With Austin Daye officially announcing what many have suspected for weeks, his decision to stay in the NBA Draft, it is as good a time as any to examine what his departure will mean for the '09-'10 Zags squad.
Daye's departure means that there will be even more pressure on Matt Bouldin to play well next year. With Daye gone, Bouldin will not only have to run the offense, but also be the star.
Had Austin returned, Bouldin could have run the plays while having a reliable scorer on the wing, but now that Daye has moved on, Bouldin will have to take some games over by himself.
The Zags also find themselves lacking in height now. With the top three returning players (Bouldin, Steven Gray, and Demetri Goodson) all guards, and center Robert Sacre more of a true center, the Zags are suddenly without the type of athletic wingman that has been a staple of the program for years.
Speaking of Sacre, he now had to fill the shoes of both the departing Daye and the graduating Josh Heytvelt. Coming off of a foot injury that cost him the '08-'09 season, the redshirt sophomore will have to come into his own quickly in order to make up for the productivity that the Zags are losing in those two players.
Steven Gray will need to find the deadly outside shooting that made him look like a future star his first year in Spokane. After falling off somewhat during his sophomore season, the Zags will be looking to Gray to stretch out the court now that the athletic Daye will not be around to.
Demetri Goodson should help Gray in stretching the floor. With Daye gone, Goodson is the most explosive player on the court and will likely draw a lot more attention from opposing defenses than he saw last year.
Incoming freshmen Sam Dower from Osseo, MN will likely be a beneficiary of Daye's departure. His 6'9" frame, and athletic play makes him the most likely candidate to pick up some of the slack from Daye.
A high number of minutes will be both a blessing and a burden for the young Dower who will likely go through a trial by fire this upcoming season.
The bottom line is that Austin Daye's decision to leave, while expected, leaves the Zags with a lot more question marks going into next year than they would have had if he returned.
The Zags still have one of the more talented teams in the country next year, and will be heavily favored to win another West Coast Conference title (especially since Saint Mary's guard Patty Mills has decided to stay in the draft), still Mark Few will have his work cut out for him next year.