Spokane, Washington is, by all accounts, a perfectly decent city in eastern Washington. It’s roughly the size of Akron, though not nearly as crime ridden. It’s also home to one of the best college basketball programs in the nation, Gonzaga. If you have spent any time on Twitter this week, you know that the rumors about Gonzaga joining the Big East are up and running again. The problem? Spokane remains 2,049 miles away from the Cintas Center.
Basketball wise adding Gonzaga is almost a no brainer. The Bulldogs haven’t missed an NCAA tournament since 1998. In that time they have made (and lost) the national championship game twice, made the Elite Eight three more times, and Sweet 16 an additional seven. They are routinely a one seed and have been the overall one seed each of the last two years. There is no questioning the basketball chops of the Gonzaga program.
The only issue in terms of basketball that adding a team to the Big East creates is that it either destroys the carefully cultivated round robin the Big East has created or it really cuts into the amount of non-conference games each team can play. The round robin would likely be sacrificed in this scenario since each team only gets 31 games (if a non-qualifying event is played) and a round robin in that situation would leave each team with essentially five or six non-conference games to schedule.
That isn’t the big hurdle though. The big hurdle is travel. 2,049 miles is a long way, but it would be Gonzaga’s second shortest road trip.The Bulldogs would have to play at least 10, possibly 11, road games each conference season. The shortest of those is a 1,400 mile jaunt to Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska. The longest would be a nearly eight hour flight to Providence. Playing that game on a Wednesday night and then a home game on Saturday would entail an unholy amount of travel that would, possibly, need to be repeated each week. The only other alternative would be Gonzaga road trips in which the team would be one the road for a week for at least five different jaunts.
That’s not to mention the issues of the teams going to Gonzaga. If Xavier plays in Washington on Wednesday their next game would have to be a home game to avoid literally traversing the continent. For teams like St. John’s there would either be the week long road trips or flights that cross North America. The time zones would also be an issue. A 6pm tip in Providence is a 3pm tip in Washington. While this might be early enough that Mark Few is sober, most Gonzaga fans would still be at work.
Ultimately, Gonzaga in some sort of trans-continental Big East just doesn’t make much sense. If the Big East is insistent on adding a team, and they shouldn’t be, they need to look at the many options much closer to home. Gonzaga will join a big conference soon, but it shouldn’t be the Big East.