A magical 2012-13 season came to a premature end for the Gonzaga Bulldogs who entered the NCAA Men's Tournament last March as the top-ranked team in the country. That disappointment was then followed by losing their top two scorers and rebounders, one of them leaving early just like Gonzaga's exit from the Big Dance.
One might think that signaled a down year for Mark Few and the Zags, but that's not the case. Gonzaga will crank things up once again with its season opener Saturday.
No college basketball betting odds have been released for this game yet.
Frontcourt A Work In Progress For Gonzaga
There's no doubt that 76-70 loss to Wichita State in the Round of 32 last March still stings a bit for Few and his team, but we soon found out it wasn't that big of an upset even though Gonzaga was laying 6. The Shockers went on to the Final Four, where they lost a close decision to eventual champ Louisville, and while some may say the Zags should have never been a 1-seed, it is equally obvious Wichita State had no business being a No. 9.
That defeat, along with the subtraction of forwards Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk, might actually have the Bulldogs undervalued at this time. Gonzaga is going off at 50/1 on the college basketball futures presently, but should still be very much in the hunt for another West Coast Conference title after going a perfect 16-0 in the regular season last season before winning the league tourney with two more triumphs.
There's no question that Few has a strong and experienced backcourt, led by Kevin Pangos. The 6-2 junior from Ontario is the top scorer coming back after netting nearly 12 per game and finishing just behind fellow junior David Stockton in assists. Those two are joined by two more juniors, Gary Bell Jr. and Gerard Coleman, with Coleman about to play his first game in Spokane after sitting out last season following his transfer from Providence.
It's the frontcourt where potential problems loom, at least early on as bench players from a year ago along with several new faces adjust to increased roles. The two who need to come out of the gate strong are Przemek Karnowski and Sam Dower who backed up Olynyk and Harris a year ago. True freshmen Ryan Edwards and Luke Meikle will play relief roles in the post, and may need to grow up quickly.
Gonzaga will have Angel Nuñez available around Christmas to add to the frontcourt rotation. The 6-8 transfer from Louisville has to sit out the first semester, and will add depth once he's eligible. Kyle Wiltjer is ineligible for the entire season after transferring in from Kentucky.
Bryant Looks To Build Off 19-Win Campaign
Tim O'Shea brings his Bulldogs to Spokane off a surprisingly good showing in 2012-13 after they were expected to finish near the bottom of the Northeast Conference. The Bulldogs posted road upsets at Boston College and Lehigh en route to a 19-12 record, good enough to get an invite to the CBI where they fell to Richmond in the opening round.
Bryant returns its top two scorers from that team, Dyami Starks (17.7 ppg) and Alex Francis (17.4 ppg), plus Corey Maynard (9.3 ppg), to give O'Shea three upperclassmen to have on the floor. Francis and Maynard were also the top two rebounders from a year ago, but the biggest hole left was at the point after Frankie Dobbs (13.4 ppg, 5.3 apg) moved on. The job of replacing him will fall to Joe O'Shea, the head coach's nephew, and Shane McLaughlin.
Yes, this is a mismatch, and that could lead to this contest remaining off the NCAAB odds board. But it will be worth keeping track of the game and its outcome since we know matchups involving Gonzaga will be on our betting cards later this season. The backcourt depth and talent for the Zags should lead to big trouble for Bryant and lead to an easy home win for our basketball picks in this double-Bulldog clash.
My pick: No Line, Gonzaga by 30+