It’s almost here. The first “real” game for Zag basketball is less than a week away. Gonzaga’s season opener against Dixie State will be the first time that fans will see the Bulldogs in action in a game that actually counts. A lot of questions will be answered as we head into that matchup. Who will be starting in the backcourt alongside Andrew Nembhard? Will we see a three-guard lineup? Where does Chet Holmgren fit best on the floor? I decided to take a look at the 2021-2022 roster and give my thoughts on what the best possible starting five and rotation for this team is.
PG - Andrew Nembhard
One of the best guards in the entire country. The 1-2 punch of Drew Timme and Nembhard will also be one of the best duos in all of college basketball.
This team will only go as far as Andrew will let them. He has the keys to the offense and with his superb shooting ability as well as his elite passing talent, Nembhard can lead this team very far.
SG - Hunter Sallis
This was a hard decision to make with the abundance of skilled guards on the roster but I’m sticking with my guns and going with my initial pick. Sallis has a ton of upside and is a grinder on the defensive side of the floor. He can come up with some big plays due to his skill at reading the passing lanes and his leaping ability.
SF - Julian Strawther
The hype is real around the sophomore out on the wing. Julian brings even more length to the floor. This Gonzaga squad is so long, it’s going to be a real problem for opposing teams and Strawther is a big reason for that.
Think of Corey Kispert last season. That’s the kind of ceiling I see for Julian. His ability to stretch the floor, guard multiple positions. The star potential is all there for Strawther.
Rewatched Kraziness in the Kennel and continue to be impressed by Julian Strawther. He scored at all three levels and showed off his versatility on the defensive end. Really has to be starting at the 3 at the beginning of the season. pic.twitter.com/xItMy9M5QG— Arden Independence Cravalho (@a_cravalho) October 14, 2021
PF - Chet Holmgren
Have you ever been so hyped around a freshman like this? Cause I don’t think I have. Chet is extremely flexible. He can be put out on the wing and either take his defender off the dribble or just pull up out on the perimeter for a deep look. Holmgren can body down on the low-post with some of the best but since Timme will be manning the middle, he won’t be asked to do that every possession down. That’s why the 4 (and sometimes the 3) will be the perfect position for the diaper dandy.
My favorite part of Chet’s game is how he can go from baseline to baseline in what seems instantaneous with his unbelievable length and extreme ball-handling skills for his height. He really can do it all offensively.
And his ability to protect the rim? Don’t even get me started. Nothing is getting past him with that crazy wingspan.
C - Drew Timme
A big surprise here. Timme is coming into this season with high expectations. Like National Player of the Year expectations. And with him being one of the more experienced players in the frontcourt, he will be relied on heavily.
When you’re one of the most effective scorers in the college game, the ball will have to touch your hands at least once each and every possession down. That will most definitely be the case when Timme is out on the floor.
Watson will serve primarily as a backup to Holmgren and Timme in the sixth man role. The aggressiveness in the paint is there but fans have still yet to see him stretch out his game to the three-point line. Don’t get me wrong, he will still be a factor on the offensive side of the floor with his size and athleticism. A real spark off the bench.
You need some more veteran experience to come off the bench. A skilled ball-handler. A player who can score in bunches. Rasir does all of that. That’s why I don’t have him starting. He will become the vocal leader out on the floor for the second unit and it will end up being better for the team as a whole.
Hickman’s time to take over the reins isn’t here just yet but this will be the perfect role for his first season in college basketball. Nolan should be grabbing anywhere around 10 to 15 minutes per game and will be making the most of it as a facilitator. He will have a great leader in Nembhard ahead of him to learn the ways of becoming a Gonzaga lead guard.
This is partly due to the fact that Dominick Harris went down and Gregg technically already has a season under his belt. It seems as if Mark Few will be using an 8 or 9-man rotation and with Kaden Perry not being ready (just yet), Ben fills out as the last role player due to his ability to both step outside the three-point arc and play with the big boys in the middle. Perry did look excellent against Eastern Oregon in that meaningless exhibition but this second unit needs more snipers for the deep look. Gregg can do that at his size and Perry just can’t at the moment.
Can’t wait for the season to tip-off! I expect it to end better than it did last time.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho