20 Questions: Where Does Gonzaga Go After Last Season’s Highs and Lows?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 22nd, 2013


Throughout the preseason, RTC national columnists will answer the 20 most compelling questions heading into the 2013-14 season. Previous columns in this year’s series are located here.  

At certain moments last season, Gonzaga looked like a team that could make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. It had all the necessary pieces: a great backcourt (Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell), a talented frontcourt (Elias Harris, Sam Dower, and Kelly Olynyk), a gritty defensive specialist (Mike Hart), and enough role players, it seemed, to bang with the sort of deep and athletic teams that had occasionally overwhelmed Mark Few’s teams of years past. The Bulldogs also had an impressive stack of non-conference wins to stick on their resume, victories over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Davidson, Kansas State and Baylor (no, Baylor didn’t make the NCAAs, but that win sure looked good at the time!). It felt like this was the Gonzaga team that would, for the first time since Few replaced Dan Monson as head coach in 1999, roll on past the Sweet Sixteen. The 2012-13 Bulldogs, which had earned an NCAA #1 seed after obliterating the West Coast Conference competition – the Zags finished 16-0 in WCC play – seemed well-positioned to take the next step. Some believed Gonzaga had National Championship potential. Others were less optimistic. The consensus, though, was that this Gonzaga team was, for lack of a more descriptive word, good. Not just good like most of Few’s Gonzaga teams, but good enough to hang with the very best teams in the country.

One of the nation’s best backcourts is is led by Pangos, a two-time All-WCC honoree.

The subset of college hoops fans that believed Gonzaga was undeserving of its No. 1 seed were validated just two games into the NCAA Tournament when the Bulldogs fell to No. 9 seed and eventual Final Four participant Wichita State. In fact, charges that Gonzaga was overrated surfaced even before it lost to Wichita State; the Bulldogs’ narrow six-point win over Southern in the round of 64 was proof enough, for some, that Few’s team wasn’t a real national championship contender. Whenever you happened to jump off the bandwagon – if you jumped off it in the first place – there’s no denying that part of the reason Gonzaga lost to Wichita State had less to do with its own capabilities than it did an insanely well-timed shooting hot streak from the Shockers, who scored 23 points in nine possessions during a ridiculous second-half run. Maybe Gonzaga could have played better defense, and maybe a team like Louisville, whose swarming traps last season (0.83 points per possession) was some of the finest work on that end of the floor that any team has produced in the past decade, would have short-circuited the Shockers’ run. But when a team gets as hot as Wichita State did in that pivotal stretch, and three-point shots start dropping like free throws, you basically have no choice but to tip your cap and go home. In the moment, of course, the same old Gonzagian critiques flooded the national conversation: Just like I predicted! Gonzaga can’t play with the big boys! I knew it! Which, OK. Gonzaga was knocked out earlier than it should have been, but if we’re going to label last year’s Gonzaga team like the others that came before it – like the ones that stacked up easy regular season wins but weren’t prepared to handle the heat of the NCAA Tournament – can we at least acknowledge the circumstances surrounding the Bulldogs’ early NCAA Tournament exit? Is it really fair to paint Gonzaga with such broad strokes, if the team that bounced it from the NCAAs was, 1) a couple possessions away from beating eventual National Champion Louisville in the Final Four; and, 2) the beneficiary of a crazy run of long-range shooting? Introducing some nuance would be nice.

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Who’s Got Next? Recruiting Model Changes, Coleman Commits…

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 27th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Proposed Rule Changes Will Open Up Contact Between Recruits and Coaches

College Coaches Would Be Able To Contact And Evaluate Prospects More Under the Proposed Rules Change.

NCAA To Vote On Potential Changes Today. The NCAA Leadership Council will vote on a number of proposals today that could change the recruiting model and deregulate much of the communication between prospects and coaches. One of the biggest proposals is a change in policy that will make texts, calls, e-mails and the like unlimited beginning on June 15 of a recruit’s sophomore year. Currently, texts aren’t allowed, phone calls are limited, and e-mails unlimited. Two other proposed changes that involve communication between players and coaches include allowing contact with juniors at the prospect’s school in months other than April.  During April, college programs could do in-home visits with prospects. Another potential change worth noting is the rule that would let prospects take official visits beginning January 1 of their junior year, including paid travel expenses for the recruit and his two parents or legal guardians. Although the most significant changes would be with respect to the contact period, the evaluation period would be significantly affected as well. Coaches would be allowed to go to sanctioned events in April, although the dates have not been determined.  The thought is that the April evaluation periods will constitute two weekends beginning on a Friday evening and running through Sunday afternoon. Also, the July evaluation period will be narrowed into three four-day periods. The periods will run from Wednesday at 5 PM to Sunday at 5 PM. However, the dates have not yet been specified.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior stud Alex Poythress on his Memphis visit: “It was really good; I enjoyed it. We got here and watched practice. I hung out with the players. I got to watch [strength and conditioning coach] Frank [Matrisciano] work out Z-Bo (Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph) and another NBA player. I went to [head] coach [Josh] Pastner‘s house. I enjoyed it overall.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Who’s Got Next? Nike EYBL, Kevin Ware, New Lists and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 31st, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.


Try saying Nike EYBL five times fast — it’s tough, but after this past weekend, it’s fairly easy to write. When the best players in the country come together for a three-day weekend leaving everything on the court because a Peach Jam appearance is on the line, you get the best prep basketball in the country. From excellent shooters to freak athletes to dominant big men, the Los Angeles EYBL had it all this weekend and it also gave us a chance to get some updates from prospects regarding their recruitment. And remember that guy Kevin Ware (yes, this Kevin Ware)? Well, he committed… again.

What They’re Saying

  • Josh Gershon on L.J. Rose‘s (#20) recruitment: “L.J. Rose says UCLA and Texas lead. He’ll visit UCLA on Monday and also check out UT again.”
  • Junior Rodney Purvis (#7) on adding a school to his list: “Adding Coach [Josh] Pastner and the Memphis Tigers to my list of schools….” On the best player in the Class of 2013: “[Power forward] Julius Randle (Watch List) is way better then advertised. Hands down best player in country in his class!.”
  • Lis Mack, mother of senior Kevin Ware, on her son’s commitment to Louisville: “The visit was pretty much the deal closer. We had a comfort level that he developed and he thinks it’ll be a great place for him. On top of the ability to learn and they have a great fan base.”
  • Sophomore standout Jairus Lyles on his favorite school: “I wanna go to Wake Forest… that’s my dream school.”
  • Senior Sidiki Johnson (Arizona) on who he’s recruiting among the sophomores and juniors: “[Class of 2013 shooting guard] Chris Thomas (Watch List), he’s a great player… [Class of 2012 power forward] Danny Dingle out of New York, he’s pretty good… and this kid from California, [Class of 2012 small forward] Shabazz Muhammad (#3), that’s about it.”
  • Sophomore sensation Kuran Iverson (Watch List) on location factoring into his recruitment: “Well, my mom may say something about it, but I don’t really care.”

What We Learned

Kevin Ware Commits… Again. With the drama from the Central Florida recruiting scandal dying down, Class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Louisville over the weekend. After de-committing from both Tennessee and UCF in the past couple of months, Ware joins a Cardinal class that includes shooting guard Wayne Blackshear (#22), small forward Angel Nunez, power forward Chane Behanan (#35) and center Zach Price. With this addition, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino now has a top ten class and will be moved into either the #8 or #9 slot when I update my 2011 Class Rankings later this week. However, keep in mind that Ware cannot make a binding agreement since the spring signing period ended and what he will be signing is non-binding grant-in-aid papers until he enrolls in classes. This means he has the opportunity to de-commit again without penalty if he chooses to do so (but to see why it’s likely that Louisville is where he’ll attend college, check out what his mother had to say in the “What They’re Saying” section above). Ware is a great athlete who excels in transition and is a tremendous finisher above the rim. He is a spectacular slasher from the wing and has improved his perimeter shooting so it too is respectable now. However, he needs to continue to get better at shooting in both catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble so he can be a scoring threat in a variety of ways on offense. He can also become a better ball-handler since he commits too many turnovers as the secondary ball-handler. Look for him to be a three to four year player for the Cardinals since despite his fantastic athleticism and raw talent, Pitino could really help him develop into an elite player when he’s an upperclassman. 

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