Overall Rank: #13
Conference Rank: #1 WCC
2007-08: 25-8, 13-1, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
When point guard Jeremy Pargo decided to return for his senior season, this turned into possibly the most talented Gonzaga team ever. And that is saying a lot. Pargo makes this team go and the 6-2 senior averaged 12.1 points and 6.0 assists per game last season. His speed and quickness allow the Bulldogs to be extremely dangerous in transition. Pargo is sometimes out of control and makes poor decisions, but now that he is a senior that should be less of a concern. And if it is not a problem this year, Gonzaga could be a Final Four quality team.
David Pendergraft rarely put up great numbers, but he was the glue guy in the frontcourt and would do all the dirty work. He ended the year averaging 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds and it remains to be seen who can replace his hustle and defense. Part-time starter Abdullahi Kuso is also gone. The 6-9 forward was a decent scorer around the basket, but it was his presence on the defensive end that will be missed. Larry Gurganious, a 6-5 forward, has also wrapped up his career at Gonzaga after tallying 3.3 points per game a year ago.
The backcourt has a couple point guards who could work their way into the regular rotation this year. Grant Gibbs is 6-5 and could see some minutes at the two guard spot as well. And the sharpshooting guard might stay on the wing if fellow incoming freshman Demetri Goodson is indeed the next in line of great point guards in Spokane, Washington. Goodson is more of a true point guard, but he will certainly do plenty of scoring as well. Spending a year behind Pargo should help him develop quickly and be ready to take over the starting role next year. As for this year, he has enough talent to spell Pargo and keep him fresh down the stretch. Walk-on Chris Pontarolo-Maag will add some emergency depth to the perimeter after redshirting during the 2007-2008 campaign. The lone big man Coach Mark Few is bringing in this year is Andy Poling. The 6-11, 230 pound forward has the skills to play inside and out and he will have to help replace Pendergraft and Kuso right away.
Who to Watch:
But even without Pendergraft and Kuso, the Bulldogs frontcourt is still among the best in the nation, especially if you count wing Matt Bouldin. The 6-5 junior led the team with 12.6 points per game and added 3.7 rebounds. The power forward spot will be taken over by Austin Daye. He had a superb freshman season coming off the bench averaging 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, and that was in just 18.5 minutes per contest. If he can stay out of foul trouble, the 6-10 forward will have a huge sophomore campaign. Josh Heytvelt did not have a great year in 2007-2008, but he was still a double-digit scorer and the team’s leading rebounder. He is expected to step back into a starting role for his senior season and it could be a great year for him if he can stay healthy and out of trouble. Finding some depth is the only concern, but even that is not as bad as it sounds. Robert Sacre, a 7-0 center, managed to start ten games last year and Ira Brown is an experienced senior who can play the small forward spot and at least grab some rebounds.
With Pargo, the newcomers, Steven Gray and Micah Downs, the depth in the backcourt is not an issue at all. Steven Gray should be starting next to Pargo. As a freshman Gray hit 46.2 percent of his attempts from long range and managed to earn 19 starts. Gray is more than just a shooter; he is a decent athlete who can score around the basket. Downs can do a little bit of everything and he could play an important role on this team if Daye is slowed by an off-season knee injury. Downs is really a wing, but at 6-8 he has played the four spot before. Both Daye and Downs are not your typical power forward and toughness and rebounding could be the main thing stopping this Gonzaga team from making a deep run in March.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jeremy Pargo, Senior, Guard, 12.1 points per game
Steven Gray, Sophomore, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Matt Bouldin, Junior, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Austin Daye, Sophomore, Forward, 10.5 points per game
Josh Heytvelt, Senior, Forward, 10.3 points per game