We have arrived.
After numerous projections, debates, and predictions, Gonzaga basketball is back. Tonight at the McCarthey Athletic Center, the Southern University Jaguars will provide the first test of the 2010-11 season. Southern, a five win team last season, is in a time of major transition under head coach Rob Spivery. Gonzaga enters the game with loads of hype. Ranked 12th by both major polls, the Zags are a team poised to make a deep tournament run. While no one expects this game to be hotly contested, there are definitely some things we can takeaway as we look ahead towards the CBE Classic.
One of our major questions has already been answered as Kelly Olynyk will get the start for the Zags. What this does, among other things, is give Gonzaga a legitamate "twin towers" look. With Elias Harris now at small forward, Mark Few will be looking at two seven-footers on his frontline. For the Southern Jaguars, who will likely start no one taller than 6'9'', this is a very scary thought.
There's no way to sugarcoat Southern's 2009-10 season. They were downright atrocious. Poor leadership and a general lack of talent plagued the Jaguars. This season is expected to a season where Coach Spivery sort of hits the "refresh" button and starts over. Southern welcomes in nine newcomers...again, that number is nine. Spivery's goal with this crop is new talent is to build chemistry and hopefully make these guys something to build on. With an attempt like this, there will be some growing pains and when you start with a top-15 team like Gonzaga, those pains will be quite strong.
Out of Southern's limited holdovers from last season, the two expected to make the biggest impact are Julius Ingram and Quinton Doggett. At 6'6'' and 6'8'' respectively, these two make up the frontline for Southern. Neither player averaged double-figures last season but are being relied on to be the cornerstones of this very young team. Ingram appears to be the better offensive threat as he averaged seven points a game last season and, although undersized, is quite skilled in the post.
For Robert Sacre, this game has special meaning as his father will be on the opposite side as Southern's athletic director. While this will be a great moment for Rob to play against and in-front of his dad, we are hoping this jump starts Rob's season. With Southern's small frontline, Rob and the rest of the crew should be able to absolutely dominate the glass from the very start.
Another thing I will be looking for is how the rotation plays out. While I'm sure it will fluctuate this season, I'll be curious to see how Mark Few uses Sam Dower, Manny Arop, Marquise Carter, and the freshmen. This should be a very fun night for the Zags and I expect a big win with Gonzaga taking down Southern 88-60