2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: Gonzaga

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Year: 25-10, 11-5 in WCC)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Robert Sacre (Sr)/Sam Dower (So)

F: Elias Harris (Jr)/Kelly Olynyk (Jr)/Ryan Spangler (Fr)

G/F: Mathis Monninghoff (So)/Guy Landry Edi (Jr)

SG: Gary Bell Jr. (Fr)/Mathis Keita (So)/Kyle Dranginis (Fr)

PG: Marquise Carter (Sr)/Kevin Pangos (Fr)/David Stockton (So)/Chris Sarbaugh (Fr)

Gone: SG-Steven Gray, PG-Demetri Goodson (left to team to play football), SG-Keegan Hyland (transfer-Vermont), G/F-Manny Arop (transfer-Indiana State)

2011-12 Outlook:
11 straight conference championships. 14 20-plus win seasons in a row. 13 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. It will be business as usual for the Gonzaga Bulldogs as they should remain the kings of the West Coast Conference even with the arrival of BYU. Unlike recent years though, the Bulldogs will rely on their veteran frontcourt as they go through some transition at guard.

That frontcourt will be anchored by Robert Sacre and Elias Harris. Sacre is a legit seven-footer who has a solid combination of strength and athleticism. He showed flashes last season but has to become a real dominating force inside for Gonzaga. After a terrific freshman season, Harris was hampered by injury last season and it definitely affected his level of play. He is an inside/outside threat and now that he is healthy, should be ready for a breakout junior year.

The Zags have solid depth behind Sacre and Harris. Kelly Olynyk is a finesse seven-footer who has a nice touch around the rim but also range out to the three-point line. Sam Dower is a physical force in the paint and actually finished fourth on the team in scoring despite playing less than 15 minutes per night. Freshman Ryan Spangler will likely be the odd man out of the rotation.

The backcourt is where the concern lies for the Bulldogs since they lose starters Matt Bouldin and Demetri Goodson, and key reserve Manny Arop. A lot of the pressure will land on the shoulders of Marquiese Carter, who really came on strong last season after seeing scattered playing time for the first half of the year. Carter is capable of playing either guard spot and it will be interesting to see who joins him in the starting lineup.

Mathis Monninghoff was a three-point specialist off the bench a year ago, connecting on 45.8% of his triple tries but figures to see a bigger role this year. Freshmen Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos should both compete for starting spots and regardless, both will see quality minutes right away. Bell Jr. is an undersized off guard but can really shoot the basketball. Pangos is a true point guard but can also score when needed.

JUCO transfer Guy Landry Eli and seldom-used Mathis Keita will hope to provide depth on the wing. Walk-on David Stockton found a role off the bench last season as Mark Few looked for a consistent answer at the point guard, but might be hard pressed to see as many minutes with Pangos and fellow freshman Chris Sarbaugh in the fold. Kyle Dranginis is another newcomer who adds even more depth at the guard spot.

There are plenty of options for Few at guard, but it is just a matter of finding out who will emerge in what role which might take some time. Few could also elect to go with a bigger lineup, playing Harris and Olynyk at the three and four so opponents should expect to see an early dose of feeding the post when they meet up with Gonzaga.

Player to Watch: Elias Harris, F
The German-born forward caught the eyes of NBA scouts after his great freshman campaign. An Achilles’ injury bothered him at times throughout the year and he simply did not look like the Harris we saw during as a freshman. He struggled with his outside shot as his percentage dipped nearly 10%. Now that Harris is recovered from injury, he should return his old self and likely emerge as Gonzaga’s go-to player.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/14 vs. Washington State
  • 11/30 vs. Notre Dame
  • 12/3 at Illinois
  • 12/10 vs. Michigan State
  • 12/17 vs. Arizona (in Seattle)
  • 12/20 vs. Butler
  • 12/31 at Xavier

    Predicted WCC Finish: 1st

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