One of the biggest positives of running this blog is being able to get a national viewpoint on our beloved Gonzaga Bulldogs. Another great thing about it is that it gives us an excuse to try and contact some of our favorite national bloggers. One of the best bloggers in the business is Jeff Goodman of FoxSports. Mr. Goodman runs one of the most thorough college basketball blogs in the nation. We were lucky enough to get him to answer a few questions about the Zags...
The Slipper Still Fits: We're always trying to get a nationwide opinion of Gonzaga. What do you think is the perception of Gonzaga as a program on nation level? Do people still view them as a mid-major team or have they officially arrived as a major competitor year in, year out?
JG: I think it varies. Some still consider and refer to them as a mid-major program, but that's because of the conference and not the program. They are a team that most people in the industry now view as a legitimate high-major club - and rightfully so.
TSSF: What did you think of Gonzaga's performance at the Old Spice Classic?
JG: Gonzaga was clearly the most impressive team down there in Orlando. I feel that, other than North Carolina, the ‘Zags are the most complete team in college basketball right now. No glaring weakness, terrific balance and a nice mix of veterans and young players.
3) Jeremy Pargo is the unquestionable leader for Gonzaga. Do you see him as a top point guard in the nation, where would you rank him?
JG: I would rank him somewhere among the Top 10 point guards in the country. It's tough because his numbers don't blow anyone away - but the reason for that is because he's committed himself to making himself a floor leader rather than focusing on scoring the ball. He needs to pick his spots - and he's done a nice job of working through that so far this season.
TSSF: What is your perception of Josh Heytvelt this season? Have you seen growth in his personality and game and how good do you think he can be?
JG: Heytvelt is far more comfortable in his skin these days. He not only looks like a man physically, but he's playing far close to what he was two years ago. The other aspect with Heytvelt is that he doesn't have to do too much right now with all the pieces he has around him. The team needs him for a low-post presence - but he doesn't need to put up 20 & 10.
TSSF: Gonzaga is notorious for playing a ridiculous out of conference schedule. Upcoming games include Washington State, Arizona, Connecticut, Tennessee (again), and Memphis. What are realistic expectations for their nonconference record when it's all said and done?
JG: Let's be honest. This team isn't running through this non-conference slate without a blemish. I'd be shocked. There's just too much parity in college basketball these days. I can't wait to watch the game against UConn - and Tennessee- and Memphis. They are all going to be among the most highly anticipated games of the season.
continue reading more of our interview with Jeff Goodman after the jump...
TSSF: What has to happen this year for Gonzaga to reach it's potential and what do you think could hold them back?
JG: Obviously, health is critical. They have strength in numbers right now and need to remain that way. Their depth gives them an advantage against just about anyone. They have to constantly improve on the defensive end.
TSSF: With the Pac 10 facing a down year, what type of record do you think Gonzaga needs to earn the #1 seed in the West?
JG: I think if the ‘Zags can run through with two losses, that might be enough to get the No. 1 seed out west. You are right, though, the Pac-10 is down and I don't see anyone in that league running through the conference schedule with one or two losses.
TSSF: Have you started to hand the National Championship to North Carolina like so many others seem to have? What teams can challenge them this season and are the Zags in that bunch?
JG: I saw the Tar Heels dismantle a Michigan State team that I thought was a legitimate Final Four contender. There is definitely separation between UNC and everyone else, but it's a long season. I think UConn and Gonzaga - at this point - are the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country.
TSSF: In your mind, it is realistic to think that Gonzaga is capable of winning a National Championship this year?
JG: Capable, absolutely. However, it'll take some breaks. As I said, you need to stay healthy and get some luck in the tournament in terms of matchups and peaking at the right time.
TSSF: Do you think Austin Daye will enter the NBA draft after this season? Should he?
JG: I think he'll go through the process. My take is he should come back, but that means little nowadays. He - like USC's Demar DeRozan and Ohio State's B.J. Mullens - will be drafted based more on potential than production. This is an extremely weak draft and Daye will likely go higher than he should.
TSSF: What is your perception of the WCC? Do you see any programs in the conference that can potentially challenge Gonzaga on a consistent basis?
JG: Not with Bill Grier's San Diego team being decimated by injuries and suspensions. I think you are seeing St. Mary's ride the wave of Patty Mills, but I'm not sure they can sustain it. That's been the most remarkable factor of what Gonzaga has done over the past decade - finding a way to keep the program at the highest level.