In case you have not heard, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were recently crowned the 2015 West Coast Conference Champions.
However, with the entire season to be played, the race for second place is wide open. The usual suspects (BYU, Saint Mary’s) have lost a lot of pieces (Carlino, Mika, Holt, Levesque) and time will tell how they perform. Meanwhile, Portland and San Francisco will have an eye on improving and seeing if they can finish second. The big elephant in the room is whether the Gaels will reload and finish second, or will they be in a rebuilding mode and sputter down the stretch and be an NIT bubble team (or worse).
Even though the Gaels lost six seniors last year, Randy Bennett could in theory still field a very solid all-senior starting five: Aaron Bright, Kerry Carter, Garrett Jackson, Desmond Simmons, and Brad Waldow. New additions Bright and Simmons will have not only have to bring in leadership to the table, but will definentaly have to be at the top of their game to succeed. If Carter, Jackson, and Waldow improved at all, then this should be a dangerous lineup.
A more realistic starting five is: Bright, Joe Coleman, Calvin Hermanson, Garrett Jackson, and Brad Waldow. I think that Jackson gets the starting nod over Simmons due to his time on campus, and I think that Jackson might be slightly better than Simmons. Joe Coleman was a solid player at Minnesota, and he has the skills to take his game to the next level at Saint Mary’s. Hermanson, on the other hand, was the Oregon High School Player of the Year his Senior Year of High School and, after red shirting, he will look to make an impact right away.
As for the rebuilding part? The Gaels were able to bring in transfer Joe Rahon from Boston College and he is penciled in as the starting point guard in 2016 & 2017. With Hermanson, and freshmen bigs Evan Fitzner and Jock Landale, and young guards Emmett Naar and Trevean Duffy, the Gaels have a blend of youth and veterans that every team needs. Despite losing six seniors last year, it looks like Saint Mary’s has reloaded and should be once again in contention for the NCAA Tournament.