Before I start talking about the biggest question for the Gonzaga Bulldogs I just wanted to give you a brief background. My name is Greg Twarzorek and I am a senior at Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York. While that is a long ways from Gonzaga I have been a long time Zags fan so I jumped on the opportunity to write about my favorite team for this up and coming site. I hope you enjoy and Go Zags!
Can Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell’s production be replaced?
Last season for the first time in 6 years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The run to the Elite 8 was the best showing for the Zags in March since the early 2000’s. The Zags will look to build off of that success this upcoming season. However, they will need to fill the void that was left last year by senior guards Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos. Replacing their production of 11.6 ppg for Pangos and 8.2 ppg for Bell will be no easy task.
Silas Melson and Josh Perkins, who are both sophomores, will likely be replacing Pangos and Bell. Melson and Perkins will have to step in and produce right away in order to help the Zags sustain one of the best offenses in the country from last season. The Zags shot an NCAA best 52% from the field last season. Perkins,who only played in 5 games last season after suffering a broken jaw in the team’s fifth game against Georgia, averaged 5 ppg in just over 20 minutes. Melson, who played in 31 games last season, only averaged 3.2 ppg in just over 9 minutes a game. Kyle Dranginis, another senior guard for the Zags, will look to fill the vacant small forward spot that was left by USC Transfer Byron Wesley.
The challenge for Melson and Perkins next season will be getting their chemistry down, as both played very few minutes last season with one another. Another challenge will be learning to play with Gonzaga’s big 3 of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Prezemek Karnowski. If the new guards can mesh with what will arguably be the best frontcourt in college ball this year, than Gonzaga’s offense will be unstoppable.
Having quality guard play is crucial in college basketball, and without it you may be doomed. With poor guard play the bigs are virtually ineffective because they are not getting the ball in the best spots for their repertoire. While Perkins and Melson may be inexperienced, after watching them last year, it is very clear they can take Gonzaga where it needs to go this year. Silas and Josh were both banged up at different points during last season, so it could be a while before they learn to gel on the court this year. For the last 4 years, Pangos and Bell were arguably one of the best duos in college basketball. They were both fantastic leaders and that will be missed, but in time hopefully these guys will learn to trust one another like they did. Kevin and Gary were the kind of players that could win you games, when everyone else was having an “off” night. That is what made each of them so special. There is no denying that they can be replaced, but the bigger question is whether or not Perkins and Melson are ready for the challenge.
With Pangos and Bell running the show, Gonzaga had won 30 plus games in 3 of their past 4 seasons,including 3 straight West Coast Conference Championships. Throw in an Elite 8 appearance, and you have yourself two of the most successful guards in Gonzaga history. Two guards that have now made Gonzaga nationally ranked as of the best teams in the country. Gonzaga has big expectations this year and the goal is simple:Get to Houston. That is the only thing that is missing is the team’s First ever Final Four berth. It is up to Silas Melson and Josh Perkins to change that this upcoming season. There is no doubt they have big shoes to fill.
Buffalo State ‘16