With a solid group of veterans being joined by one of the top recruiting classes in the country, California is expected to rebound from a 2014-15 season in which they didn’t play in a postseason tournament in a big way in 2015-16. Thursday afternoon the program announced that it has completed its non-conference schedule, with the Golden Bears hosting fellow Bay Area program Saint Mary’s December 12.
“This should be a great game. Our two Bay Area schools have a strong basketball tradition,” California head coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. “We have not played one another in more than a decade and I know our fans will appreciate the matchup. We are fortunate that a game between our two schools worked out on the schedule this year. Hopefully, we will be able to compete against one another more often in the future.”
Martin’s team, which will be led by senior point guard Tyrone Wallace and includes talented options such as juniors Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews and freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, is expected to contend in the Pac-12 as well as make some waves nationally. In addition to the game against Saint Mary’s, Cal will play in the Las Vegas Invitational November 26-27 against San Diego State with West Virginia and Richmond matching up in the other semifinal.
The Golden Bears will play just two true road games before the start of Pac-12 play, but both of those matchups provide interesting challenges. Wyoming, which will host the Golden Bears December 5, lost four starters from last season’s NCAA tournament team but the altitude in Laramie (the highest in Division I) is even higher than what Cal experiences in road games at Utah and Colorado.
And the other road non-conference game should rate among the best in the country this season, as Cal will visit Virginia December 22. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have finished atop the ACC standings (regular season) in each of the last two seasons, and they’re expected to contend again in 2015-16.
Annually head coach Mark Few prepares his Gonzaga Bulldogs for WCC play with a challenging non-conference slate that also benefits the team in its NCAA tournament seeding, and that will likely be the case in 2015-16 as well. Thursday, the school released its completed non-conference schedule, and it’s a slate that includes an appearance at the Battle 4 Atlantis and games against Arizona, UCLA and SMU.
Gonzaga will have to account for the loss of guards Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley from last season’s Elite Eight team, but they’re loaded with both talent and experience in the front court with Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Damontas Sabonis all returning to Spokane.
The Bulldogs will open its season in Okinawa with a game against Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Classic November 13. Gonzaga will complete the opening month of the regular season with three games in the Bahamas, with Washington being their first opponent at the Battle 4 Atlantis with Charlotte, UConn, Michigan, Syracuse, Texas and Texas A&M rounding out the field.
December features home games against Arizona (December 5) and UCLA (December 12), and they’ll play Tennessee in the Battle in Seattle December 19. The Bulldogs open WCC play two days after their game in Seattle, with a Pepperdine team that has the players needed to crack the top three visiting The Kennel. Gonzaga’s final non-conference game won’t be played until February 13, when they visit SMU in one of two true road games they’ll play outside of WCC play.
With Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy back, not to mention former McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier, SMU is expected by many to pick up where it left off in 2014-15. Larry Brown’s Mustangs earned the program’s first NCAA tournament berth in more than two decades, and they also won the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles.
Friday the program revealed its non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season, and two home games immediately jump off the page.
SMU will host both Michigan (December 8) and Gonzaga (February 13), two teams the Mustangs visited last season. SMU was without Kennedy for the game at Gonzaga, a game they lost, as he was academically ineligible at the time and they managed to beat a down Michigan squad by 11 in Ann Arbor. Gonzaga will once again be a Top 25 team, and the same is expected of the Wolverines as they welcome back key players such as Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin.
SMU will also participate in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic, playing Kent State December 22 in Las Vegas and either Penn State or Colorado the following night. The Mustangs will play two true road games before they begin conference play, visiting a young Stanford team November 19 and taking a quick trek to Fort Worth to play TCU December 2.