2018 Gonzaga Bulldogs Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
Not only is Gonzaga a Top 4 team and a legitimate contender entering the season, but unlike the other three teams in the top four - Kansas, Kentucky and Duke - they are not a team that will have to rely on insanely talented freshmen to figure out the game and carry their teams to the promised land. Gonzaga is a team that will have one sophomore as their youngest starter and a rotation that will count on freshmen only for depth. Add in a truly elite coach, and the experience that came from that run to the Championship Game a year and a half ago, and you have a team that is unquestionably capable of winning it all.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Additions/Losses
The team really didn't lose much. Forward Johnathan Williams, arguably their best defender last year, graduated. He went undrafted but has signed a two-way contract with the Lakers. And aside from a couple of youngsters transferring out, that's really it.
They signed just two high schoolers. Of those, forward Filip Petrusev, who is from Serbia but played last year in the States, is the more interesting. He and shooting guard Greg Foster are both likely to be eased into the roster, though, as they aren't needed to fill a big role early on.
Two transfers join the team and will likely be more impactful early on. Forward Brandon Clarke joins from San Jose State after sitting out last year, and guard Geno Crandall is a grad transfer from North Dakota. Clarke is a defensively excellent big man, and the possibilities he provides to play a big and scary lineup should terrify opponents. Crandall provides very nice experienced backcourt depth.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Outlook
This is a team that will be driven by the frontcourt, and it is one heck of one at that. Leading the way is Rui Hachimura, the Japanese giant who is excellent inside and developing his range as well. The junior played internationally this summer and was really good, and he should be poised for another big step ahead. His partner in crime is another international star - Frenchman Killian Tillie, also a junior, is an athletic freak with a great shot. Those two together have experience on their side and have a chance to be the best frontcourt in the country. And they aren't alone. Corey Kispert was solid as a freshman last year and should be able to take a leap this year on the wing, and Clarke is going to have a big impact as well in a bigger lineup, with Petrusev getting minutes as he earns them.
While the frontcourt is going to be excellent, the backcourt is more of a question. Zach Norvell Jr. improved dramatically last year as a redshirt freshman and tore apart Ohio State in the tournament. As a shooting guard his potential is strong. But the point is a bigger question. Senior Josh Perkins is the starter, and while he was fine last year, he is not a great player. And while Crandall has some talent and upside, he was late joining the team as he finished up his degree at North Dakota, so his transition could be slow. The backcourt doesn't match up to the caliber of the front and will limit the team if the progress isn't strong from Perkins and company.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Schedule
The nonconference schedule is generally manageable, with one three-game stretch that will tell us a whole lot about just how good this team is. They start by hosting Washington, a ranked team entering the season, on Dec. 5. Four days later they face Tennessee in Phoenix for the Jerry Colangelo Classic. Then they travel to North Carolina six days later. That is as brutal a stretch of games as you will see in nonconference play. The other big game that looms is the final of the Maui Invitational. If they make it that far, which they absolutely should, they would likely face either Auburn or Duke. The good news for the Bulldogs is they have games that will impress outsiders in the absence of a strong conference schedule. The bad news is that they have to be ready for those games.
The conference schedule promises to be softer than usual, as both BYU and Saint Mary's likely aren't as strong as they have been in recent years.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Futures Odds and Trends
At +850 Gonzaga is the fourth choice to win the national title at Bovada , behind only co-favorites Duke and Kentucky and upstarts Nevada. That price puts them ahead of preseason No. 1 Kansas, which is currently at +950.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Predictions
I really like this team. The frontcourt is going to be special, and the experience on the team is such an asset at a time when so many top teams are so ridiculously young - Kentucky, for example, has one likely rotation player older than a sophomore. The backcourt is a concern, but they will get enough from back there. The team will cruise through conference play, will make some noise in nonconference play while losing no more than two games, and will wind up as a very high seed in March. If I had to fill out a bracket today there is a very good chance that the Zags would be in my final four. The futures price is fair but doesn't have enough value to bet heavily.
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