Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs tip off the season in an exhibition game against Lewis-Clark State at 6:00 PM PT on Friday, Nov. 3 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game will be on KHQ in Spokane and ESPN+ for outside market fans.
With Gonzaga’s scrimmage against Baylor untelevised, this will be our first opportunity to see the majority of the Zags in action against an opponent other than themselves: with only Anton Watson, Ben Gregg, and Nolan Hickman having played for GU previously (outside of the walk-ons).
Our first look at Ryan Nembhard, Graham Ike, Steele Venters, Dusty Stromer, Jun Seok-Yeo, Luka Krajnovic, Braden Huff, and Pavle Stosic could be in the cards, giving us a near endless amount of storylines to follow this evening.
Here are five that stand out, as explained on Thursday’s episode of the Locked on Zags podcast.
1. How much does Graham Ike play?
I suspect Ike will play, after all he played against Baylor (according to reports) and coach Few was consistent in saying he’d be ready for the regular season. But there is also no reason to push him (or any of the starters) in an exhibition game, even with a week until the season opener against Yale on Nov. 10.
18-20 minutes from Ike is my expectation, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he moves and how the team utilizes him on offense, although I hope he spends a lot of time on the bench as well so he’s 100% for Yale.
2. How are minutes distributed between Dusty Stromer and Luka Krajnovic?
This is going to be one of the most interesting competitions in the early part of the season for Gonzaga. Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman are going to play a lot of minutes at the two guard positions – and I mean a lot of minutes. Most of the minutes. Some games, maybe even all of the minutes. But a pair of freshmen in Dusty Stromer and Luka Krajnovic will compete for what minutes are left, and Friday’s exhibition against Lewis-Clark State should give us at least some indication of who is in the lead for those minutes.
Additionally, what roles will these two play? Will Krajnovic run point, will Dusty play off the ball? Could it be flipped? I suspect neither are true point guard options, but will be curious how they are utilized, and how often.
3. How ready does Jun Seok Yeo look?
Yeo joined the team back in January and the hype train has taken off in a big way for the South Korean star. However, he was quiet at Kraziness in the Kennel and reportedly didn’t do much in the scrimmage against Baylor, tempering expectations for the 21-year-old for now.
It could be another developmental year where he’s playing in garbage time, with a bigger role in the cards for next season. Or, perhaps he will emerge this year as a legit bench threat thanks to his length and touch. This game won’t give us all the answers, but it’s a start.
4. What ‘role’ does Anton Watson play?
Watson is obviously a massive, critical piece for Gonzaga in 2023-24. But how will he be deployed? Is he replacing Timme as primarily a back-to-the-basket scorer who is constantly fighting for position on the block? Or does he play away from the rim, being used more as a playmaker and facilitator? Do we see a lot of two-man action with Watson and Nembhard? Is Watson feeding Ike or Gregg from the top of the key? What about the outside shooting?
If you can’t tell, Watson’s usage is an incredibly intriguing topic for me this season.
5. How are Ben Gregg and Braden Huff utilized?
Both Gregg and Huff will play on Friday, and ideally both will play quite a bit. But, similar to the question with Watson, in what role? Both are billed as outside shooting threats, but will either of them be deployed under the basket? Who will be used more as a passer at the top of the key? And defensively, how do they look? Can Huff emerge as a rim protector? Will Gregg’s improved strength translate on defense?
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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.