9 | GONZAGA

November 09, 2015

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

Mark Few knows most coaches would kill to have his problem: How to get the most out of three players, all 6'10" or taller and All-America candidates? " 'Just play the three together' is sort of the simpleton take," says Few, "but it's hard to look back and see somebody who's played three 6'10" or 6'11" guys at the same time. We'll figure it out though."

Senior forward Kyle Wiltjer, a leading candidate for player of the year, can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting (46.6% in 2014--15), and he worked to get stronger in the off-season. Senior center Przemek Karnowski (10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds), a beast on the block, is one of the nation's most underrated players. And sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis has sticky hands, a high motor and an exceptional feel for the game. But what happens when opposing teams press them? How will they space the floor? And can Wiltjer, who's smooth and cerebral but not especially athletic, guard on the perimeter? His added strength will help him rebound more effectively, but he still lacks speed.

In each of his 16 seasons Few has tailored the offense to fit the Zags' strengths. As he waits for the backcourt to catch up—all three guard positions are open after the exits of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley—he'll lean heavily on his big three.

PROJECTED TEAM STATS

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 115.4 (12th)

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 94.2 (27th)

WCC RECORD 16--2 (1st)

X-FACTOR

Eric McClellan started out at Tulsa, averaged 14.3 points in 12 games for Vanderbilt, then played 18 games for Gonzaga last season. The slashing combo guard will see time at all three perimeter spots this season.

STAT SHEET

With 2015--16 projections for the top six scorers

Coach Mark Few (17th season)

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

PPG RPG APG OFF. RATING USAGE
PF Kyle Wiltjer* 6'10" Sr. 21.0 7.4 2.1 127.9 26.0%
PF Domantas Sabonis* 6'11" Soph. 12.9 8.2 1.1 119.5 22.2%
C Przemek Karnowski* 7'1" Sr. 12.5 7.2 1.3 111.8 23.2%
PG Josh Perkins* 6'3" Fr. 9.5 3.8 2.9 109.3 17.5%
SG Silas Melson 6'4" Soph. 8.0 2.6 1.1 104.7 17.0%
SG Eric McClellan 6'4" Sr. 7.5 2.8 1.6 108.7 17.0%

*Starters

TOURNAMENT TRACKER

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

TITLE GAME

FINAL FOUR

ELITE EIGHT

SWEET 16

ROUND OF 32

ROUND OF 64

'11--12

'12--13

'13--14

'14--15

'15--16

PHOTOGREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WILTJER) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MCCLELLAN) CHART

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)