2019 Gonzaga Basketball Predictions: Zags Once Again Title Contender
Gonzaga has been so good for so long now that we just take it for granted. Of course, they are ranked in the Top 10. But when you take a step back and really look at what is going on, it actually becomes very striking. The team had two players taken in the first 21 picks of the NBA Draft and has only one starter from last year back. That would gut most teams fatally, but Mark Few has built a culture in his program that is strong enough that they can be expected to overcome that without any problem. This is a big boy program now. It has been for a long time, really. And the major conferences each have only a team or two that could handle the same kind of transition as gracefully as this program could this year. It's really pretty amazing. But can this team be in the Top 10 at the end of the season like they are now?
Gonzaga Bulldogs Additions/Losses
Junior forward Rui Hachimura was drafted ninth overall by Washington. He played more than 100 games for Gonzaga over three years but emerged as a starter and a true star only in his junior year. He's obviously impressive, and his versatility will be missed. Brandon Clarke went 21st overall to Oklahoma City then was traded immediately to Memphis. Clarke played only one year at Gonzaga after starting his career at San Jose State. But it was a heck of a year, as he averaged 16.9 points per game while being named his conference's defensive player of the year and a third team All-American. He was a big game player, too, scoring a team record 36 points in the NCAA Tournament against Baylor. Losing those two from the frontcourt is obviously a blow.
Those were the only two players drafted, but not the only two who declared for the draft. Shooting guard Zach Norvell Jr. was undrafted but landed with the Lakers and has already appeared in the NBA. The fourth starter to leave the team was Josh Perkins, who started all but three games during his four-year career at Gonzaga as a point guard. He was also undrafted. He landed with Charlotte, was cut during camp, and is with their G League team. Those four leave behind a lot of shoes to be filled.
The team got some unfortunate luck that will be helpful in the frontcourt. Killian Tillie, who started in 2018, was hurt for much of last year and was limited to just 15 games off the bench. He declared for the draft, but an injury forced him to withdraw and come back for his senior season. He'll play a key role. And so will sophomore Filip Petrusev, who was good enough as a freshman last year that he also flirted with the draft despite not starting a single game. His role will grow significantly this year, and he could be poised for a massive step forward. Freshman Drew Timme, the team's highest ranked recruit, will push Petrusev for minutes as a big man. And fellow Top 50 recruit Anton Watson, who grew up right in Spokane, is a high-IQ player like Few loves who can play wing or the four and could find a spot in the rotation. The team also added another European forward in Pavel Zakharov, who played a prep year in Florida. The school has done so well bringing Europeans in. Oumar Ballo is a big man from Bali who has intriguing potential, but he's only 17 and will need time - he could be a redshirt candidate, though he has a body that looks ready for the NBA, so he could play himself into consideration.
The team went the grad transfer route to restock the backcourt. Senior Ryan Wolldridge from North Texas is the expected starting point guard, while senior Admon Gilder from Texas A&M will start at shooting guard. Both had injury issues last year, but if they are healthy they are both promising. They also return wing Corey Kispert, who is the leading returning scorer with 8 points per game, and the only guy who started all season last year and is back. And Joel Ayayi, another European, was limited off the bench as a freshman last year, but had a huge performance at the U19 World Cup this summer and could break out. New additions Martynys Arlauskas from Lithuania, and Brock Ravet will be fighting for playing time as well.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Schedule
As is typically the case, the challenge for this team will have to primarily come from the nonconference schedule. In conference play they will face a Saint Mary's team ranked 20th and not much else. They start with three very easy games, then travel to Texas A&M for a game that will mean a lot for Gilder. They play in the Battle for Atlantis, and that could lead to some interesting matchups. They will play Seton Hall or Oregon - both Top 15 teams - in the semis, and could wind up facing North Carolina or a Michigan team that is a total wild card heading into the season in the finals. After that they face a brutal three-game stretch in early December, traveling to play at both Washington and Arizona, and then hosting North Carolina. It softens up again from there, and then conference play begins, but there are plenty of opportunities for this team to prove what they are.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Futures Odds and Trends
At +2000 to win the national title, Gonzaga is tied with Villanova as the 10th choice in the country. Their season win total is set at a surprisingly conservative 25 - the last time they won so few was in 2011. Bettors are not buying the pessimism, though - the over is very heavily favored at -250.
With their impressive 33-4 record last year, the team was a solid 23-14 ATS, which made them nicely profitable to bet on. The totals weren't nearly as kind, though, as they went over 18 times and under 19.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Predictions
The concern here is depth. They have all sorts of potential, but with so much change they don't have a lot of guys who have proven themselves as starters and not a lot of guys who are proven performers off the bench, either. They are going to need some new arrivals to mesh in a hurry. But there is a lot to like, and the schedule is manageable for the most part. I am bullish on them to go over the season win total - as is everyone else in the world given the price. They will go into the tournament as a high seed with potential to do harm - as always.
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