With expectations at a fevered pitch, the Gonzaga basketball team will finally kick off its 2012/2013 campaign when it hosts Southern Utah. The Zags enter the season with four returning starters and a talented and deep rotation. After pushing Ohio St. to the limit in the NCAA Tournament last season, there is a genuine belief that this is the team that could really push for a deep tournament run in March.
While many people are already looking forward to the signature matchup with West Virginia on Monday night, the Zags should find this tune up against Southern Utah incredibly valuable. The Thunderbirds enter this season on the heels of a 14-17 performance in 2011-2012. This will be a new era for the program, as former Stanford forward Nick Robinson will make his debut as the head coach.
Southern Utah returns its leading scorer from last year in Jackson Stevenett. Stevenett averaged a team-high 14.1 ppg and shot over 50% from the field. He has shown the ability to his a shot from behind the three-point line, but most of his offensive game takes place closer to the hoop. The only other returning starter is Damon Heuir, who averaged 10.8 ppg and 3.1 assists.
This is a young opponent that Gonzaga will be facing, with seven underclassmen on the roster. It will be interesting to see what the Zags are thinking in terms of a rotation, but if this game gets out of hand early, we may not get much of a sense for what the minutes will look like against West Virginia. Although it might not be pretty, expect Gonzaga to cruise to an 85-55 victory.