Gonzaga basketball faces a bevy of challenges following the vast amount of success it enjoyed a season ago.
With roster turnover and high expectations, head coach Mark Few has his work cut out for him if he is going to repeat the success the Bulldogs have become accustomed to.
In order to succeed, Few must adapt to the new roster he has this season and find a way to win difficult games throughout the season with its new circumstances.
Gonzaga’s greatest strength last season was the depth in its frontcourt.
Behind All-American center Kelly Olynyk and All-WCC power forward Elias Harris on the bench last season were Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski.
Both Dower and Karnowski showed signs of brilliance last season, and while both should prove to be suitable replacements in the starting lineup, it is the lack of depth behind them that is cause for worry.
The only true frontcourt player on the bench is freshman Ryan Edwards. While there are high hopes for what Edwards could develop into, few, if any, believe he will light it up for the Zags this season.
With this lack of depth, Mark Few will have to be careful in managing the minutes and foul trouble of each Gonzaga big man.
While Gonzaga may have a lack of depth in the frontcourt, it has a bevy of talent in the backcourt.
Gonzaga returns junior starters Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., as well as senior David Stockton and redshirt sophomore Kyle Dranginis.
In addition to these talented players, Gonzaga adds transfers Gerard Coleman, who is eligible immediately, and Angel Nunez, who is eligible after the first semester.
With a projected starting lineup that will likely include Pangos, Bell Jr., and Coleman, Gonzaga will boast a backcourt that averaged a combined 34.1 PPG in their last respective seasons.
Mark Few will have to develop a backcourt rotation that best suits the talented guards he has at his disposal, and with early season challenges such as Dayton and possibly Baylor and Syracuse, Few should expect some trial by fire.
Having reached the upper echelon of the basketball world a season ago, it is tough to think that this season could be anything but a letdown.
After reaching the top of the rankings and receiving a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, Mark Few faces the challenge of repeating that success with a much different roster.
Gonzaga has already seen the benefits of its recent success in terms of recruiting during this last offseason.
The Bulldogs were able to secure the transfer of Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer as well as the commitment of a top point guard recruit in Josh Perkins.
If Gonzaga is going to continue to make its case as a national power, Few will have to find a way to continue the success of a season ago by winning big games and dominating the WCC.
Gonzaga’s offense last season was predicated on the talent it had in the frontcourt.
However, with the loss of its two top scorers in Olynyk and Harris, Gonzaga must adapt to a new offense that better suits the more guard-laden lineup of this season.
With a deep backcourt headed by Pangos and Bell Jr., Gonzaga could play a faster game that features a four-guard set. With four guards on the court at one time, the Bulldogs could get up and down the floor quicker and could turn full-court pressure into easy baskets on the other end.
This season will also likely see a greater reliance on perimeter shooting. With a number of talented shooters on the perimeter, Gonzaga will be able to stretch the floor and open lanes for drive and kick opportunities.
With the different personnel at his disposal, Mark Few's offense this year will look a lot different than a year ago.
Gonzaga’s greatest criticism has been its inability to win in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite posting some great records and receiving good seeding, including a No. 1 seed last season, the Zags have not reached the Sweet Sixteen since 2009.
Mark Few’s challenge this season is to do more with less and find a way to succeed during March Madness.
Regular season success has come often for the Zags, but it is now time for Gonzaga to push to play in the second and third weekends in March against the best the nation has to offer.
Only when it can point to recent success in March will Gonzaga be able to claim it is among the nation's elite programs.