Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Board: Gonzaga

Two years ago, Gonzaga went into the NCAA Tournament as a 1-seed, only to be upset by Wichita State in a 3rd round game. It continued a March trend for the Bulldogs who haven't made it to the second weekend since 2009. Since their 3 year run from 1999-2001, Gonzaga has made only two Sweet 16's. This isn't a dismissal of an incredible run by Mark Few and his team. But it begs the question, is Gonzaga capable of more?

As good as the Bulldogs roster was two years ago, this team might be even better. The West Coast Conference should be better this year with St. Mary's improved. BYU still looks to be Gonzaga's biggest threat to a conference title. Prior to conference play, the Bulldogs will play a solid non-conference schedule.

The 'Zags challenge themselves right off the bat with November home games against St. Joe's & SMU. They also play in the pre-season NIT which has a guaranteed game against Georgia and then will play either St. John's or Minnesota. After that, Gonzaga will head to Arizona in a game against possible top 10 teams on December 6th. A week later, they travel to UCLA to take on the Bruins.

Mark few returns arguably the nations best back court. Seniors Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. return after injury plagued seasons. Gonzaga also brings in USC transfer, Byron Wesley. Wesley scored 17.8ppg at USC last year. The 'Zags will also have the services of highly ranked recruit, Josh Perkins. Perkins plays the point.

As good as the back court is, the front court isn't too shabby, either. Big man Przemek Karnowski returns and will man the pivot. Karnowski really came into his own at the end of last season. Wouldn't be surprised if he has a huge season. Gonzaga also adds Kentucky transfer, Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer at this point is more of an outside threat as an ofefnsive player. Gonzaga also adds Domantas Sabonis, the son of Arvydas Sabonis. Big things are expected of this kid.

The NCAA Tournament is tough. Bad matchups, bad luck, etc. often determine your fate. Once destiny's darlings, Gonzaga has risen above just another "mid-major" but recent history has been tougher. The pieces are in place for a special season in Spokane. I'm on board with Gonzaga heading into the season and will not be shocked if they break all the way through to the Final 4. They have the talent and they have the depth.