2007-2008 Gonzaga Bulldogs Basketball Preview
Gonzaga Bulldogs - WCC
2006-07: 23-11, 11-3, 1st
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
The lack of depth at Gonzaga last season became very clear by March. The absence of forward Josh Heytvelt surely did not make things any better. But still the Bulldogs coasted relatively easily through the West Coast Conference and made their way into the NCAA Tournament. For now Heytvelt, who was arrested in February for drug possession, is back on the team, although if something goes wrong his status could change very quickly. Gonzaga will need their 6-11 junior to be on the floor if they hope to make a better run in the tournament this year. Heytvelt led the team with 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game and added 15.5 points. When he wants to, Heytvelt can dominate. The hardworking Abdullahi Kuso will likely start next to Heytvelt and do the dirty work, but a majority of the scoring will go through Heytvelt.
Kuso will need to step up in the absence of Sean Mallon. Mallon was never a flashy big man, but averaged 8.0 points and 4.2 rebounds during his senior season and spent his career complimenting the more talented big men that have come through Spokane. Mallon’s loss is important due to the lack of experienced options to replace him, but that is not the case with Derek Raivio. The perimeter group has a ton of talent and even without the sharpshooting Raivio’s 18.0 points per game, the backcourt is not expected to take a step back. David Burgess and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes are transferring. Altidor-Cespedes was once an impact player for the Bulldogs, but the talent in the perimeter was cutting into his minutes quite a bit.
The need is in the frontcourt and Ira Brown, Robert Sacre and Theo Davis will fit in nicely. Brown is probably the least hyped of the newcomers, but the junior college transfer is ready to eat some minutes right away. The former minor league pitcher is very strong and, despite being just 6-4, can help out on the glass. Sacre, a seven-footer, is already strong enough to battle in the paint against just about anybody and has a surprising amount of athleticism. He may spend most of this season on the bench while he adjusts to life in the WCC, but he has the skills to help out off the bench if the team needs him. Davis redshirted last year with a shoulder injury, but the freshman has bigger concerns than that. Davis was involved in the drug possession escapade and his status is the same as Heytvelt’s. On the wings is where Gonzaga has the greatest influx of talent with incoming freshmen Austin Daye and Steven Gray and the return of Larry Gurganious. Daye just keeps on growing. Now listed at 6-10, Daye is really a small forward with a great looking stroke that can take him well beyond the three-point arc. Of course with his size Daye could spend some time at the four spot, but he needs to fill out his frame before he can effectively defend the paint. Gurganious saw limited minutes as a freshman two years ago, averaging 1.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He redshirted last season due to cracked vertebrae, but is a great athlete who has plenty of potential to surprise.
Who to Watch:
Without Raivio on the floor, the rest of the perimeter group will see more minutes and make a bigger impact. Jeremy Pargo will take over the full time point guard duties after bursting onto the scene as a sophomore, averaging 12.1 points, 4.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds. Having Matt Bouldin, David Pendergraft and Micah Downs by his side will certainly make things easier for Pargo. Once he found his shot, Bouldin developed into a reliable scorer and he should take over a lot of the shots left behind by Raivio, especially from long range. Pendergraft, a 6-6 senior, came on strong late last season and Zag fans hope their prototypical glue-guy can build off that and develop into a consistent player. One thing he never lacks is hustle and that is never a bad thing even if the shot is not falling. Downs was sidelined much of last year after transferring in from Kansas and battling some injuries, but when he was eligible and healthy he proved he could be a dynamic player. He ended up averaging 8.1 points per game on the season, but as he showed at the end of last season, Downs is capable of much, much more than that.
Final Gonzaga Projection:
It was not long ago when Gonzaga was a perimeter dominated team. Heytvelt is still the best athlete and overall player on the team, but otherwise the scoring will once again come from the insanely talented backcourt. If Kuso or the newcomers can compliment Heytvelt and Heytvelt can stay out of trouble, this will be a top ten team by the end of the year.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jeremy Pargo, Junior, Guard, 12.1 points per game
David Pendergraft, Senior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Matt Bouldin, Sophomore, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Abdullahi Kuso, Senior, Forward, 4.9 points per game
Josh Heytvelt, Junior, Forward, 15.5 points per game
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