The Slipper Still Fits.
Gus Johnson's famous line after the Zags' 1999 victory over Florida in the Sweet 16 no longer represents the small Jesuit University in Spokane, Wash.
Although it lost to eventual champion Uconn in its next game, Gonzaga has remained a household name among all college basketball fans. Mark Few's squad has played into March the last 11 years, and in that time it has won nine WCC crowns.
However, critics are projecting a down year for the Bulldogs after losing four of last season's starters, including losing Austin Daye early to the NBA.
Thats just what the Bulldogs thrive on.
The spotlight brought on by stars Dan Dickau, Ronny Turiaf, and Adam Morrison is missing this year, even though Matt Bouldin is a preseason All-American candidate. And even with a star-studded schedule, maybe their best yet, the Zags will often be hidden from the media.
Gonzaga is expected to reach the tournament every year. They are consistently expected to succeed, and eventually, fans are hoping for that elusive Final Four berth.
While this may not be the year for that, Few has definitely built a program that can make alot of noise in March.
The Zags are led by senior guard Matt Bouldin, the most highly-regarded player out of the state of Colorado since Chuancey Billups. His career in Spokane has been an inconsistent one, but during last year's campaign, he showed promise and finally displayed some consistency often taking over games when Jeremy Pargo was out of control or when Daye's shooting would go cold.
Bouldin, recruited as a point guard, will most likely have to move to the three in order to make room for sharpshooter two guard Steven Gray and last year's tourney hero, Demetri Goodson.
Often forgotten, Gray went shot-for-shot with Stephen Curry in his memorable first-round performance during Davidson's, similar to Gonzaga's, magical Elite Eight run. Goodson, the lightning-quick Texan guard, hit a floater in the final seconds to put away Western Kentucky in a second-round scare for the fourth-seeded Zags.
While Gonzaga brings back the ever-so-familiar speed to the Northwest, the largest questions are raised about their frontcourt.
Robert Sacre, a massive seven-footer from Canada has battled through injuries early in his career, but when healthy, he brings a defensive face to a generally high-octane offensive powerhouse. Seven-foot five Will Foster will also be able to defensively strengthen the Zags.
What will make or break this season's Bulldogs is one of Few's quieter recruiting classes. Few decided to leave the country to help build his team, and according to many recruiting sites such as Rivals and ESPN, little is know about a number of the recent recruits.
Few is not known for playing his freshman but this year, in order to be a contender, his philosophy may have to change. Candaian Mangisto Arop and Minnesotan Sam Dower are physically ready, and lucky enough for the coaching staff, both are forwards and can easily be inserted into the holes left by Micah Downs and Daye.
GJ Villarino, a former Gillespie recruit at the University of Kentucky, backed out with the coaching change and now finds himself heading to the Northwest to try and join the long list of successful Gonzaga guards.
Elias Harris and Bol Kong, two of the four international recruits, have very little known about them. But according to scouts, they "are NBA built and have NBA mindsets." If that is the case, Few should definitely welcome them in with open arms.
That leaves Kelly Olynyk, who will most likely redshirt to make room for all of the incoming players.
Although this team may be flying under the radar, its schedule will present them with a number of television opportunities. The Bulldogs start right off the bat with a trip to Maui with Arizona, Maryland, and Colorado and follow that up with trips to Michigan State, Illinois, New York to play Duke, Oklahoma. They will then welcome both Wake Forest and Memphis to Spokane.
While fans may not enjoy seeing the Zags ranked low as the preseason previews begin to come out, the Bulldogs perform best when they are not being talked about. The season may begin that way, but as the campaign gets under way, expect Gonzaga to re-enter Sportscenter highlights, and once again become a dangerous threat deep into March.
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