How will Gonzaga’s rotation look this season?
A new season in college basketball can bring about uncertainty and change to a team’s roster. You have players graduating from school; some are heading to the NBA, while other players are heading overseas to continue their careers. No matter what happens there will always be new faces on a roster and chances for new players to become difference makers on their respective teams. The one thing you do not know about each team is the number of minutes and how a team’s rotation will play out after the seniors are gone from the program. For Gonzaga, losing Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos means that there are plenty of minutes that need to be filled. How will those minutes be addressed? Well that is Mark Few’s job to figure out before and even during the course of the long season.
Nobody will ever tell you how crucial dividing a player’s minutes in college basketball really is. These days everyone in the basketball world is concerned with points, number of rebounds, and or the number of assists a player had during the season. Managing minutes is a lost art in the game of basketball. Last season, Pangos and Bell averaged 33.6 and 27.8 minutes respectively and that was tops on the Gonzaga team for minutes by the guards. Gonzaga’s front line of Kyle Wiltjer, Prezemek Karnowski, and the sixth man Domantas Sabonis averaged 27.6, 24.5, and 21.6 minutes per game respectively. These three all return this season and will be crucial to Gonzaga’s success.
You know what you will get from the three returning forwards this season Kyle Wiltjer may be a 1st team All American at the end of the year, and will probably log about 35 minutes a game. Karnowski and Sabonis will probably average close to 30 minutes a game as well. Night in and night out the “Big 3” will produce for the Zags, but it’s the players behind them that could potentially decide how good this team can be this year. It is imperative that the “Big 3” for Gonzaga not only take up a lot of minutes, but stay out of foul trouble this season. These guys may be the cornerstone of the Zags team, but it’s the players behind them that could give Mark Few headaches.
Silas Melson and Josh Perkins on the other hand are a different story. Both will begin their sophomore campaigns with not a lot of experience under their belt. Melson, who stepped in for Perkins when he got hurt last season, only saw 9.6 minutes a game. Perkins meanwhile saw 20.2 minutes a game when he was the backup to Kevin Pangos last season. Perkins was depended on to be something special for Gonzaga last year and while you saw glimpses of it; it’s time for him and Melson to take that next leap forward. Mark Few is hoping these two will log close to 30 minutes a game and become a significant source of the team’s scoring.
Those 5 players are projected to be the starters for the Zags this season. With the season just over a month away though, it is unclear whether the rotation behind those guys is set in stone. Kyle Dranginis, who came off the bench last season, only averaged 17.5 minutes and he could play a much bigger role this year in the offense. He will most likely be the third guard behind Melson and Perkins. Eric McClellan, the Vanderbilt transfer, will also look to contribute to the Zags rotation after playing just 8.1 minutes a game last year. McClellan, due to transfer rules, was not eligible to play until December last year. Therefore, it took him a while to get accustom to the Gonzaga system. McClellan and Dranginis are veterans, so they will look to provide some experience for sophomores Silas Melson and Josh Perkins.
Mark Few’s rotation this year may only consist of 7 or 8 guys, so it’s up to him to make sure Gonzaga’s starters are fresh from November through March. You don’t want to have your team injured or even fatigued come tourney time because that could spell doom for Gonzaga. The rotation for the Zags was close to 9 or 10 guys a game just a season ago, and losing the three guards in Bell, Pangos and Wesley will presumably only make it harder for Mark Few to manage minutes. Having the “Big 3” is a blessing but who will play behind them?
With Sabonis possibly starting alongside Karnowski and Wiltjer this season, then Gonzaga loses their first big guy off the bench from last season. Gonzaga clearly has enough depth at the guard positions, but not so much at the center and power forward positions. Losing big man Angel Nunez to another school and having former Washington guard Nigel Williams – Goss sit out this year due to the NCAA transfer rules is a tough blow for Coach Few. Gonzaga’s roster is a little undermanned to start this season, but Few always seems to have some tricks up his sleeve. It will be interesting to see how Gonzaga’s rotation pans out in the coming months.
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