Gonzaga, Kansas, Auburn, Saint Joseph's set to play in revamped Fort Myers Tip-Off field

Alex Martin
Fort Myers News-Press

There have been some major changes to the field for the Fort Myers Tip-Off. 

After the initial field was supposed to be comprised of Butler, Colorado, South Florida, and Wisconsin, all four of those teams dropped out of the tournament, forcing some last-minute scrambling by Intersport, the operator of the tournament.

Consider the new field a major upgrade, as Auburn, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Saint Joe’s will headline the field, the tournament announced Friday

All games will be played on the campus of Florida Southwestern State College at Suncoast Credit Union Arena on Nov. 26 and 27. 

FOX will carry the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off opener on Nov. 26 at 1:30 p.m., featuring a top-10 tilt between Kansas, last year’s No. 1 team in the final Associated Press poll, and Gonzaga, which was No. 2 in the final AP last year and widely considered one of the top teams heading into the 2020-21 season. FS1 will televise Game 2 of the doubleheader at 4:30 p.m., featuring Auburn, fresh off its third straight 25-win season, and Saint Joseph’s, which returns its top five scorers from last season.

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The second day of the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off will begin at 11 a.m. on Nov. 27 with FOX broadcasting the Gonzaga-Auburn tilt and conclude with Kansas facing Saint Joseph’s at 2 p.m. on FS1. FOX Sports play-by-play announcer Adam Amin and lead college basketball analyst Bill Raftery will call all four games of the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off.

Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) reacts after a 3-pointer by Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert (24) against Fairleigh Dickinson in the first half during a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger) ORG XMIT: OTKUTJS200

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome some of college basketball’s blue bloods to Southwest Florida for the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president at Intersport and event director for the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off. “With the litany of scheduling challenges these programs faced in light of the new start of the college basketball season, we’re proud to bring these teams together for four games of incredible competition on a national stage. We’re looking forward to two days  of high-level competition and put a national spotlight on Fort Myers, Lee County and Southwest Florida.”

At the moment, ESPN has the Zags ranked third in the latest Way-Too-Early Top 25, and the Jayhawks are ninth in the nation. USA Today has ranked the top 60 players prior to the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft, and has Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs at No. 4 overall, Auburn guard Sharife Cooper at No. 15, Gonzaga guard Joel Ayayi at No. 38, Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert at No. 39, and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett at No. 57.

Cooper is no stranger to Fort Myers. The talented guard played in the 2018 and 2019 City of Palms Classic tournaments with McEachern, based out of Powder Springs, Ga. Cooper also won the USA Today All-USA Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2019 as a junior.

"I always told Sharife that he was the one high school player that I'd pay money to see play," City of Palms Classic Tournament Director Donnie Wilkie said. "Watching him, you'd feel as if he decides how the game will go for both teams... fast, slow, left, right, up or down. And he's just plain fun to watch play. There's only a handful of players I say that about."

Due to social distancing restrictions inside the arena, an extremely limited number of fans will be able to attend the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off. There will be no public sale of tickets, but a small number of socially distanced pairs of tickets will be distributed. Fans interested in attending the event should submit a ticket request form at www.fortmyerstipoff.com/tickets.

Follow News-Press and Naples Daily News Sports Writer Alex Martin on Twitter: @NP_AlexMartin. For the best sports coverage in Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.