Last season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs said good-bye to Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis, Eric McClellan, and Kyle Dranginis.
Between those four players, the Zags lost approximately 70 percent of their points, 65.2 percent of their total rebounds and 64.6 percent of their offensive rebounding.
For most other squads, losing that level of production would mean a down year. Gonzaga is hardly like most other squads, however.
Sure, the Zags reloaded, with transfers in Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams III, and Jordan Mathews, and then they brought in some high-profile recruits like Zach Collins and Zack Norvell. But at the end of the day, those transfers and new recruits will have to figure out how to make up for that lost production, and they’ll have to do it quickly.
The Zags have eight possible new faces to take the court this season, and that combines with the eight familiar faces from last season. Chemistry, both on the court and off the court, has been a hallmark of every single Gonzaga Bulldog team in recent memory. That chemistry was on full display during the HBO special last season.
But will that chemistry be on full display this season? Mark Few has, quite understandably, cautioned the general public on that note. In a piece by Jon Rothstein, Few pointed out Williams-Goss hardly practiced last season because of an ankle injury, and Jordan Mathews didn’t even arrive on campus until September with the rest of the 2016 recruiting class.
“We’ve got talented guys, but they haven’t spent a lot of time here,” said Mark Few. “There’s been a lot of teaching and instructing. We’re showing guys how we do things and we’re going to do that all year. We’re going to be a work in progress.”
The Zags basically lost two-thirds of their offense last season. They inherited more than enough to make up that difference, and if anything, they inherited even more than they had last season. The big question still remains, how will they blend on the court?
Few, no doubt, has one of the more talented teams he has ever had in his career at Gonzaga. But he and his staff also have more life-coaching on their hands this season. There are already a few distractions: Jacob Larsen’s season-ending injury and Josh Perkins’ arrest.
The talent is no question here. But as the Kentucky WIldcats demonstrated in 2012-13, talent gets you absolutely nowhere if you can’t figure out how to play basketball together. Considering that figuring out how to play basketball together to overcome an overall lack of athleticism has been the Gonzaga method of success for the better part of two decades, this is a plight the Zags haven’t commonly had in recent times.
Which, if you consider the international influence the Zags have had in recent years, this might be the coaching staff to be able to help out. Few and Tommy Lloyd have had no issues integrating players who are crossing seas on their journey to Spokane. We haven’t seen how the coaching staff will respond quite yet to the dynamic of this team’s character, but we will find out soon enough.