NCAA Maryland Alabama Basketball

Alabama head coach Nate Oats congratulates Crimson Tide players during a timeout in the first half of a game against Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 22. Alabama won 96-77.

Gonzaga has made it official: The Battle in Seattle will return Dec. 4 with a showdown against Alabama.

The first meeting between the probable top-15 programs will also be the first college basketball game staged at redeveloped Climate Pledge Arena. The return game will be next season in Birmingham.

The matchup with the Crimson Tide has been rumored since May. Alabama was in the top 10 in several way-too-early preseason polls at the time, but in the last week projected first-round pick Joshua Primo opted to stay in the NBA draft and leading scorer Jaden Shackelford decided to transfer.

Alabama slipped to 14th in CBSsports.com’s latest Top 25. Gonzaga holds down the top spot.

Game time and television information will be announced later. Tickets go on sale to the public July 16 at 10 a.m. at climatepledgearena.com. Presale tickets for ZAG members begins Friday.

Gonzaga played Battle in Seattle matchups annually from 2003-2015, but called off the 13-year run in part because of the difficulty in consistently scheduling marquee opponents.

Alabama finished 26-7 last season in coach Nate Oats’ second year, capturing the SEC regular-season championship for the first time since 2002 and the conference tournament title for the first time since 1991. Alabama lost to UCLA in overtime in the Sweet 16.

“We are excited to play an incredibly talented team like Alabama in front of our great Seattle fan base,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said in a school release. “Coach Oats is building something special in Tuscaloosa. We are looking forward to the matchup in a brand-new, world-class venue.”

The Crimson Tide lost four starters from last year’s squad, but they’ve added a strong recruiting class and two key transfers. Alabama is No. 9 in 247sports’ team class of 2021 rankings with five-star guard JD Davison, four-star center Charles Bediako and four-star forward Jusaun Howe.

Guard Nimari Burnett, a five-star recruit who averaged 5.3 points last season at Texas Tech, and forward Noah Gurley, who averaged 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds at Furman, should make an immediate impact. Gurley was first-team All-Southern Conference last season.

Athletic director Mike Roth said in late May the Zags hope to make the Battle in Seattle an annual event but added, “it’s going to be an annual evaluation.”

Gonzaga won the past five Battle in Seattle contests to boost its record to 9-4 at the event. The Zags are 16-9 against SEC foes.

Jim Meehan can be reached at (509) 459-5500 or at jimm@spokesman.com