Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Last year the Zags longed for depth. This season they’re so loaded with scoring threats, finding enough shots for everyone will be tough.

Coach Mark Few welcomes one of the best freshman classes in his 17-year tenure, plus a trio of talented transfers who will contribute immediately. Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (second-team All-Pac-12 at Washington in 2014–15), off-guard Jordan Mathews (Cal’s third-leading scorer in ’15–16) and power forward Johnathan Williams (Missouri’s leading scorer in ’14–15) will all contend for starting positions. In keeping with Gonzaga’s tradition of importing talented big men, the freshman crop includes 6' 10" forward Killian Tillie (France) and 6' 8" forward Rui Hachimura (Japan).

But it’s 7-foot, 230-pound freshman Zach Collins, out of Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, who will draw comparisons with a beloved former Zag. “He’s going to be a really good player, along the lines of [Domantas] Sabonis,” Few says. “He’s that forward-center who moves well, loves physicality and whose skill package is improving by the day.”

Minutes will be hard-earned in Spokane. “There were times in practice last year that we got down to six or seven healthy bodies,” Few says. “Now, it’s a luxury to practice really hard. The competition has been so good each day. We don’t just have depth, but balance.”

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X-Factor: Senior forward Przemek Karnowski

The Zags got an unexpected gift with the return of Przemek Karnowski, a 300-pound behemoth who can score, pass and protect the rim. He missed most of last season with a back injury, then flirted with the NBA draft.

Coach’s Take: Mark Few

“I’m hoping the transfers buy into the Zag way. The reason they came here, across the board, was to win, and advance deep in the tourney. They want to develop, not just score 20 points a game and their experience in college basketball is huge. One kid flying under the radar is Williams. I think he’ll be a do-everything guy around the hoop. Karnowski is such a good dude, we’re all just rooting for him to stay healthy. Jordan, he’s an excellent shooter, that’s what he does. He can come off screens, spot up, shoot it deep. And he’s really confident. He’s made a lot of baskets at the D-I level. We really needed one more consistent perimeter shooter, and he’s pretty darn good at that. Our schedule, that’s just the way we do it up here. We’re going to play good, tough teams in the preseason to show the committee we’re not only interested in getting to the tourney, but in being a high seed.”

Projected Top Seven Scorers

Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Nigel Williams-Goss PG 12.3 4.5 3.4 118.0 22.5% 74%
Jordan Mathews SG 12.3 3.8 1.3 117.7 18.7% 72%
Przemek Karnowski C 11.9 6.5 0.9 111.2 24.0% 62%
Johnathan Williams PF 11.6 7.6 0.8 111.9 22.7% 65%
Josh Perkins PG 10.1 3.5 3.6 116.8 19.6% 72%
Silas Melson SG 8.0 3.1 1.1 114.3 15.4% 62%
Zach Collins C 7.8 5.4 0.7 111.7 18.0% 54%

Projected WCC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Gonzaga 16–2 15–3
2 Saint Mary's 14–4 15–3
3 BYU 14–4 13–5
4 Santa Clara 8–10 7–11
5 Pacific 8–10 6–12
6 Pepperdine 8–10 10–8
7 Loyola Marymount 7–11 6–12
8 Portland 6–12 6–12
9 San Francisco 5–13 8–10
10 San Diego 4–14 4–14

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

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