I don't think it is Earth-shattering information to say that Gonzaga is going to be very, very dangerous next season. When you look at all the inexperience across the board on this team right now, there isn't much else you can feel except for excitement when you think about what is next. With that being said, the window of opportunity is small. We've been saying here for a few months now that Matt Bouldin's departure is going to be very, very tough to get past. The main thing I worry about most is that we are losing a flat out playmaker. Say what you want about his big game record and how he deals with athletic teams, Matt's baseline consistency throughout his time at Gonzaga has made him one of the best players to ever come through Gonzaga.
When you lose someone like this, you have to expect a hangover. Think about all the games where Matt's done something to put the Zags over the top. He shot terribly against Cincy in the Maui title but had double-digit boards, he's blown me away with some of his assists and playmaking all year, and of course his scoring has been solid all season. Losing him is going to be tough. What I love about this coaching staff now is that they are being bold to make sure this team doesn't lose the 2010-11 season as they try and cope without #15.
The recruitment of guys like LaBradford Franklin, or Brandon Dunson, or now with Tony Smith tells me that Mark Few and Co. are sold on what they need next season to be great. It's as clear as day that they feel they need to do everything they can do somehow plug someone in to this rotation that can make plays in a variety of ways. I've said before that I couldn't agree more with what the staff is doing in 2010 and, even though it looks like they might be scrambling a bit, I have full confidence that they will get their man.
If you look at Gonzaga's depth chart for next season, you probably aren't going to say that they have a huge need in the backcourt. They've got tons of youth on the perimeter and each player in some way or another has shown some flashes that they can take the next step. They problem is that there has really been no element of consistent play at all by some of the candidates to really have a leap in minutes next year. The thing that separates mediocre young players from outstanding young players is that they make it impossible for the coach to keep them off the court. Mark Few did this with Matt Bouldin, he did this with Jeremy Pargo, and you can tell he's just dying to do it with someone on this team. To this point, no one has answered the call.
I would say that Mangisto Arop has easily been the best bench player in the backcourt this season but even he has some of those games where he looks utterly lost. Grant Gibbs' minutes have been the most confusing. Some games he's off the bench early and then he disappears for a road trip. Before the season started, I expected him to really challenge for 20-25 minutes a game but that has obviously not happened. I can't say that I'm upset by this because I've never been taken aback by what he brings. His outside shot has looked pretty average but he, like the others, has shown nice flashes and really works hard. As far as G.J. and Bol Kong are concerned, I am more hesitant to make any brash comments. Bol burst on the scene and looked like he was the man to play a boat load of minutes but has since disappeared and G.J. has obviously struggled with a nagging injury and other issues which kept him off the court for a good stretch.
When you see Mark Few pursuing a guard like he is doing right now with this 2010 class, the writing is on the wall. He knows that he has a damn talented team and is probably looking at this last year with Elias Harris next season. He's also going to have a seasoned point guard in Demetri Goodson, a very talented senior wing in Steven Gray, and a big man that has tons of talent but just needs more reps in Robert Sacre. The talent in that core four players is huge and then you have a solid front court rotation with Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower and is long, athletic, and ready to contribute. My major concern heading into this 2010 cycle was that Mark Few would scramble to try and find another big man. That would tell me that A.) Elias Harris could be out the door this year or B.) Sam Dower isn't progressing as well as they'd like. Sam is obviously gelling well with the team and I think he'll be a force next season, EDZ even thinks he may start next year if Elias is moved to the three.
I'm not asking for a guy like Tony Smith or whoever the staff decides on to come in and start and star on this team. He can play 15-20 minutes a game to bring some scoring off the bench and I would be a happy man. You've already got solid options with Mangisto Arop and company but the value of instant offense is huge on a team that is about to lose a "program guy" in Matt Bouldin. It's going to make the rotation even more congested and it may hurt a few feelings but I think it is a great move by this staff because they want to win NOW. There's no room to take a year off and let guys continue to develop when you are a high-major program. The goal is always to win a national championship and if Tony gives us the best chance to do so, I will welcome him with open arms.