Less than a month after the season ended, and seven months before the next one will begin, college basketball fans are already circling their calendars for a non-conference matchup that will be the highlight of the 2021-2022 season.
When it was announced last month that Duke and Gonzaga would be facing off on Nov. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, it was something cool to look forward to. But, after recent events, the game could be exactly what the sport needs to boost ratings – especially if fans can attend – as the national championship matchup between Gonzaga and Baylor was the least-watched national championship game in CBS’ history.
On Monday, two of the worst kept secrets in college basketball were revealed when Gonzaga’s star-freshman Jalen Suggs declared for the NBA Draft, while five-star recruit Chet Holmgren – the No. 1 player in the 2021 class – committed to the Bulldogs. Holmgren is joining Hunter Sallis in Spokane, who is another five-star recruit that had previously committed to Mark Few’s program.
Duke also had some good fortune on Monday, as the Blue Devils got a commitment from Jaylen Blakes, a four-star guard that is joining Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, and Trevor Keels in Durham next season, giving Duke the No. 2 overall recruiting class, at minimum. And to make things even more intriguing, on Tuesday, ESPN put Duke’s Banchero over Gonzaga’s Holmgren in their latest 2022 mock draft.
The Blue Devils and the Bulldogs have split their last two matchups, as Duke won 66-52 in the 2015 Elite Eight on their way to a national championship. Gonzaga was able to hold off Zion Williamson & Co. 89-87 in the 2018 finals of the Maui Invitational.
It was epic. Take a look.
The last time Gonzaga played in Nevada, it was in last month’s WCC tournament as they defeated BYU in the championship game 88-78. The Dukies haven’t played in Vegas since 2016 when they knocked off UNLV by 49 points in T-Mobile Arena.
Somebody is leaving Las Vegas with a loss in November, while the other will be departing with bragging rights. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a win for college basketball.