I know that is a dumb, overarching and rather vague comment to present, but in the downtime of the offseason and in an attempt to drudge up some conversation here -- I think it is a good one. Specifically, who do you think will be most instrumental in the key to Gonzaga's success, either expected or helping exceed your expectations?
We could go through each player specifically, but that would be a long endeavor and I don't know if I have the finger dexterity for that after already spending much of the evening typing away on a keyboard. So instead, I'm going to throw out who I think will either help us shoot for the stars or bury us in a trash heap of a double digit seed come March.
My main man. Sam Dower.
Either way, I think that the Zags key to the season resides in either Dower or Karnowski. It's back to the good ‘ol Guard U days, and we are properly loaded up for our guards. Between Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, David Stockton, Drew Barham, Gerard Coleman and Kyle Dranginis, we have more than enough to go around. The roster gets a bit short after that. We have Nunez (of course), but he won't be available until the second half of the season.
We will definitely run into tough matchups with taller teams. As of now, we just don't have the depth to compete with it - and I envision Mark Few throwing out a lot of small and fast line-ups in an effort to get around this limitation. It is because of the fast portion of that that I see Dower ending up on the floor more than Karnowski will in the grand scheme of things.
Dower definitely seemed to regress, just looking at raw statistics last year, but his regression was easily understandable. Just based on the emergence of Kelly Olynyk, sitting behind him and Elias Harris didn't allow for a whole lot of minutes. But if you extrapolate Dower's production as a bench player to a possible starter, getting roughly 32 minutes a game (which is more than I think he will play for sure, it just makes the math easier), he would've been throwing up 14 points and 5 rebounds a game. Nothing earth shattering for sure, but solid production.
The key for Dower is how efficient he is in his offense. As he showed in his freshman year, get Dower the ball and he knows how to score. He had a true shooting percentage of 62 percent and a Player Efficiency Rating of 26.3 - and that was as a freshman. Last year, it was all down a bit - but when Dower was on the floor for more extended periods of time, he gets in a groove. In the 12 games where he took six or more shots, he shot 50 percent or higher nine times. Four of those nine times he was 66 percent or higher.
Most importantly for Dower, why he will thrive and why we will need him to thrive, is the up tempo style of play we will most likely employ. PK runs the floor nicely for a guy of his stature, but Dower runs it better. If we are incorporating a smaller line-up more often, we will need everyone down the floor because that backcourt is going to be sprinting down.
We will also need Dower to take some of the pressure, offensively, off of Karnowski. Of course, this could be totally incorrect. Perhaps Karnowski comes out this season and justifies all the hype he had last season...but last season, at too many times, he looked a bit lost on offense. This is to be expected. But having an efficient scoring Dower, going to his left hand like butter as often as possible, will take some of the pressure off of Karnowski -- and this will be a big boon for the future.
Again, all of this is speculation. I'm not as worried about any member of the backcourt because if someone is struggling there, we have 100 different faces to throw in. Up front it's a whole different ball game and an area we don't have the versatility to help us out.