Pre-season rankings are a tradition at the start of every college basketball season. Over the next couple of months, we will see 50 different publications rank the Zags throughout the top 25. The Hoops Report is currently breaking down its top 25, and they have GU ranked 18th. This is a very good breakdown of the team, and here is TKR's take on some of the key points.
"Pargo returns for his final season after averaging 12.1 points and 6.0 assists per game last year. Pargo is a perfect fit for Coach Mark Few's high-octane offensive system. He loves to push the ball and loves to hit Bouldin and Downs for corner jump shots on the break. Pargo has quick hands that lead to many steals and he's also improved his sideline-to-sideline defense."
It is key that Pargo and Few return to the high-octane offensive system that the writer mentions. In reality, the past couple of years have seen the Zags become much more of a half-court oriented offense. For this team to be successful and utilize the depth that it has, it must push the ball and make their opponent play out of its comfort level. Both Pargo and Meech are able to make terrific decisions with the ball when playing at high speeds, and can dictate the pace against any opponent. This would also allow for Micah, Steven, and Bouldin to get open shots in transition, as well as attack the rim on the fast break. This team has the depth and athleticism to be one of the finer offensive teams that Coach Few has had.
"Shooting guard Steven Gray should rise to stardom in his sophomore season. Gray averaged 8.1 points per game last year and shot 46 percent from 3-point land. Gray often deferred to the upperclassmen last year but don't be surprised if he becomes one of the team's top three scorers this year. Gray, much like Pargo, is an improving defensive player."
This season should really see Gray emerge as a superstar. The question is, has Gray developed a mid-range game to go with his deadly long-range shooting? If Gray can keep defenders honest by attacking the rim, his offensive game should thrive this season. Gray should be the top returning defender this season, and should make life miserable for the opposing teams top guard.
"The team's returning leading scorer is junior Matt Bouldin, a 6-foot-5 sniper with a gunner's mentality. Bouldin could play major minutes at small forward this year with Gray settling in at shooting guard. He could improve on his perimeter defense a little but his offense makes up for his on-and-off-again defensive struggles."
I disagree with the writer on this point. I would not refer to Bouldin as a sniper in anyway. In fact, Bouldin needs to stop settling for his perimeter shot, and attack the rim more. He can be nearly unstoppable in the post, as he typically has a height and strength advantage over the person guarding him. For Matt to be at his most successful this season, long range shooting must be the last option for him.
"Micah Downs, now a senior, could start for most teams in the country. He will be the team's primary back up at the shooting guard and small forward positions. But make no mistake, Downs will see plenty of court time and his versatility will come in handy once again for the Zags.
The player with the most potential on the roster is Daye. The sophomore averaged 10.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last year. Daye has skills that mirror ex-Kansas great Danny Manning. Daye is an excellent ball-handler, can face the basket and take it to the hoop, and shoot the perimeter shot. Despite his thin frame, Daye did mix it up down low a few times and will be expected to continue that this year. It will be interesting to see how Daye plays early in the season after his injury scare over the summer."
Call it a hunch, but I think that we will see Micah Downs emerge as perhaps the teams top scorer this season. Micah dedicated himself this summer, and looked outstanding every time I saw him play. If Micah can play with aggressiveness throughout the season, then it will be tough to keep him off the court. What really excites me is a potential lineup that includes Gray, Downs, and Daye. The length and scoring ability of these three is exceptional, and would be a nightmare for any team to defend.
"Talented freshman Andy Poling enters the fray this year. The 6-foot-10 Portland, Ore. native is a skilled big man and will play right away. "
I'm not sure what this writer has been reading, but there is no chance that Poling sees minutes this year. Poling is certainly talented, but does not have the strength to contribute at any point this season. It is likely that Poling will redshirt, which should serve him well in the future.
"Gonzaga should field one of its more talented offensive teams in recent memory (could have a higher ceiling than the 2005-06 edition led by Adam Morrison) and if the Bulldogs play up to their potential, this edition could perhaps be the best team they've had this century."
Playing to their potential is the key for the Zags. There is no doubt that this is the deepest and most talented team that GU has ever had. However, this was also the case this past season, and that ended in a 1st round tournament loss. If the team can avoid the dreaded injury bug, and Coach Few can settle on a 8-9-man rotation, then this could be the team that finally gets to the Final 4.