Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are heading into a regular season with less certainty on the roster than they have had in many years, thanks in part to the departures of Drew Timme, the school’s all-time leading scorer, as well as Julian Strawther and veteran guards Malachi Smith and Rasir Bolton.
This new-look roster features three transfers, three freshmen, one redshirt freshman, and one sophomore who has not played in Jun Seok Yeo, which has preseason pollsters a little unsure how to rank this historically dominant program.
However, in uncertain times, I suppose it makes sense to turn to the computers. And KenPom’s 2023-24 preseason ratings, which came out on Sunday October 15, certainly paint a rosy picture of this Gonzaga squad.
KenPom has Gonzaga ranked fifth in the country, behind Purdue, Kansas, Houston, and UConn. Ken’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric gives the Zags the top offense, while adjusted defensive efficiency has them at 26. Gonzaga finished last year with the top offense, and managing to do so again while losing three starters and basically every bench player would be an incredible showcase of coaching from Few and the staff.
Perhaps even more incredible would be a jump for this defense, which finished last year at No. 73 overall. Certainly losing Timme could be a net gain defensively, but none of GU’s additions are known as defensive stalwarts – making a significant leap on that end of the floor a little hard to envision unless we get big time jumps in defensive production from guys like Graham Ike, Ben Gregg, Nolan Hickman, and/or big minutes from Dusty Stromer or Yeo.
Despite being picked second in the WCC by the coaches, Gonzaga is the clear favorite at KenPom’s metric, with the rest of the WCC rating as follows:
SMC – 38 (two spots behind BYU)
LMU – 91
USF – 93
Santa Clara – 150
Portland – 160
Pacific – 186
Pepperdine – 190
San Diego – 263
As usual the Zags will get plenty of big tests in the non-conference slate, with at least five teams in KenPom’s top 30 in Purdue (1), UConn (4), Kentucky (18), USC (21) and San Diego State (29). Gonzaga may also play Tennessee (8) and could in theory line up against Kansas (1) Marquette (11) or UCLA (26) in Maui as well.
Gonzaga also has a reported secret scrimmage against Baylor (7) and a pair of top 80 matchups against Yale (71) to open the year and a road game against Washington (78) in December.
They also host Mississippi Valley State, who had the misfortune of being the lowest ranked D1 team (362) in KenPom’s preseason ratings. Nowhere to go but up.
Andy hosts the Locked on Zags and Locked on College Basketball podcasts, and serves Locked On in a marketing/digital content creator role as well. He lives just outside Portland with his wife Jenna and dog, Tillie.