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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

October 18th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball

 

Gonzaga Bulldogs

 

Overall Rank: #25

Conference Rank: #1 WCC

 

2005-06: 29-4, 14-0, 1st

2005-06 postseason: NCAA

 

Sure the top two scorers from last year’s Gonzaga team are gone, but the next six are back.  If Adam Morrison wouldn’t have left after his junior campaign for the NBA, this group would be looking at top five expectations right about now.  Without Morrison the Bulldogs take a slight hit in preseason predictions, but it’s not going to be as bad as some may think. 

 

Who’s Out: It may not appear as big of a loss as Morrison’s 28.1 points per game, but the absence of J.P. Batista may hurt just as much.  The big Brazilian averaged 19.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and that’s a tough duo to replace.  Erroll Knight was a quality option off the bench and the guard averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds on the season.  Fellow guards Colin Floyd, Nathan Doudney and Stephen Gentry have run out of eligibility and won’t be playing for the Zags for the 2006-2007 campaign.

 

Who’s In: The frontcourt needs some depth and the Bulldogs won’t waste any time developing freshmen to help out in the paint.  David Burgess, a transfer from BYU, battled injuries throughout his time with the Cougars.  The 6-10 center won’t wow anybody with his athleticism, but has the skills to be very effective on both ends of the floor once he is eligible at the semester break.  Theo Davis may be listed as a freshman, but after a long journey through the not so fun side of going to college, the 6-9 forward finally landed at Gonzaga.  Davis has the athleticism to contribute immediately, but could add a little more strength before enduring an entire season of division one hoops.  Abdullahi Kuso averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 boards as a sophomore at Tallahassee Community College in Florida.  The 6-9 Nigerian will use his experience to battle for minutes, but is still a raw talent that needs to work on his offensive game.  Kuso’s rebounding skills are probably the best on the team and that will help replace one part of Batista’s game.  Will Foster is the lone incoming freshman big man and the 7-3 center will have to wait his turn before becoming a force for GU.  Micah Downs and Matt Bouldin solidify an already deep backcourt.  Downs, who will be eligible at the semester break, averaged 4.3 points in 15 games for Kansas last year.  Despite the limited playing time for the Jayhawks, the McDonald’s All-American is expected to make a big contribution for the Bulldogs.  It may take a few weeks for the Kirkland, Washington native to get adjusted to the game once he becomes eligible on December 16th, but by March he’ll work his way into the regular rotation.  Bouldin, an incoming freshman combo guard, is a great outside shooter and a solid distributor and is too good to leave on the bench for long.

 

Who to Watch: Derek Raivio will be looked to for the team leadership role this year.  The 6-3 senior guard averaged 11.1 points and 2.8 assists last year, but spent most of the season struggling to find his shot.  He’ll have to regain his touch in order to lead the Zags past the first weekend of tournament play.  Jeremy Pargo may be too talented to leave on the bench, and that raises all sorts of questions.  Now as a sophomore, Pargo has the experience to run the point and he could do it effectively.  That would allow Raivio to concentrate on his scoring from the two guard spot and help replace all the scoring that Gonzaga lost over the summer, however that experiment didn’t help Raivio much last year.  Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes started 31 games last year and averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 assists.  With the development of players like Larry Gurganios and David Pendergraft, Altidor-Cespedes may find more time on the bench this year.  Pendergraft played as an undersized four part of last year, but should be able to move over to the three this year, barring any unexpected injuries to the frontcourt.

 

Final Projection: The new star in the paint is the quiet and steady Sean Mallon.  Always overshadowed by his former mustached teammate, Mallon averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds a season ago and the 6-9 senior’s numbers should go up in both of those categories.  Josh Heytvelt battled injuries last season and saw limited minutes because of it.  The potential is huge for the 6-11 forward to be a major contributor for the Bulldogs.  The starting job will be tough to come by with Burgess, Kuso and Davis heading to Spokane, but we’ll give it to him until the new the guys gain a little more experience in Coach Mark Few’s system.  Replacing the scoring of Morrison and Batista is the main concern.  Yet, there are plenty of choices.  Coach Few will have a tough job dividing the minutes and hoping all the players can accept their role on the team.  If that happens, the Sweet Sixteen might not be too far off.

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA

 

Projected Starting Five:

Derek Raivio, Senior, Guard, 11.1 points per game

Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes, Junior, Guard, 4.2 points per game

David Pendergraft, Junior, Guard, 3.3 points per game

Sean Mallon, Senior, Forward, 6.8 points per game

Josh Heytvelt, Sophomore, Forward, 3.4 points per game

26 Creighton » Complete List » 24 Villanova

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