I know that I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I just can't help myself! After reading the this, I think they have a real chance to run the table in the WCC. They may drop a few in the non conference schedule as the get their chemistry down. A lot of new talent coming in. It will be very interesting to see how it all goes down.
What we expect next season: And yet, for all of the strides this league has taken toward greater competitive equity -- toward, in franker terms, a league that can finally stand up to big bad Gonzaga -- Zaninovich's first year out of the conference leadership is shaping up to be a classic Bulldogs march.
Haws is back at BYU, and he could put up some monster numbers. Mostly, that's because he's an awesome scorer with glorious midrange touch. But he may just have to: Sophomore Eric Mika left for his LDS mission. Collinsworth will be coming back from that ACL tear. And Matt Carlino used the graduate exception to transfer to Marquette and play right away. BYU has players, sure, but enough to contend? To get back to the tournament?
Portland has a chance to improve; it showed in a milestone upset of the Zags in January. Saint Mary's looks likely to rebuild. But San Francisco is in the emergent class, with a bunch of returning players and one key guy (Cole Dickerson) gone, with a pair of juniors (Avry Holmesand Mark Tollefsen) who should be among the best in the country.
And still not one of the above looks ready to take on the Zags. Gonzaga will have both Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell in the backcourt once more. It will have Kyle Dranginis on the wing. It will have Przemek Karnowski -- who morphed into a beast throughout his sophomore season -- shaping up as one of the nation's best big men at center. And it will have Kentucky transfer and former five-star recruit Kyle Wiltjer -- who played 11 minutes per game for the Wildcats' 39-2 2012 national title team -- stepping in as a perfect outside-in forward. Oh, and the No. 10 point guard (Josh Perkins) and a 6-foot-10 Lithuanian forward Domantas Sabonis. At age 17, Sabonis played 10 minutes per game for Unicaja Malaga in the Spanish ACB, the second-best pro hoops league in the world. He didn't receive compensation, so he's eligible to play right away.Recruiting Nation calls him the equivalent of a top-50 domestic recruit.
Guys, Gonzaga is going to be good.
Another year of surprise-surprise from the Zags doesn't negate the impressive long-term improvement (and expansion) throughout the WCC. The league is better now than when Zaninovich arrived. It will keep getting better, too. Folks will catch up, or at least close in.
But as 2014-15 looks likely to demonstrate, there is a lot of catching up to do. Gonzaga had a decade's head start. Even now, the Bulldogs are still setting the pace.
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