Only a handful teams have had a more successful stretch of basketball prominence than that of Gonzaga in the last decade plus- the Bulldogs have accumulated 290 wins (26.4 per season) and just 74 losses (6.7 per) for an overall winning percent of .797. Even more impressive, Gonzaga, led by coach Mark Few, have won at least a share of the last 11 regular-season conference crowns and eight tournament titles. Their run has included nine West Coast Conference Players of the Year, so what's stopping the Zags from breaking through?
Few has one of the best frontcourts in the entire nation- right up there in the conversation with North Carolina's potential All-Americans and Baylor's potential first-round draft picks. Robert Sacre is the man in the middle; the 7-footer is the team's returning top scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. His .488 field-goal mark is surprising given his size and strength, but too often the Canadian settles for jump shots or lofty fade aways from the rim. If he could collect himself and go up strong, no one in the WCC could stop him, in fact, few teams are equip to handle him. He had 17 points against Baylor, a double-double against San Diego State (13 points, 11 rebounds) and another against Illinois (15 points, 10 rebounds)- all three were widely considered some of the best frontcourts last season.
Playing by his side is Elias Harris, a German-native, versatile, skilled and athletic enough to play both the 3 and 4 depending on the lineup Few puts forth. Instead of the breakout campaign many expected, his numbers dipped across the board last year and Gonzaga was thus less of a force. But if Harris can figure out a way to score from both inside and out, not only will his NBA stock rise, but Gonzaga will be a terrorizing matchup.
Figuring into the rotation, Few welcomes back Sam Dower, Kelly Olynyk and first-year Ryan Spangler.
It's the guards that must exceed expectations for Gonzaga to make a March run. They Zags lost top scorer (13.9 points), top play-maker (4 assists) and the team's top perimeter threat (71 of the team's 203 3-point makes) to graduation, but starting point guard Demetri Goodson, a defensive stopped, has left the program to try his luck at football instead. That leaves just Marquise Carter, a 6'4" senior shooting guard primed for a breakout both production-wise and leadership-wise. At the other guard spots, it's likely David Stockton, yes, the son of NBA legend John, will begin the season as the starter at point guard, holding off four-star recruit Kevin Pangos. Shooting guard Gary Bell, also a four-star freshman, will challenge Mangisto Arop and Mathis Monninghoff for the final starting spot on the wing.