We have finally reached the top of the preseason mountain. And once again the Gonzaga Bulldogs are on top. Gonzaga went wire-to-wire as the #1 team in the AP Poll last season. But once again, they came up just short of a national championship, losing again in the title game.
You can check out the previous team in my rankings, the #2 UCLA Bruins, right here.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga was historically good last season. But, they lose a lot. Four of the seven guys that played regularly last season are now gone. But, they do bring in a lot more talent.
Mark Few brings in the third-best recruiting class in the nation this year. It includes three of the five highest rated recruits that Gonzaga has ever brought in, as well as the ninth-best too. The class is led by #1 overall recruit Chet Holmgren. He has been viewed as a potential generational prospect. I have seen comparisons to Anthony Davis. That is high praise. Holmgren is a tremendous rim protector and he can shoot the ball like a guard. He can fill up every part of a stat sheet. If he gains weight and gets stronger, he will 100% be the #1 overall pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.
The other five-star in this class is combo guard Hunter Sallis. He has quickly improved into a long, versatile guard that can play on or off the ball. Sallis also has a high basketball IQ. Nolan Hickman was originally going to go to Kentucky. But he decommitted in April. Two weeks later he chose Gonzaga. Hickman is a balanced shooter, creator and is a good facilitator. Because of the sheer level of talent of the first three guys I mentioned, four-star center Kaden Perry has been largely overlooked. But he is a very good player in his own right.
Rasir Bolton joins the third team of his collegiate career. He continues to move west. After spending his freshman year at Penn State, Bolton transferred to Iowa State where he played the last two years. He made big improvements while in Ames, and the point guard earned All-Big 12 3rd Team honors this past season.
Three key contributors from last season return for this year. The best among them is Wooden Award favorite Drew Timme. There arguably really isn’t a better returning player in college basketball this season this year than him. Timme showed last year that he can do it all. Plus, he has one of the best mustaches in the country. Andrew Nembhard returns at point guard. He had a good first season in Spokane last year and is one of the better point guards in the nation. Anton Watson started 17 games of 32 last season and is an extremely valuable piece in this team’s rotation.
This team might not necessarily have the transcendent, all-powerful talent that they did a year ago. But they still look really, really good. If they can fit together as well as last season’s historically good team, then they are the favorites to cut down the nets in New Orleans in April.
C – #34 Chet Holmgren (#1 overall recruit on 247 Sports)
PF – #2 Drew Timme (19.0 PPG/ 7.0 RPG/ 2.3 APG)
G – #10 Hunter Sallis (#20 overall recruit on 247 Sports)
PG – #45 Rasir Bolton (15.5 PPG/ 4.8 RPG/ 3.9 APG/ 1.3 SPG at Iowa State)
PG – #3 Andrew Nembhard (9.2 PPG/ 2.4 RPG/ 4.4 APG/ 1.1 SPG)
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