Two of college basketball’s most successful programs brands will meet in a seismic showdown Sunday as No. 2 Gonzaga plays host to No. 4 Kentucky at Spokane Arena in the first meeting between the teams in 20 years. The last time the schools played was in the 2002 Maui Invitational, which was early in the Bulldogs’ ascension to national prominence and several years before John Calipari took over the Wildcats.
Both teams have spent most of the past two decades at or near the top of college basketball but managing to avoid each other in the NCAA Tournament. That’s why it was such big news in August when the programs announced a six-game series over the next six seasons.
While it’s a top-five matchup for now, it’s possible that neither team will be among the top-five come the release of Monday’s new AP Top 25. After both teams lost marquee matchups over the past week, Sunday’s game could feature a sense of desperation as both squads try and avoid picking up a second loss before continuing with challenging non conference slates.
Still ahead for Kentucky before SEC play is a game against Michigan in London on Dec. 4 and a showdown with UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 17. Gonzaga heads to the Phil Knight Legacy event in Portland, Oregon next week and also plays Baylor and Alabama this month before diving into conference play. Big as games those will be, it’s possible that none will be watched more closely than this one as Calipari and Few square off with two of the most talented rosters in the country.
Kentucky vs. Gonzaga: Need to know
Matchup of stars: This game is a matchup of the 2021-22 CBS Sports Player of the Year in Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe and the 2022-23 CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year in Gonzaga big man Drew Timme. Both are post-oriented veterans ill-suited for the modern NBA but who have proven to be dominant at the college level. Seeing them play each other will make this one of the must-watch games of college basketball season’s first month.
Different venue: Thought this goes down as one of Gonzaga’s home games in the six-game series that features two home games for each team and two neutral-site contests, it won’t be played at Gonzaga’s traditional home venue. Instead of playing at McCarthey Athletic Center, affectionally known to most as the “Kennel,” this game will be at the much larger Spokane Arena. The off-campus venue may lack the intimacy of the Kennel, but its 12,638-seat capacity will give this matchup a big-game feel. Kentucky is scheduled to play at the Kennel for the final game of the series in 2027.
Bouncing back: Kentucky throttled South Carolina State 106-63 on Thursday, but the Wildcats may still be feeling the sting of an 86-77 double-overtime loss to Michigan State on Tuesday in the Champions Classic. The Wildcats struggled with late-game execution and wilted once Tshiebwe fouled out in the first overtime. Gonzaga was smacked 93-74 at Texas on Wednesday after the emotional high of a 64-63 win over Michigan State aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier last Friday. The Longhorns forced 20 Gonzaga turnovers and hit 13 3-pointers against the Bulldogs.
How to watch Kentucky vs. Gonzaga live
Date: Sunday, November 20 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Spokane Arena — Spokane, Washington
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Kentucky vs. Gonzaga prediction, picks
Featured Game | Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats
After playing on an aircraft carrier and then walking into a hornet’s nest at Texas on Wednesday, Gonzaga should be relived to be in a familiar setting. Though this game is at Spokane Arena and not inside the Bulldogs’ traditional home venue, it’s still their turf. A vintage offensive performance could be in store for Gonzaga against a Kentucky team playing its third game in a week three time zones away from home. Prediction: Gonzaga -3
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