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West Coast Countdown: Gonzaga's Great Expectations

Nov. 14, 2008

For the past decade, Gonzaga has established itself as the premier team in the West Coast Conference. 10 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, tied with Texas and Wisconsin for the sixth longest active streak in the nation, has solidified the Zags place among the elite programs in the nation.

So what makes this season different? With a roster that boasts three returning starters, including 2008 WCC Player of the Year Jeremy Pargo, and 10 letterwinners overall, many preseason prognosticators have predicted the Zags to make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. USA Today listed the Bulldogs as one of the "Elite to Beat" in its preseason men's basketball preview.

Gonzaga enters the season with a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press preseason top 25 and a No. 11 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today preseason rankings. The rankings are the second highest preseason listings in each respective poll in program history. The Zags earned a No. 8 AP preseason ranking in 2005-06, and were listed at No. 7 in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason Coaches poll that same season.

GONZAGA'S TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
NAME YEAR
POSITION
2007-08 KEY STATS
Jeremy Pargo Senior
Guard
12.1 ppg, 6.03 apg, 47 steals
Matt Bouldin Junior
Guard
12.6 ppg, 46.2% FG, 45 steals
Austin Daye Sophomore
Forward
10.5 ppg, 47.5% FG, 54 blocks

GONZAGA'S BACKCOURT

WCC Player of the Year Jeremy Pargo


Led by reigning WCC Player of the Year Jeremy Pargo, the Zags boast one of the best backcourts in the nation. Pargo was selected to the John R. Wooden Award Pre-Season Top 50 list for the second consecutive season. Pargo, a nominee for the Bob Cousy award, given annually to the top male point guard in the country, was the Zags' second leading scorer last season at 12.1 points per game. He also paced the conference in assists with 6.0 assists per game, and was the only guard in the WCC to rank in the top 10 in the league in field goal percentage (49.7 percent).

Gonzaga also welcomes back a trio of players who saw significant minutes last season in All-WCC First Team member Matt Bouldin, senior wing Micah Downs, and sophomore sharpshooter Steven Gray, a 2008 All-WCC Freshman Team selection. Bouldin led the Zags in scoring last season with 12.6 points per game. Bouldin (2.9 apg) teamed with Pargo to give Gonzaga the top assist tandem in the conference as the duo combined for 8.94 assists per game. Downs tossed in 7.9 points per game last season and ranked third on the team in three-point field goals made (38). In his first season with the Zags, Gray made 19 starts and proved to be one of the top shooters in the WCC, nailing 46.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc to lead the Zags.

The addition of a pair of talented freshmen in 6-4 Grant Gibbs and 5-11 Demetri Goodson should give the Zags versatility and depth in the backcourt. According to Head Coach Mark Few, Gibbs is the mold of former Gonzaga great Blake Stepp, while Goodson has game-changing speed and athleticism.

GONZAGA'S FRONTCOURT

All-Freshman Team member Austin Daye


The depth of Gonzaga's frontcourt is just what the Bulldogs ordered, in order to compete for the WCC title. Led by sophomore forward Austin Daye, who was named to the WCC preseason all-conference team, Gonzaga is looking to utilize their "big men" down low.

Daye proved his versatility as he finished his freshman year ranked 16th in the WCC in scoring (10.5 ppg), 10th in field goal percentage (116-for-244, 47.5 percent), 15th in rebounding (4.7 rpg), fourth in blocked shots (1.64/game), and first in free throw percentage (89-for-101, 88.1 percent). Daye was also selected to the WCC All-Freshman Team.

Redshirt senior forward Josh Heytvelt will also be returning for the Zags. After missing the first 11 games of the season due to foot surgery, Heytvelt came back as one of the Zags' strongest inside forces and best big men in the country. In WCC games only, he is tied for 22nd in scoring (9.6 ppg), 14th in field goals percentage (45-for-92, 48.9 percent), 11th in rebounding (5.1 rpg), and tied for 12th in blocked shots (0.64/game). His 43 blocks last season also ranks as the ninth most in a single season in Gonzaga history.

In addition, sophomore center Robert Sacre, senior forward Ira Brown, and junior center Will Foster will provide additional depth down low. Sacre and Brown are looked to have breakout seasons while seven-foot-five Foster will serve as a defensive wall after bulking up to 273 pounds.

Gonzaga also welcomes forward Andy Poling, considered the "big man" of the incoming class, standing at six-foot-11, and expected to create many scoring opportunities for the Zags inside. Ranked ninth in the state in scoring as a senior at 17.5 ppg, Poling finished his Westview High career with a total 1,661 points.