DENVER, CO - MARCH 19: Noah Hartsock #34 of the Brigham Young Cougars contests the shot of Marquise Carter #2 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
While the starting backcourt remains a question heading into the season-opener against Eastern Washington, the more interesting battle for minutes will be taking place on the wing. Although Gonzaga has had numerous talented prospects on the wing throughout the tenure of Mark Few, I would be hard-pressed to find a season in which there was this much versatility at his disposal. Depending on who starts at point guard, you could realistically make an argument to see Marquise Carter, Guy Landry or The Hoff in the starting lineup on the wing.
Before we address the three guys likely to see the majority of the minutes, let's take a look at two guys that I think are likely redshirt candidates. Although he made a surprising impact in a handful of games as a freshman, Mathis Keita is a guy that would really benefit from a redshirt year. He possesses natural athleticism and quickness, but a year to improve his basketball IQ and shooting ability would be incredibly valuable down the road for a player that could be a key contributor by the end of his career. The other likely redshirt option is freshman wing Kyle Dranginis, While Kyle possesses a strong feel for the game, he needs a year to bulk up and prepare his body for the grind that is Division I basketball. Even though he would provide another shooter from the perimeter, I don't think it's worth giving up a year of eligibility.If you are comfortable making the assumption that the starting backcourt will be either David Stockton or Kevin Pangos alongside GBJ, then it's pretty clear that Marquise Carter is your starting SF. Based on his performance at the end of last season, Carter should be both a leader and prolific scorer for the Zags. Carter's experience will be a calming influence for what will assuredly be a young backcourt, and his ability to score will be vital when guys like Pangos and Bell have their struggles. On the defensive end, Carter gives the Zags a player with the combination of physicality and quickness that is necessary to be an excellent on-ball defender. With GBJ and Carter together on the court, it would give the Zags the best defensive backcourt they have had in a long time.
Where things get interesting is if GBJ starts at the PG or comes off the bench early in the season. If that's the case, then either Guy Landry (following his suspension) or The Hoff will start. Landry gives the Zags an Erroll Knight clone that can be the ultimate glue guy. Landry possesses elite leaping ability and can run the court very well. He has the ability to score from the perimeter and has all the physical tools necessary to be an excellent on-ball defender. With guys like Carter, Harris and Sacre in the starting lineup, having another primary offensive option on the court might not be a necessity for Gonzaga.
The other option apart from Landry would be utilizing The Hoff at the SF position. Hoff would give the Zags an elite shooter on the perimeter in the starting lineup. If Gonzaga really wants to play from the inside-out, then having guys who can hit the open shot are valuable. The Hoff has the ability to spread a defense when he is confident, but it will be interesting to see if he can discover the consistency that is so important over the course of a college season. Although it doesn't get much attention, The Hoff is an active defender that uses his quickness to get deflections. However, he is not the defensive force that Carter is, or that Landry has the potential to be.
Ultimately, the playing time will come down to who starts in the backcourt. I still believe that the most likely lineup will be Stockton, GBJ, Carter, Harris and Sacre. However, if Pangos proves to be the best potential option from day one, he could be thrust into a lineup that would start two freshman in the backcourt.