Gonzaga team capsule: Back to the old Guard U days

Harry How

Gonzaga had a year for the ages last year, but lost their front court to the NBA. Look for the Zags to go back to the guard-oriented play they are generally known for.

Depending on which side of the fence you stand, last season was either one of the greatest seasons the small school out of Spokane, Wash. has produced, or one of the most disappointing. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. The Gonzaga Bulldogs achieved their first No. 1 ranking and No. 1 seed in school history, but saw their dream run end with an abrupt loss in the Sweet 16. Do they still have the pieces to come anywhere close to re-living the magic of last year?

2013 Record: 32-3, 16-0 WCC

2013 Postseason: Lost in third round to Wichita State

Key Returnees: Kevin Pangos (11.9 ppg, 3.3 apg), Gary Bell (9.0 ppg, 2.1 apg), Sam Dower (6.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Przemek Karnowski (5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg)

Key Losses: Kelly Olynyk (declared for draft), Mike Hart (graduated), Elias Harris (graduated)

Key Additions: Gerard Coleman

2013-14 Outlook:

The general outlook from Spokane is that Mark Few doesn't ever rebuild -- he just reloads. That theory will be put to the test this year after the Zags lost their frontcourt, two top scorers and rebounders in Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk. The Bulldogs also lost the hardest kind of player to replace when the heart and soul of the team, Mike Hart, graduated.

All of those signs point to a slightly down year. It can probably be etched in stone now, as Gonzaga is unlikely to reach the top of the AP polls or snare another No. 1 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Zags have always worked better as an underrated team, and that is exactly where Gonzaga might fly this year. They still have one of the nation's top backcourts in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who both saw declines on offense as the Zags relied heavily on their big men last year.

Many said Przemek Karnowski, the monstrous big man from Poland, would have been a McDonald's All-American if he was from the states, and he should be better with another year of college ball under his belt. Sam Dower has always been an efficient scorer, averaging 6.9 points a game last year on 55.8 percent shooting in just 16 minutes. Providence transfer Gerard Coleman is eligible to play this season and will provide yet another scoring option after averaging 13.2 points a game in 2011-2012.

It isn't exactly a new look Gonzaga, however. The Zags are more known for their crop of guards and run-and-gun style of play more than anything else. The Bulldogs aren't as deep as they were last year, but they'll still be a dangerous team capable of keeping up with just about anyone.

Bottom Line:

Last year's Gonzaga team generally pounded it down in the post all game long and the equation worked out quite well. After losing both Harris and Olynyk, don't be surprised to see Mark Few revert to his old "Guard U" days and throw out a team that loves to run up and down the court. Gonzaga has now been to the NCAA Tournament 14 consecutive years and the streak isn't in jeopardy this year. But with all those NCAA Tournament appearances, Gonzaga still lacks success in March. It has been over a decade since Gonzaga made it past the Sweet 16, and there is a good chance that dubious streak is extended this year.

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