It is finally go time for the 2018-2019 season, and that means the return of the Weekly Zag Briefing. As always, I’ll do my best to catch you up on all the other notable Gonzaga content that makes its way to the internet (after you’ve read our stuff, of course) each week. The big story of the week, obviously, is the news that broke Tuesday night that Killian Tillie will be out for 8 weeks—the entire non-conference schedule—after requiring surgery to address a stress fracture in his ankle that occurred during practice. Peter took a look at how his loss impacts the team here. While it obviously sucks to lose a player of his stature for the duration of the toughest portion of the schedule, the good news is that Tillie isn’t lost for the year and will have time to get himself ready for the postseason, which is really the most important thing.
- Rui Hachimura did a Q&A with Athlon Sports, and explained that part of the reason he didn’t test the NBA Draft Waters after last season was that he felt he still needed to work on multiple aspects of his game before he was ready to make the jump. By staying at Gonzaga for at least one more season, he thinks he’ll be better-positioned to have a long NBA career. He also disputes that he’s ceded the crown of the team’s most athletic player to Brandon Clarke!
- The admiration of Gonzaga is very strong in Sports Illustrated’s season preview, with several of its writers picking the Zags to win the National Championship.
- Zach Collins is getting his sophomore campaign off to a good campaign, and is assuming the responsibility of Portland’s defensive anchor. Collins’ defense was always going to be his calling card early in his career, but he’s also growing more comfortable with his offensive game which is great to see.
- What would the start of the season be without ranking teams sight unseen?! The Athletic put together its Top 68, serving as a hybrid power ranking and tournament seed list, and the Zags came in at #4 to start off the year along with the caveat that The Athletic’s writers could still be underrating them despite the already lofty ranking.
- While you’re over at The Athletic, make sure to catch Brendan Quinn’s notes from Gonzaga’s 110-92 secret scrimmage win over Michigan State. Tillie didn’t play (now we know why), nor did Joel Ayayi (still don’t know why), but the Zags did have five players score in double figures led by Corey Kispert’s 24 points (5-8 3PT). Zach Norvell (22 pts), Rui Hachimura (19 pts), Brandon Clarke (14 pts), and Filip Petrusev (11 pts) rounded out the group. Josh Perkins (13 assists, 2 turnovers) did his job quarterbacking the offense. Petrusev’s production and readiness is encouraging, as he’ll obviously be needed to step up and produce right away with Tillie’s prolonged absence. He can definitely ball, and the silver lining to Tillie’s injury coming up now is that there’s plenty of time to get the freshman forward ready for a bigger role. Also, it looks like pre-injury Kispert is back to full strength, which is exciting considering what a revelation he was at the start of last season.
- Kendra Andrews of The Athletic and Gonzaga’s The Bulletin, profiled Brandon Clarke and his efforts to completely revamp his jump shot during his red shirt season. Clarke’s athleticism and impact in the paint is undeniable, and he’s expected to play the exact role that Johnathan Williams manned last year. If Clarke can stretch the floor with a reliable jump shot, that would really round out his game.
- Will Maupin of Mid-Major Madness put together his WCC preview. While it’s no surprise to see the Zags at the top of his ranking, he also makes the case for some interesting conference awards so check it out!
- NBC Sports ranks Gonzaga’s frontcourt as the second-best in the country, behind only Kentucky. That obviously doesn’t account for Tillie’s injury, but it’s important to keep that perspective in mind as we deal with the next two months.