While we are about seven months away (I know, it is sickening) from the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, there is already healthy discussion about how next year's top teams will look. In looking at the Final 4 teams from this season, there is no doubt that things are going to look a lot different next year as Duke and Kentucky will lose a plethora of their one and dones and Wisconsin will lose Frank Kaminsky and likely Sam Dekker.
Gonzaga is very much in the same boat as these programs in that they lose a lot but are expected to reload nicely. The Bulldogs will absolutely be losing Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, and Byron Wesley and are expected to also lose Angel Nunez as a graduate transfer. That said, the Bulldogs outstanding frontcourt is all likely to return as Przemek Karnowski, Kyle Wiltjer, and Domantas Sabonis are expected to be back in Spokane. Sabonis has confirmed his return and Wiltjer has indicated that he will be back in several places on social media. With that, let's take a look at what some college basketball analysts expect from the Bulldogs next season:
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish: No. 8
- Notable players definitely gone: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Angel Nunez, Byron Wesley
- Others expected to leave: None
- Notable players expected to return: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis, Silas Melson, Kyle Dranginis, Eric McClellan, Josh Perkins
- Others expected to join the roster: None
Why the Zags are ranked here: Gonzaga should return six of the top nine players from a team that won 35 games and made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Kyle Wiltjer will have a strong case to be a preseason First Team All-American.
SB Nation's Mike Rutherford: No. 22
2014-15 Record: 35-3
2014-15 Finish: Elite Eight
Losing Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley means this group won't have the same "Final Four contender" bizz as this past season's or the 2012-13 squad. Still, the two-headed inside monster of Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis will be back, and unless something unexpected happens so to will be leading scorer Kyle Wiltjer.
ESPN's Eamonn Brennan: No. 7
Before Kyle Wiltjer became a dominant offensive force in Spokane, he transferred from Kentucky. Before he transferred from Kentucky, he came to a realization: He wasn't an NBA prospect, at least not yet. Despite returning to the court with one of the most efficient offensive games in college basketball, Wiltjer's physical tools still haven't impressed NBA scouts -- many mock drafts don't even consider him a second-round pick -- which means he should be back for his senior season at Gonzaga. If he is, the Zags will be a national title contender, one led by a loaded frontcourt, which also includes centerPrzemek Karnowski and forward Domantas Sabonis. Replacing Kevin Pangosand Gary Bell Jr. won't be easy. How's that for an understatement? But Josh Perkins (a four-star guard who chose Gonzaga over UCLA, and broke his jaw early in the 2014-15 season) and Kyle Dranginis are more than talented enough to fill in.
I'm sure there are about 10,000 other preseason rankings out there but at some point, they all start sounding the same. I love our mothership here at SB Nation but the No. 22 preseason ranking is kinda funny if you assume that Karnowski, Wiltjer, and Sabonis all return next season. I think the Zags are probably in the 10-15 range at this point pending the addition of further recruits or graduate transfers. Getting someone that can fill the role of Byron Wesley at the small forward spot will be key as that ability to slash was really crucial for the Bulldogs this year.
Where do you think the Zags stand next season and what are some of your biggest concerns?