It’s been a long time since anyone dared to say that the Gonzaga Bulldogs didn’t deserved to be talked about with the best programs in the country. Once the darling of the mid-majors, Gonzaga is a perennial participant in the NCAA tournament, and is once again coming into the season with lofty expectations. But, is this the first year that they might be coasting more on their reputation than on their talent?
The Bulldogs lost their top two players from last season to the NBA, but they still bring back a squad that is the prohibitive favorite to win the WCC. The backcourt is as good as it gets, with Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and David Stockton returning. The frontcourt lost the two players to the pros, but the Bulldogs have talented players Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski to replace their production.
The WCC as a whole is as deep as it has ever been. The Bulldogs will face stiff competition from BYU and Saint Mary’s. Both squads will have enough talent to give Gonzaga a run for their money, but the Bulldogs should have enough veteran leadership coming back to keep them at the top of the conference.
Gonzaga may not be as highly regarded coming into this season as they were last year, for good reason. The Bulldogs were considered a legitimate national title contender last season, even spending time at No. 1 in the rankings. That kind of season is unlikely for them this year, but they will again find themselves at the top of their conference and in the tournament.
I see them as a 5 or 6 seed come March. Because of their relatively easy conference schedule they should rack up the wins, finishing with a 24-5 record. It will be another successful season in Spokane, but what the Bulldogs fans want is a successful March this next spring.