The Gonzaga Bulldogs have proven they are not a typical mid-major. Coach Mark Few has spent years building the program into a legitimate contender, and has managed to take what was previously a cute little team out west into one expected to be a major player on a national scale season after season.
With the 2016-17 campaign looming, this version of the Bulldogs should be no different.
Gonzaga did lose several key players from last season’s squad, however. Domantas Sabonis is currently in the NBA getting paid for applying his craft, while Kyle Wiltjer finally ran out of what appeared to be infinite collegiate eligibility.
When you consider the loss of Eric McClellan, Gonzaga is down their top three scorers from last season — an issue that would normally destroy any other mid-major. Then again, as already qualified, the Bulldogs are not any other mid-major.
Few have a plethora of experienced talent ready to step into the big shoes left by those who departed. Transfers who will be eligible this season include Nigel Williams-Goss (via Washington), Jordan Mathews (via Cal) and Johnathan Williams III (via Missouri), all of whom are more than solid players who help offset the three losses.
They have the skill that allows the Zags to lock and reload instead of going into rebuilding mode.
Matthews is a solid player who can hit from beyond the arc with regularity (42 percent from three). Williams is an incredibly diverse power forward, one who can bang underneath but also stretch the floor with his ability to hit mid-range jumpers. And Williams-Goss, probably the most important of all the transfers, is a bucket-making marvel. He played big minutes with the Huskies as a sophomore and averaged over 15 points per game the season before last.
Gonzaga managed to lure three ready-right-now players who also happen to be sincere major-conference talents. Luckily for the Bulldogs faithful, save for St. Mary’s, the Zags operate in a world (the WCC) where everyone else is operating with mid-major resources.
And there’s a lot more to Gonzaga than its incoming trio of talented transfers.
Przemek Karnowski decided to return for another season with the program after battling injuries. The 7-foot-1 Poland product is a naturally talented player who can, when healthy, be a near-double-double type of center. His career per-40 numbers, while somewhat misleading, have him as an 18 point, 10 rebound type of talent — though it is worth noting he’s never actually averaged more than 7.1 rebounds per game throughout his career.
Josh Perkins, who is filled with potential, returns for another season; defensive juggernaut Silas Melson is also coming back; and the Bulldogs are also adding two four-star players — Zach Collins and Zach Norvell — to this gifted roster.
Gonzaga is certainly deep with talent, the sort that won’t have a dramatic drop when the bench guys come in. With this depth, it’s easy to envision the Bulldogs regularly using a 10-man rotation. Considering even the best of high-majors tend to rely on eight- or nine-man rotations, this will be a great luxury afforded to Few as he navigates the season.
That’s the great news. There can be, at least potentially, some bad.
While all this new talent is coming in — transfers, freshmen, those returning from injury — it might take Gonzaga a little bit of time to gel. Luckily, that is what non-conference schedules are for, and there’s no reason to believe Few’s gifted roster won’t just outplay other squads in the WCC as they attempt to figure things out.
Out of all the problems a team can have, having too many good-to-great players joining the fold at once seems like the best of them all.
Just because we might not know many of the players on the roster as well as we did in previous years, it does not mean this version of the Bulldogs is any less talented. Rather, it might be the opposite, as it has the potential to be the most gifted roster of any during Few’s stay with the university.