Coach: Mark Few (264-66 at Gonzaga, 264-66 overall)
This will not be the first time Gonzaga needs to reload, but with four starters gone, it will not be easy for Coach Mark Fox to keep this group on the national radar. Austin Daye, Micah Downs, Josh Heytvelt and Jeremy Pargo led the Bulldogs to the Sweet Sixteen and a perfect West Coast Conference record. It could happen again, but Gonzaga will need to find a few new superstars.
Key Losses for Gonzaga: F Ira Brown, F Austin Daye, G Micah Downs, F Josh Heytvelt, G Jeremy Pargo
Do-it-all guard Matt Bouldin is the lone returning starter. After averaging 13.6 points, 3.4 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals a year ago, Bouldin has to be the go-to-guy for this team. Not only will Bouldin be asked to put up big numbers in just about every statistical category, but as a senior he will also need to be a leader on the floor. Getting a little more consistency out of Steven Gray would help take the pressure off Bouldin. Gray averaged 9.1 points per game last year, but he still is pretty much an outside shooter and once he gets aggressive going to the basket his scoring output will soar.
The frontcourt lacked depth last year once Robert Sacre went down with an injury and now things look a whole lot worse without Heytvelt and Daye. Sacre is the still the most experienced option after starting ten games as a freshman. During the 2008-2009 campaign, the 7-0 center only played in five games before suffering a foot injury. Other than Sacre, Will Foster is the only other returning big man and the senior has been around for a while, but he has never played very many minutes. Last season he just averaged 6.8 minutes per game in 24 contests. If Sacre gets hurt again, the Zags frontcourt will be in big trouble.
Who’s In for Gonzaga:
This may not be the best recruiting class to step foot in Spokane, but it is a big group. Coach Few has three redshirt freshmen, six incoming freshmen and one transfer that will all battle for minutes. Mangisto Arop is arguably the most talented of them all. The 6-5 wing is already becoming stronger than he was while playing high school in Canada and should provide an offensive spark off the bench. Sophomore Bol Kong, a native of Sudan, is also an intriguing prospect on the wing. Point guard G.J. Vilarino was on his way to Kentucky until the coaching change and is expected to be the point guard of the future and a contributor as a freshman. However, unless the Bulldogs play small, Sam Dower may be the most important newcomer this season. The 6-11, 228 pound freshman could step immediately into a starting role and is at least the most likely big man among the newcomers to play significant minutes off the bench.
Demetri Goodson only averaged 13.4 minutes per game last year, but most feel he is ready to take over the point guard duties and lead this team back to the NCAA Tournament. The 5-11 sophomore seemed to improve with every game as a freshman and proved that he could handle the ball and handle the pressure, as was seen in Gonzaga’s second round victory over Western Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
Final 2009-2010 Gonzaga Projection:
A lot of pressure will fall on Goodson, but he is a quality player, albeit young and relatively inexperienced. As long as he takes care of the ball and finds Gray and Bouldin on the wings, Gonzaga will win the West Coast Conference. The frontcourt will work itself out and Coach Few has some options amongst the newcomers. Do not be surprised to see this team run some small ball and put a 6-5 or 6-6 wing at the power forward spot and have Sacre handle a majority of the minutes under the basket.