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Trying to predict Gonzaga’s 2017-18 starting lineup

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Welcome to a rather fruitless exercise.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust has settled on the 2016-17 season, it is time to take a look at what the 2017-18 Gonzaga Bulldogs season might look like. This is a rather fruitless exercise, however, because the Zags have a couple of key players who might become key players that left early.

So we will present three different scenarios: one where Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss both stay (doubtful), one where Zach Collins leaves and Nigel Williams-Goss stays (perhaps), and one where both Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss leave (possible).

Scenario A: The happiest of all scenarios

  • Center: Zach Collins
  • Forward: Johnathan Williams III
  • Guard: Silas Melson
  • Guard: Josh Perkins
  • Guard: Nigel Williams-Goss

This is a team that is a preseason top-10 and a Final Four threat. The Zags will be losing a huge piece in Przemek Karnowski, but Collins demonstrated that he is more than ready to take over on the big stage.

The biggest part of this lineup is moving Silas Melson into the three-spot. Melson is a tenacious defender, and he can definitely hold his own here. He also improved across the board on his shooting percentages, and I would imagine at the start of the season, despite the clammering for a Rui Hachimura appearance, Mark Few would reward Melson’s senior year with some starting time.

Other than that, there aren’t too many changes here. This starting five, on paper, competes with virtually every other starting five out there. The Zags offensive abilities would change a little bit with Collins in the lineup instead of a Karnowski focused inside game, but we saw this on the court this season and it shredded like nothing else.

Scenario B: The happy and sad scenario

  • Center: Johnathan Williams III
  • Forward: Killian Tillie
  • Guard: Silas Melson
  • Guard: Josh Perkins
  • Guard: Nigel Williams-Goss

The Zags are going to have to prepare for an interesting scenario if (which is most likely when) Collins leaves the program early. Without Karnowski and Collins, the Zags only real “true” centers are Ryan Edwards and Jacob Larsen. Edwards isn’t start worthy material unless there is a dramatic change, and Larsen is a bit of a wildcard at the moment.

Larsen was highly rated coming into the program. However, he did sit out all of last year with an injury, and although he shows a lot of promise, it also sounds like there is a bit of work that needs to be done as well, at least according to Mark Few.

“Jacob has great size and is doing a great job continuing to develop. We can afford to be patient with him, and in the long run, we feel he is going to be an excellent player.”

In this scenario, I think we see a Gonzaga offense that really likes to get up and down the floor. It will be an exciting team, and will have plenty of impact players to choose from off the bench in Larsen (theoretically), Hachimura, Bryan Alberts and Zack Norvell.

Scenario C: Doomsday

  • Center: Johnathan Williams III
  • Forward: Killian Tillie
  • Forward: Rui Hachimura
  • Guard: Silas Melson
  • Guard: Josh Perkins

This is the option where Hachimura gets the start. Few showed a slight willingness to use Hachimura as the season went on, to the point of him seeing time in against West Virginia in the Sweet 16. Although Alberts received the most minutes from the end of the bench, his numbers are a bit inflated by seeing 20 minutes against Utah Valley and 16 minutes against Santa Clara.

For the position as well, having Hachimura on the floor will give the Zags the offensive factor they will need. Losing NWG will be devastating for the Zags ability to drive to the hoop, and Hachimura is the most athletic player left on the team. He’ll be able to fill that hole better than anyone else.


Of course, the other reason why this is such a fruitless exercise is because you can probably expect the Zags to be active on the transfer market if either Collins or NWG leaves early. Duke forward Chase Jeter has already expressed interest, although he will need to sit out a year because of NCAA rules.

There is always the grad transfer market, where whoever comes is eligible to play immediately. In that fashion, you have to expect whatever player arrives would either be the instant starter or the first person off the bench.

Either way, the Zags might take a huge hit next season, but this team is balanced enough to absorb all of it. The Zags may not be a Final Four caliber team next year, but they will still be a dangerous squad to contend with.