Here's the way I see it. Based on our progress from last year, new additions, losses, and impressions from scrimmages, here is an all-too-early season synopsis.
G. Gary Bell Jr.
G. Marquise Carter
F. Elias Harris
PG. David Stockton
C. Robt. Sacre
Off the bench, in this order:
- Drainginis (RS)
That's at the beginning of the year...Hopefully, at the end of the year I'd like to see it this way: Starters
G. Bell Jr.
Off the Bench, in this order:
Reasoning: In no particular order.....
- There are a lot of question marks, specifically considering the new guys, off-season injuries or progress (Olynyk), and potential red shirts. I'll be working with the assumption that everyone is completely healthy and ready to contribute. Unfortunately, we are both green and week at the guard position, having lost Gray and Goodson. Considering that, you've got to start GBJ, as he is really the only guy that can drive, shoot from deep, and facilitate the play of others. He'll certainly have to get up to speed, but considering the weaknesses of the guys behind him, he seems the most logical choice (especially if he is as good a defender as some believe him to be).
- You've got to go with Stockton in the beginning until Pangos is really ready or able to play defense at D-I level; If Stockton's lack of athleticism is exploited, then bring in Keita or Landry as a big guard and work Bell Jr. or Carter at the point also. Since Stockton is the only one that we know can feed the front-court, he's indispensable until someone can do the job as well as he can. Ideally, Pangos will be Stockton's taller, stronger, more athletic and offensively capable replacement (but that's a BIG "if").
- Give Olynyk the ultimatum - rebound, or sit and watch Spangler do it. I think a realist would lean toward the latter option.
- Monnighoff is another big question. If he fails to do anything other than shoot the corner 3, then he's an unathletic Bol Kong and should get comfy riding the pine. I know that Few liked to sub him in (or start him) quickly last season, but that is just because we had no deep threats outside Gray for most of the season. I'm assuming that our range will improve slightly with the advent of Carter and GBJ (and possibly Pangos?). Monninghoff also needs to make great strides in his defensive potential as well in order to justify a higher position in the rotation. Until that day comes, he'll be at best the eighth man in.
- Keita also showed flashes last year, but failed to achieve any consistency and find his place on the floor. Call me a pessimist, but I don't think that happens this year either.
- Dower really proved his worth late in the season and found his offensive rhythm. Seeing as Sacre is rather foul-prone and will be worked hard each game, Dower is the logical first man off the bench, providing that offensive spark that can bury teams on the score board. A long off-season scrimmaging with his teammates can't hurt either.
- Landry......will he be an Ira Brown, or a JP Batista type transfer? I'm not even going to speculate on that question. Let's just assume it could go either way, and this guy could end up starting, or be polishing Rob Sacre's sneakers.
- Drainginis is also a tough call, but based on early reports (and they are VERY early reports), I'd bet he red shirts.
- Carter had a really spotty season last year. If he wasn't burying the dagger into Baylor, he was sitting behind Goodson and Gray, whose play was mediocre at best. I think he finds a little more consistency in his senior season, and solidifies his role as a starting guard. Again, this is just a gut feeling, but I wouldn't be surprised if he repeats stretches of last season either.
Injuries: Last year they were remarkably healthy. That's not likely to continue. Sacre is the one player they really can't afford to lose to a long-term injury. Harris would be a tough loss as well. Other than that, perhaps Stockton.
Biggest Leap of Faith: Bell Jr. Essentially, I'm expecting Steven Gray numbers from this guy (late season Steven). He's a Freshman, and it's a bit absurd to think he'll not struggle at times. That's where a big step forward by Carter would be most welcomed.
Best Case: Sacre has an All-American year, and solves his pass-out-of-the double-team issues, creating great looks for GBJ, Carter, and Pangos, and easy baskets for Harris and Dower. Perimeter defense is still a weakness, but 3 big bodies help clog the passing lanes, allowing Zag guards to cheat closer to the arc and worry less about being beat of the dribble. Landry is a solid swingman that is a wise pick-up by the coaching staff, and meshes with the team from the first practice. By the end of the season Few finds a solid rotation and consistent guard play that, coupled with a powerful front court, propels the Zags to another conference title and the first elite-eight berth since the Slipper Still Fit.
Worst Case: Sacre still is a turnover machine, Dower and Harris don't gel cohesively, Olynyk pouts, and Pangos needs a year or two to mature. Spangler becomes a fouling machine, and GBJ doesn't produce points consistently. Hart and Stockton have to play extensive minutes yet again, and we get beat on the perimeter routinely. The ghost of Jimmer Fredette haunts the Zags as they lose the conference title for the first time in over a decade. Conference supremacy is lost.
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