#12 Gonzaga Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Gonzaga Bulldogs

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #12
Conference Rank: #1 West Coast

Gonzaga Team Page#12 Gonzaga Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Gonzaga Basketball Tickets

Gonzaga finally got over their Sweet Sixteen road block and managed to reach the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history. Now we will start to see if that is the norm or if an Elite Eight appearance was just something that will happen every once in a while. The Bulldogs return a wealth of talent in the frontcourt, but for the first time in a long time the backcourt has questions to answer. Still, this is the clear team to beat in the West Coast Conference and they should be playing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

2014-15 Record: 35-3, 17-1
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mark Few
Coach Record: 438-103 at Gonzaga, 438-103 overall

Who’s Out:
Four years ago Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell both worked their way into the starting lineup as freshmen. They have been leaders ever since. Last season Pangos averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals, while Bell added 8.2 points and 2.0 assists. Pangos’ shooting and passing ability and Bell’s defensive intensity will certainly be missed. Making matters worse, fellow starting guard Byron Wesley is also gone. The USC transfer averaged 10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals during his lone season with the Bulldogs. All three of those guards started all 38 games for Coach Mark Few last season. The only other departure is little used forward Angel Nunez.

Who’s In:
While there are some good players on the way, none of them are eligible this season. Transfers Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams and Jeremy Jones have to sit out this year and top recruit Jesse Wade will be back in a couple of years after his LDS Mission. That leaves Jack Beach and Bryan Alberts as the only eligible newcomers. Alberts, who redshirted last season, has the size and shooting ability to make an impact right away. The 6-5 combo guard could play anywhere on the perimeter.

Who to Watch:
While the backcourt retools, the frontcourt will dominate everybody they play. And that’s not just everybody in the WCC, but everybody in the country. Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis are both bruisers in the paint. Karnowski was the starter last year, but their minutes will be split relatively evenly. At 7-1 and 287 pounds, Karnowski is a monster in the paint. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, while Sabonis added 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. For guys who basically split minutes at the five spot, those are some great numbers. Kyle Wiltjer is the power forward who can step outside and knock down shots. He connected on an amazing 46.6 percent of his attempts from long range. That is pretty impressive for a 6-10 forward. He finished his junior year averaging 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds and he is the early favorite to be the conference’s player of the year. Coach Few may try and get all three of his big men in the game at the same time more often. How well that works will depend on Wiltjer’s ability to defend smaller and quicker small forwards. But the trio certainly has the experience to pull it off against some competition. It will also depend on Ryan Edwards’ ability to play more minutes. The 7-1 center is coming off of a redshirt year after playing in just 17 contests as a freshman back in 2013-2014. In the end, Sabonis is just way too good to play 20 minutes per game, so Coach Few will find a way to get the most out of his best three players.

Final Projection:
The development of the backcourt will be the difference between another Elite Eight run and just another NCAA Tournament appearance with an early exit. Josh Perkins was playing well before a broken jaw ended his season after five games. He will take over the point guard duties while sophomore Silas Melson steps in at shooting guard. Melson averaged fewer than ten minutes per game as a freshman, but he has the potential to be a big time scorer. Kyle Dranginis has spent three years doing the dirty work on the wing. He will do the same this year, but perhaps from a starting role instead off of the bench. Eric McClellan will be in the mix as well. He was a great scorer at Vanderbilt, but did not find much of a role with Gonzaga after becoming eligible mid-season. Add Alberts into the mix and Gonzaga has options on the perimeter. More importantly, they have talent. As long as injuries don’t interfere with the limited depth, this is a team that will push for 35 wins again.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Josh Perkins, Freshman, Guard, 5.0 points per game
Silas Melson, Sophomore, Guard, 3.2 points per game
Kyle Dranginis, Senior, Guard, 4.1 points per game
Kyle Wiltjer, Senior, Forward, 16.8 points per game
Przemek Karnowski, Senior, Center, 10.9 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.7 (9th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.7 (53, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 52.0 (1, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.0 (22, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (103, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.0 (8, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.1 (177, 7)
Rebound Margin: 7.4 (10, 1)
Assists Per Game: 16.3 (8, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.4 (21, 1)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#13 Domantas Sabonis

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#142 Jesse Wade


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