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Gonzaga Bulldogs

2021-22 record: 28-4, 13-1 in the WCC

Head coach: Mark Few

Tenure at Gonzaga: 24th season

Career coaching record: 658-129

Home court: McCarthey Athletic Center

Starters: G Malachi Smith, G Julian Strawther, G Rasir Bolton, F Anton Watson, F Drew Timme

Bench: G Nolan Hickman, G Hunter Sallis, G Kellen Mitchell, F Colby Brooks, F Ben Gregg, C Efton Reid III

Overview: The Zags had an excellent regular season last year, following through on the reputation they have built under head coach Mark Few. But Gonzaga gave its fans a shocker in March: after a season going 16-0 at home and bringing a WCC tournament trophy back to Spokane, Wash., the Bulldogs upset brackets all over the nation by losing to No. 4 seed Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Zags are aiming to again claim their spot atop the WCC, a feat they will likely accomplish with their preseason AP ranking of No. 2 nationally. They have experience on their side: with the exceptions of freshmen Kellen Mitchell and Braden Huff, Gonzaga’s court will be filled with returners. At the helm is forward Drew Timme, who enters his senior season with the most recent WCC Player of the Year title. Timme is joined by Malachi Smith, a redshirt junior transfer from Chattanooga, where he started every game of the season. Smith will be taking over for former lead point guard Andrew Nembhard, who played his way into the NBA draft’s second round.

The key to Gonzaga’s lineup is its distributed strength. The Bulldogs do not boast individual players of staggering, spotlight talent like they had with forward and No. 2 overall draft pick Chet Holmgren a season ago—instead, they have an older, practiced team that will rely on team-wide talent and carefully-executed basketball.

Team ceiling: Timme has thrice led his team to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and there is little reason to doubt that he can do it a fourth time. As a senior, this will be his year to inspire the younger Zags to get the job done for Gonzaga and cut down the nets in Houston.

Team floor: After last season the Zags bid farewell to Nembhard and Holmgren. Few did not return with splashy incoming-freshman pickups to replace their presence on the court, so his team will have to focus more on developing talent from sophomores who saw lesser court time. Fans can reasonably expect a trip through the Elite Eight for the Zags—failing to stay alive through the second weekend of March Madness would be a disappointment.

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