Gonzaga is the Best Basketball Team in the Country

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Andy Lyons

During the 2020-2021 season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs made it to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament but came up short against the Baylor Bears. In ‘Zaga’s 115 year history, they’ve yet to win a championship. However, with star center Drew Timme returning, a couple of viable transfers, and the best freshmen class in school history, the Bulldogs look equipped and are ranked #1 in the country. Should they be? Yes.

Coach Mark Few has been the coach at Gonzaga for 22 seasons. In his stint, he holds a 630-124 record. Few’s been exceptional as he consistently gets the most out of his players year in and year out. Year after year, Few is one of the best in the business and consistently has one of the best offenses in the country. Last season, Gonzaga finished first in the nation in points and field goals, while ranking third in assists. The Bulldogs finishing third in assists shouldn’t come by surprise. Few has his team constantly moving the ball and refusing to let it stick. Ball movement is his identity and the 2021-2022 team will adopt it, same as his teams have in years before. The Bulldogs lost their best player Jalen Suggs to the NBA but they have talent returning and talent in from their class of 2021 signees. Few will adjust and have that offense running as a fine tuned machine per usual. 

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Tim Nwachukwu

The Bulldogs are returning multiple players from last years’ team. Most importantly, center Drew Timme decided to return for his junior season. Last season Timme averaged 19.7 points per game and 7.2 rebounds, and we should expect nothing less this season. Timme was the second best player on the team last year and is expected to be the best this year. Anton Watson served as a backup to Timme and will more than likely replay that same role. Watson is experienced and has proven to be a solid player on both ends. Julian Strawther will be in the starting rotation as a wing. Strawther only averaged eight minutes last year, largely due to him playing behind the older and more experienced guards and forwards. However, in their exhibition game against Eastern Oregon, Strawther showed he belonged by dropping 18 points in the first half. Additionally, Junior guard Andrew Nembhard will make up half the Bulldogs backcourt. Unlike Strawther, Nembhard comes with plenty of experience as he started 16 of 32 games last year and he was third in minutes played. If that’s not enough, the Bulldogs also pulled in Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton to serve as the other starting half of the backcourt. Like Nembhard, Bolton is battle tested having 59 career starts, with career highs last season averaging 15.5 points per game, 3.9 assists per game and 4.8 rebounds per game. Nembhard and Bolton will make a formidable backcourt. 

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Robert Johnson/Stringer

Gonzaga brought in the #2 recruiting class. The Bulldogs put themselves right back in the driver's seat when they signed Chet Holmgren. Holmgren was the #1 recruit in the 2021 class and looks to join Timme in the frontcourt. The duo of Holmgren and Timme is going to give other teams huge fits. Holmgren will undoubtedly have an impact early. Holmgren looked good in the exhibition game showing his unicorn abilities, as he went coast to coast for his first collegiate bucket in an exhibition.

Additionally they signed, the #2 combo guard in the nation in Hunter Sallis, the #5 point guard in Nolan Hickman and the #9 center in Kaden Perry all of whom were absolute stars in high school. Although none of the three are expected to start, Sallis and Hickman will play huge reserve roles for the Bulldogs. Sallis and Hickman backing up Nembhard and Bolton will give defenses zero breaks on either end of the floor. Perry will likely sit behind fellow freshman Chet Holmgren and upperclassmen Timme and Watson. However, Perry has a legitimate skillset and has the ability to contribute if necessary. 

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are returning solid players, brought in a great class and, in turn, are ranked #1 to start the season. The Bulldogs are deep as ever and will ride that depth all the way to the top. They got their first win on the season last night against Dixie State. Coach Few wasn't present as he served a suspension for a DUI he received in September. Fortunately, it was only a one game suspension. On Saturday, he will be back as they square off against #5 Texas at 10:30pm for their first real test.

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