When I was growing up, there was a very popular series of childrens books available called "Goosebumps". It was a very basic series of books that if I read now I'm sure they will all seem alike and I'll wonder what the hell I was thinking about when I read them. However, there were a few novels in the series that allowed you to choose your own path in the book. You are faced with a situation and you can do X, Y, or Z depending on which page you turn to. It might be the lack of sleep I have received but for some reason these novels have popped into my head when I think about Gonzaga's current situation. In fact, I had to chuckle to myself because I feel like every game, Mark Few is reading the same novel over and over again but keeps skipping to different pages. At this point in the season, regardless of your opinions on certain players, the way the staff has handled such players, etc etc, I think we can all agree that a little fat trimming needs to occur.
With six West Coast Conference games remaining (yes, six), Gonzaga is in unfamiliar territory in that it must string together a number of wins to avoid playing a Saturday night game in Las Vegas for the WCC Tournament. Before this season, most Gonzaga fans didn't know the conference tournament began before Sunday and most didn't bother showing up until Monday. With five of six very winnable games plus a senior night special against Cal State Bakersfield, Mark Few now has ample opportunity to make some decisions, roll with them, and see what ending those decisions lead you to.
There are a couple roles/positions I want to touch on. The first one is the most discussed, maligned, and complained about position: the point guard. So we can avoid this becoming pure mudslinging between the various factions of Gonzaga fans, I'd like to simplify things a bit. You simply can't have it both ways with this stable of guards. For the purposes of continuity, either David Stockton or Demetri Goodson has to play 30+ minutes here on out. And, one of the two has to become a situational player. For the purposes of what it appears Mark Few is looking to do, and more importantly, the person that suits taking this team on a WCC run, I think it has to be Stockton that takes the reins. As much as I'd love for the staff to begin utilizing Meech's defensive ability in more extended pressure sets, it has been proven that it simply isn't going to happen. In the very least, Stockton provides Gonzaga with more stability in the halfcourt. He doesn't space the floor much, but it is infinitely better when he is out there versus Goodson. I've written before that the point guard debate is so difficult because you rarely get two guards that are so one-dimensional and different in those dimensions.
In an further effort to slice down the rotation, which I think has to be a goal down the stretch, I'd love to analyze the power forward situation. Throughout the season, I don't think many would argue that Kelly Olynyk has struggled mightily. Before Memphis, Kelly had been in double figures four times and I believe the best team of those four was perhaps IUPUI. He has never really gotten comfortable in the post in Mark Few's offense. Where we have seen Kelly do his best work, however, is on the perimeter. He knocked down a few big shots against Memphis and delivered a huge dagger against Baylor in Dallas. Kelly is a rare power forward in that it genuinely seems like he doesn't want to be there. He prefers to float, he prefers to be on the outside rather than bang in the post. Sam Dower, however, has shown that he not only is developing the toughness necessary to bang in the post, but he also has the touch as a shooter to play effectively immediately. Dower's minutes have been on upswing over the past several games and that must continue. The only way Kelly should see the floor before Sam is if the staff is comfortable with allowing Kelly to step out. Recent history would suggest that they aren't which has made him pretty obsolete throughout the season.
So what is my regular rotation to finish off the season:
Stockton, Gray, Arop, Harris, Sacre, Dower, Monninghoff.
Goodson slides in for Stockton for roughly 10 minutes a game, Carter gets in for Gray for a few minutes, and the same goes for Kelly with Sam but the above seven are the one's I think are best fit to take this team on a run and need to get the consistent minutes.
The Arop/Monninghoff discussion is interesting because there are some games where I think either one should be the focal point of the offense and there are some where I don't know how they made it on the team. With that being said, I think both need to play 15+ minutes a game and Few must stick with the hot hand. Against Memphis, I think it was a crime that Manny, who was outstanding in the first half, finished with only 12 minutes played. In terms of Mathis Keita, I have no idea but he is back in DNP land and I'm not sure why.
That's my rotation but, to be honest, I'd settle for seeing the juggling lineups stop. What's your ideal rotation as the season winds down?