Mark Few said, shortly after the Zags thumped Kansas 89-68 Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. "We're all waiting on what's going to happen with stuff, so it's kind of up in the air.

"But I mean we agreed to play and Bill (Self, Kansas coach) is great. I don't think it's going to happen next year. Everything is kind of on a year-to-year deal now."

College basketball slowly began returning to normal after an abrupt ending to the 2020 season. The Big 12 voted in September 2021 to add Cincinnati, BYU, Central Florida and Houston and has four more arriving next season (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah).

Gonzaga and Kansas participated in the Maui Invitational in November, though they didn't end up playing each other.

And there remains mutual interest about Gonzaga potentially joining the Big 12. Those discussions began roughly 17 months ago.

"A lot of things changed coming out of COVID," Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford said. "Certainly Kansas has a lot of different scheduling dynamics with their conference changing. Similar to us, we're going to have more conference games (18 next year compared to 16 this season) so it's really trying to figure out the complexities of each other's schedules and when it makes sense to make up those games, or if it does make sense.

"That's really between coach Few and coach Self to navigate that and decide what's best in a mutual way."

The Zags and Jayhawks have met three times. Kansas won the first matchup, 80-66, in Lawrence, in the 1998-99 season opener. Gonzaga rolled to a 102-90 victory in the 2020-21 season opener in Fort Myers, Florida.

It remains to be seen when or if the series will resume.

"There's so much respect for each other's programs," Standiford said. "It's really about trying to find an appropriate time and place in the schedule. There's certainly enough change going on in college athletics right now, to make a commitment for three years from now is maybe not the most prudent thing to do.

"Maybe just figure out what's going to happen next and go from there."

Gonzaga and Kansas rank 1-2 in winning percentage since the 2011 season. Kansas has been ranked in the final AP Top 25 for the last 24 seasons. Gonzaga is second on the list with seven.

The Bulldogs have the most NCAA Tournament wins (22) since 2017, followed by Kansas at 17.