Gonzaga's Journey from Mid-Major to Contender: A Look at the Season Ahead

Eric SkibaContributor INovember 17, 2008

Seasons ago, fans and analysts alike looked at the Gonzaga Bulldogs like any other mid-major team in the NCAA. They are decent, but only rarely can they knock off a top 25 opponent. In recent years, this idea has been completely forgotten by everyone.

Instead, we can now call Gonzaga a preseason top 25 pick and a major contender for the title this year. With a well-rounded team and one of the smartest coaches in the league (Mark Few), it seems that this season can be one for the ages for the Bulldogs.

Playing in the often weak WCC, Gonzaga always loads their out of conference schedule with tough opponents. This year is no exception, as they will face many. The top three toughest games the Bulldogs will have this year are 1) No. 2 Connecticut, 2) No. 13 Memphis, and 3) No. 14 Tennessee.

These are the obvious choices, but they will face other tough opponents. The Old Spice Classic, starting Nov. 27, could force them to face the likes of Oklahoma State, No. 5 Michigan State, Maryland, Georgetown, or even Tennessee again. Arizona, Washington State, and Indiana can also pose threats to a great season.

This is not to say that the only challenges to confront are those out of conference, however. Although it is easy to assume that Gonzaga will again take the WCC title, watch out for St. Mary's to put up a great season and apply pressure to the dangerous dogs.

Austin Daye, the sophomore forward out of Irvine, California, will be given a much larger role for the Bulldogs this year, and they will need his success to win. A healthy Josh Heytvelt, along with point guard Jeremy Pargo and fellow guard Micah Downs, will have to lead this team if they are going to make any waves in the tournament this year.

The bottom line is that the Gonzaga Bulldogs are here, and here to stay. Many a foe will try to stop them from a dream season, but with enough help from their stars, it should be no problem for them to make a run at the championship.