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WCC Basketball: Preseason power rankings for 2021-22 season

Mar 9, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Drew Timme (2) is defended by BYU Cougars forward Caleb Lohner (33) in the first half of the West Coast Conference Tournament championship at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Drew Timme (2) is defended by BYU Cougars forward Caleb Lohner (33) in the first half of the West Coast Conference Tournament championship at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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WCC Basketball Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
WCC Basketball Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren James Snook-USA TODAY Sports /

1. Gonzaga

The West Coast Conference as detailed throughout this article has gotten better this offseason, unfortunately for the other teams so has Gonzaga. Make no mistake, it’s difficult to say that the Zags are better than they were a season that saw them lose just one game all season, that’s near impossible to do no matter how much talent you have.

And you cannot discount the loss of losing All-American Corey Kispert, or top-four picks and All-American Jalen Suggs, or current NBA player and Swiss Army knife Joel Ayayi–or even the departure of former lead assistant Tommy Lloyd to Arizona. But Gonzaga found a way to add starter-level talent both in the portal and recruiting trail to play as many as 11 guys this year.

Drew Timme is a returning All-American and was chosen as the lone unanimous Preseason All-American. Timme was unstoppable in the post last year, showcasing elite footwork and efficiency last season. He averaged 19 points and shot 65.5% from the field. His court vision and decision making him incredibly dangerous, as he can work you with his post moves or find the open man when defenders try to double or trap him, averaging 2.3 assists.

Timme will absolutely destroy opponents throughout the country–let alone the conference–when he takes advantage of the high-low games can play with freshman and the nation’s top overall recruit Chet Holmgren.

Holmgren is a unicorn 7-footer that can finish at all levels of the court. He’s a transition monster, able to go coast to coast because of his handles that resemble a guard. Like Timme, he has an absurd court vision that makes him an outlet master and neutralizes opponents’ double teams.

But where Holmgren could be generational is in his knack to be a shot blocker. Holmgren is a natural rim protector, able to time his jumps immaculately and using his frame to disrupt both on-man and from the weak side. It would not be shocking to see Holmgren break the single-season record for blocks at Gonzaga.

The two are not only the best tandem in the country but likely two of the five best post players individually. They retain Anton Watson, who is a plus defender and efficient scorer, averaging 71% from the field. Having a third big in Holmgren allows Watson to play freely and not worry about getting in foul trouble.

As if that weren’t enough, the Zags are unbelievably deep in the backcourt, with five starter-worthy guards when everyone is healthy. Senior Andrew Nembhard is one of the most underrated returning players in the country, serving as an elite facilitator that made Timme’s life easy last season. He’s one of the best pick-and-roll executors in the country and will only get better as the de facto ball-handler this season.

The Zags have three combo guards in Rasir Bolton, Hunter Sallis, and Dominick Harris (currently sidelined with a foot injury) that all could start on most teams. Bolton is a transfer from Iowa State, where he was the entirety of his offense and one of the fastest drivers in the country. Sallis is the second-highest recruit after Holmgren for the Zags to ever sign and has the skills to be a one-and-done player. Harris was looking to be a contender for the starting role and a major perimeter option before his injury though he may return before conference play.

Where the Zags improve is in unlocking 6-foot-7 sophomore guard and wing Julian Strawther. Strawther is a walking bucket and is incredibly dangerous driving or sitting on the perimeter with perfect shooting form. Add freshmen Kaden Perry and Ben Gregg who is utilizing a free COVID season of eligibility and the Zags have the deepest roster they’ve ever had in the entirety of their historic run.

Top 50 impact transfers for 2021-22. dark. Next

While it is going to be tough to go undefeated in the regular season facing Texas, Duke, UCLA, Alabama, and Texas Tech and an improved conference, they have the guys to finish the job in the tournament.