They are all called the too early top 25/predictions for a reason, but there isn't anything saying we can't enjoy the hype coming Gonzaga Bulldogs's way for the 2018-19 season.
The Zags are landing in top 10 rankings around the nation, finishing as high as No. 5 by USA Today. The Bovada oddsmakers put Gonzaga at 20/1 to win the national championship, the seventh best bet.
Of course, plenty of things can change between today and the start of the next season to temper these expectations. All of Gonzaga’s predictions rely on the entire squad returning, which is still up in the air for a few individuals.
But, assuming that everyone comes back, is this level of hype fair? The short answer—yes.
Presuming everyone returns, the Zags will be looking at a starting lineup that could include Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie, and Brandon Clarke. You may have noticed I listed six names there, and well, that is the perfect problem to have as a coach.
Add in more growth for Jacob Larsen, a new partner in crime in Filip Petrusev, the athleticism of Joel Ayayi, the body of Jeremy Jones, and hopefully something useful in Jesse Wade, and the Zags will have a deep roster that should compete with the best of them.
On top of that, the Zags will have a unique blend of experience and youth on the roster to assist in March. Perkins, Hachimura, Tillie, and Jones all were members of the national championship team. Norvell and Larsen were along for the ride as redshirts. Everyone but Petrusev rode the pine the most recent Sweet 16 run.
Presumably, if it all goes right, we might be in for another beyond fantastic year.
Let's take a quick look at what everyone is saying about the Zags right now.
- The Athletic — No. 6: "Additionally, Ayayi will a high-upside redshirt freshman, who could provide some desperately needed stability at the backup point guard spot and some defensive versatility because of his long arms."
- ESPN - No. 6: Nothing really that interesting to say.
- Sports Illustrated - No. 8: “The best-case scenario for Gonzaga this offseason is that all of its underclassmen, including Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie, who are probably the team’s best NBA prospects at the moment, return. If that happens, the Bulldogs should be a title contender even after losing starters Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson.”
- CBS Sports - No. 6: “Gonzaga has finished in the top 25 at KenPom each of the past seven years — and in the top 10 in three of the past four. So the Zags are an undeniable benefit-of-the-doubt team. Sure, they lost their leading scorer in Johnathan Williams III. But they’ll still be a top-10 team and WCC power as long as Killian Tillie remains in school.”
- Sporting News - No. 6: “Brandon Clarke, a transfer who averaged 17.3 points for San Jose State as a sophomore, will be eligible after sitting out this season, and he’ll be ready to make a big impact.”
- SB Nation - No. 6: “This past season was supposed to be “the year between the year” for Gonzaga. Instead, the Bulldogs won 32 games, earned a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, and played their way back to the Sweet 16. Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson are both gone, but assuming Rui Hachimura sticks around, Mark Few will be returning every other key part for 2018-19.”
- Ken Pomeroy: