WSU announced its 2011-2012 basketball schedule today, and the Cougars will open up the season in a fashion in which they are unaccustomed: On the road, at one of the most hostile places they'll play all season -- against Gonzaga at The Kennel on Nov. 14.
Typically, the Cougs -- just like the rest of their BCS conference brethren -- open up with a series of low-major opponents, mostly at home; they haven't played a true road game to open the season in more than a decade. No reason was given in the WSU release as to why it was decided to play the rivalry game so early.
It's pretty typical non-conference fare for the rest of the schedule, with a notable tournament -- the 76 Classic in Anaheim over Thanksgiving weekend -- mixed in with a number of what should be overmatched opponents (Sacramento State, Portland, Grambling State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Santa Clara, Western Oregon*). WSU closes out the non-conference schedule with the Cougar Hardwood Classic in Seattle against Pepperdine on Dec. 22.
*Western Oregon? A Division II opponent? Seriously?
The 76 Classic could provide the Cougs with a quality opponent or two; they open with Oklahoma and will play either New Mexico or Santa Clara after that. Other potential opponents include Villanova, Boston College, UC-Riverside and Saint Louis.
Notably absent from the nonconference schedule this year is a quality Big 12 opponent, as the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series was canceled (for fairly obvious reasons).
As for the first season of Pac-12 play, we've known about that part of the schedule for months; you can read Grady's breakdown of it here.
Taken as a whole, I think it's a good non-conference slate. They'll play a few quality opponents and a lot of teams they should beat. But one would think that playing Gonzaga right out of the gate is hardly ideal. Although, I guess a good argument could be made that maybe the best time for this team to get them is before the Bulldogs hit their stride. Who knows.
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