In 2020, Gonzaga had an undefeated regular season and an elite year. While they were elite, they failed to have a fully undefeated season when they lost the national championship against Baylor. While they hope to bounce back and win it all this year, it will be hard, according to the best sportsbooks.
Gonzaga will be without many key players from last year’s team. Their returning players will be experienced, but it’s still hard to make it back to the Final Four after a heartbreaking exit in the previous year.
If the Bulldogs want to win it all, they will rely on a stellar recruiting class. They usually focus on developing talent over collegiate careers, but Jalen Suggs proved to them that they can dominate with high-level recruits during their limited time in college.
Gonzaga has two five-star recruits, but a key third player is Nolan Hickman. The point guard must play well this year if Gonzaga wants to win a championship. The Bulldogs are easy favorites to win it all at +600, and Hickman is part of the reason why. What can fans expect this year?
The Good News
If you’re rooting for Nolan Hickman this season, there is data point on top betting sites that should make you excited. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have a hole at guard, and he fits it well.
Gonzaga knew that Jalen Suggs would be gone after one season, and Joel Ayayi will leave as well. This means that the Bulldogs will be without key facilitators and scorers in the backcourt. Hickman will have to compete, but he should get minutes due to the need for someone to take over offensively.
Hickman has room to grow, but he’s already a solid defender and a balanced point guard. Regardless of how Mark Few wants to run Gonzaga’s 2021 offense, Hickman will be ready for your betting odds.
Pairing this with the fact that Hickman won’t be the primary option is probably good news for the Bulldogs. They return multiple forwards and have one of the top prospects in recent memory coming in. They also have Hunter Sallis, a combo guard with more upside as a scorer. This may cut into Hickman’s minutes, but he can thrive while defenses focus on other options. There will never be a time where all the pressure is on his shoulders, and that is good news for Hickman.
The Bad News
While Hickman has plenty of upside as an athlete, he isn’t a lock to start. There is a need for him, but Gonzaga relies on depth already. Players like Andrew Nembhard have proven that they are ready to contribute on a title contender, so Hickman will have his work cut out for him.
This is good news for Gonzaga basketball, but it doesn’t help out Nolan Hickman. He can see minutes, but he’s not going to compete for many awards due to the depth. Even with players like Suggs out of the way, he won’t earn the starting job by simply walking in.
At best, Hickman is the third-best player in Gonzaga’s recruiting class. Again, this is good for Gonzaga as a whole, but it’s bad for Hickman. He won’t have pressure, but he will also be in the shadow of two five-star talents. His skills complement them well, but he won’t be the top dog for Gonzaga as a freshman.
Hickman is slightly undersized, so he also needs to root for a growth spurt this offseason before college ball begins.
So, What Does Hickman Bring to the Table?
If you’re projecting over the course of a collegiate career, Nolan Hickman can be a great player for Mark Few and the Bulldogs. He will develop well, and he brings plenty on both sides of the ball. You can expect a lot from him if he sticks around for at least three years.
However, that expectation will be proven over time. As a true freshman, expect him to be a role player. He will get minutes, but I see Nembhard and Sallis taking the starting roles this season. Over the course of his freshman year, he will earn trust from the coaching staff.
Expect great things for your college basketball odds from Nolan Hickman if you’re a Bulldogs fan, but also expect to wait for him to fully develop as a college player.