Season Primer: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Nestled somewhere between number 15-20 in the NCAA preseason rankings for the 2011-2012 hoops season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs look to make up for what was, by recent standards, a disappointing showing during last year’s NCAA Final Four.
Dropping a twenty point L to Jimmer and the BYU Cougars in the third round, the Bulldogs look to bring back three of their five starters from last season, as guard Steven Gray and his team high 14ppg, moved on to graduation and Demitri Goodson left the team for gridiron dreams in his homestate of Texas.
With Rob Sacre and Elias Harris taking care of the front court and Marquise Carter returning at the combo guard spot, the door of opportunity is wide open for either a pair of returning role players to step up or one of the five freshmen to exceed expectations.
Chomping at the bit to claim one of the starting forward spots is Canadian junior Kelly Olynyk. After coming off the bench and bidding his time for the past two years, Olynyk is looking to make 2011/12 his coming out party.
A key contributor on Team Canada’s recent (although disappointing) run in the FIBA Americas Tournament, Olynyk will be looked at by Mark Few and the Zags coaching staff as a player who needs to have a career year in order for the team to succeed. Another player looking to take over one of the available starting spots is Guy Landry, a transfer from Midland Junior College in Texas.
Blessed with an incredible vertical, Landry may find himself filling the vacancy. Tabbed as a defensive specialist, Landry’s offensive skills will need some polish to compete in the Div 1 ranks, but after averaging 10ppg at Midland, it is not like he is a slouch when it comes to putting the ball into the basket. Let us not forget Gonzaga’s favorite son, David Stockton.
While he will forever live in the shadow of his pops, David averaged approximately 15 minutes of action a game in his redshirt freshman season, dropping 4 ppg and ranked third overall in team assists.
Taking into consideration the diaper dandies that might have a chance to crack the rotation, Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos will battle for a spot in the crowded backcourt. Bell, a native of Kent, Washington received the honor of being named the state’s Mr. Basketball. Pangos, another of the Canadian gems that the Zags have brought south over the past few years.
Like any elite Caucasian guard from the great white north, Pangos has received comparisons to Steve Nash.
While Pangos has the ability to fill the basket, it is more his ability to run the offence and act as an extension of the coaching staff that attracted the Bulldogs bench bosses. Though not possessing the flair that Bell or Pangos have on the court, an x-factor for the Bulldogs freshmen corps this season will be Ryan Spangler, a 6’8″, 230lb forward in the mold of Kevin Love.
Void of the vertical that Bell will bring, or the handle and range of Pangos, Spangler will more than make up for the lack of highlights by outworking opponents and teammates.
Sitting in their preseason slot, the Zags grade was heavily based on the loss of Grey, the return of Harris and Sacre, the growth of Olynyk and Stockton and the transition of the incoming crew.
A spot among the preseason top 20 is fitting for the reigning West Coast Conference Champions, however the Gonzaga Bulldogs have visions of bigger and better this season, that of an extended run come March Madness.