WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
Mark Few knows most coaches would kill to have his problem: How to get the most out of three players, all 6'10" or taller and All-America candidates? " 'Just play the three together' is sort of the simpleton take," says Few, "but it's hard to look back and see somebody who's played three 6'10" or 6'11" guys at the same time. We'll figure it out though."
Senior forward Kyle Wiltjer, a leading candidate for player of the year, can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting (46.6% in 2014--15), and he worked to get stronger in the off-season. Senior center Przemek Karnowski (10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds), a beast on the block, is one of the nation's most underrated players. And sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis has sticky hands, a high motor and an exceptional feel for the game. But what happens when opposing teams press them? How will they space the floor? And can Wiltjer, who's smooth and cerebral but not especially athletic, guard on the perimeter? His added strength will help him rebound more effectively, but he still lacks speed.
In each of his 16 seasons Few has tailored the offense to fit the Zags' strengths. As he waits for the backcourt to catch up—all three guard positions are open after the exits of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley—he'll lean heavily on his big three.
PROJECTED TEAM STATS
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 115.4 (12th)
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 94.2 (27th)
WCC RECORD 16--2 (1st)
Eric McClellan started out at Tulsa, averaged 14.3 points in 12 games for Vanderbilt, then played 18 games for Gonzaga last season. The slashing combo guard will see time at all three perimeter spots this season.
With 2015--16 projections for the top six scorers
Coach Mark Few (17th season)
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Kyle Wiltjer* 6'10" Sr.
Domantas Sabonis* 6'11" Soph.
Przemek Karnowski* 7'1" Sr.
Josh Perkins* 6'3" Fr.
Silas Melson 6'4" Soph.
Eric McClellan 6'4" Sr.
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WILTJER)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MCCLELLAN)