After another disappointing loss in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament, Gonzaga coach Mark Few believes the Zags have their best team ever.
Although the Bulldogs lose their senior leader in David Pendergraft, they return numerous potential weapons that can make them a dangerous team come March. Point guard Jeremy Pargo leads the Zags who return two other seniors along with a core of young talent.
After testing the draft waters, Jeremy Pargo chose to ride out one more year as a college student. Not only will the Bulldogs feel the effects in their game play, Pargo has the opportunity to showcase his talent and boost his draft stock in 2009.
Two other seniors, former Jayhawk Micah Downs and center Josh Heytvelt will have to play major roles if Gonzaga hopes to make into April. While Micah Downs quietly does his work, Josh Heytvelt needs to return to his pre-arrest form. If he can do that, he will be able to join Pargo in the upcoming draft.
Gonzaga also has some younger talent. Matt Bouldin and Austin Daye are two other potential draft picks who will take on increased roles, especially in Mark Few's fast paced offense. Austin Daye, who was a top 20 recruit in 2007, is one of Few's favorite players, who if he lives up to his hype, has the opportunity to be Spokane's next Adam Morrison.
Similar to many other seasons, Gonzaga brings in another strong recruiting class. With the talent Gonzaga has, the freshmen may not jump into have starting roles, but for Gonzaga to win, they will need to perform, especially towards the end of the season.
Every year, college basketball fans look forward to seeing who Gonzaga is lined up to play. Due to its typically weak conference (although not this year), Mark Few tries to attract many of the nations premier programs in order to gain national attention. This year, Gonzaga may have its most difficult schedule yet as they face twelve returning March Madness teams.
Gonzaga plays Memphis, Connecticut, Tennessee, Arizona, and conference members St. Marys and San Diego. The Bulldogs are also part of one of the strongest Thanksgiving tournaments in recent memory, The Old Spice Classic which include Georgetown, The Vols, Michigan State and recent upstart Siena.
Unlike many other years in the past, the WCC boasts three teams participating in March Madness. Gonzaga, who has normally been the class of the conference, is now not alone in the Top 25. According to ESPN's preseason Top 25, both the Zags and St. Mary's are two of the nations top programs while San Diego is not far behind.
Gonzaga has the potential to be a final four team; however, they have to overcome the hump that the first round has thrust at the them in recent years. If the Zags are able to hit stride in March, no team in the country is going to want to play them and Mark Few will finally have the opportunity to bring a National Championship to Spokane.