Heading into the season, I can't quite shake the idea that we may be about to watch the most talented team in Gonzaga basketball history. Whether or not this means they will be the most successful team is up in the air, but from an overall roster standpoint, I can't think of many previous Gonzaga teams that can compete.
From a total talent perspective, the one team that jumps to mind is the 08-09 squad that lost to North Carolina in the Sweet 16. If that team had avoided the mid-season funk after its loss to UConn, it certainly could've earned a higher-seed in the NCAA Tournament and ultimately avoided that juggernaut of a UNC team until later rounds.
In comparing the two teams, it all starts at the PG position. The 08-09 team was led by Jeremy Pargo and was ranked #8 in the country heading into the Battle In Seattle against UConn. This Gonzaga team will likely start the season in the Top 15 and will be led by Kevin Pangos. So when it comes down to it, which PG would you choose?
The Case For Pargo: When he was at his best, Jeremy Pargo was arguably the most physically dominant PG that Gonzaga has ever had. He had the ability to break down any defender in the country off the dribble, and in general, he was a good decision maker when he got past his defender. During his junior year, Pargo averaged 6.0 assists per game and also showed the ability to take over in big games.
While he was never a great shooter from the perimeter, he did shoot 35% from behind the three-point line during his senior year and definitely had times where he could be streaky. Defensively, Pargo had the physical toughness and athleticism to guard any PG in the country.
The Case For Pangos: Kevin Pangos fits the more traditional mold for the successful Gonzaga PG over the past 15 years. He can be a deadly shooter from the perimeter, having shot over 40% from behind the three-point line each year at Gonzaga. While he has a tendency to be streaky, there is no doubt that when Pangos is shooting the ball well, he can win a game by himself. Pangos is an underrated ball-handler, and while he may not be overly quick, he is shifty enough to be able to get by more athletic defenders.
Pangos has never been a great passer and is a bit more comfortable playing off the ball. The senior has never averaged more than 3.6 assists per game in a season, but he is also careful with the ball and doesn't commit a ton of turnovers. On the defensive end, he can be a bit of a liability due to his size, but he does have decent lateral quickness and is a better athlete than he is given credit for.
The Verdict: This will probably be the toughest call to make, as both could make a claim for a spot in the Top 5 PG's in Gonzaga history. However, if I had to make a decision, I'd probably go with Pangos. He is a great leader and has the ability to win a game by himself. Not surprisingly, a healthy Kevin Pangos has the ability to make this a truly special season in Spokane.