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NCAA Basketball: Houston, Gonzaga, and UConn headlines Sunday Mailbag

Conference season is here and that means it is time for the return of the NCAA Basketball Sunday Mailbag. Here's a look at the first edition.

Dec 30, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Cougars guard L.J. Cryer (4) drives to the basket during
Dec 30, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars guard L.J. Cryer (4) drives to the basket during / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
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Is it time to start worrying about Gonzaga?

Read that sentence again and it is wild to even think about that the Bulldogs may be in trouble. Gonzaga entered the season is what was supposed to be a step back. No one knew exactly how big of a step back the Bulldogs would play. Heading into the season Gonzaga had a team that looked like a top 10 team. Graham Ike, Ryan Nembhard, Nolan Hickman, Anton Watson, and Steele Venters were all players who have had a lot of success in their college careers. Watson and Hickman were starters for Gonzaga last year but how would the new pieces fit.

Would Ike, Nembhard and Steele Venters be able to fill the very large shoes of Drew Timme, Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton?  Time would tell?  Venters never got started as he hurt his knee a few days before the season started. That injury forced some freshman to start playing a lot more minutes than coach Few likely wanted them to play right out of the gate. 

Ike has been okay, Nembhard has been far too passive and needs to hunt his shot more at times. Hickman and Watson have done exactly what was expected of them. The Bulldogs don’t have much quality depth and that has been a huge part of their struggles this year. 

Gonzaga does not currently have a quad 1 win and only has one other opportunity to get a quad 1 win. That is a game against Kentucky that right now the Bulldogs are nowhere near ready for. The other unfortunate part for Gonzaga is that the West Coast Conference is not nearly as good as it has been in the years past. Saint Mary’s was supposed to be a lock to make the NCAA tournament but they already have six losses. The Gaels were the team picked to win the West Coast Conference. If Gonzaga doesn’t win their league then it may be a year when they finally miss the NCAA Tournament.

1997-1998 was the last time that Gonzaga did not make the NCAA tournament Mark Few was not the head coach at that time. Resumes matter and who you beat matters and right now Gonzaga doesn’t have the wins. They have wins over Yale, Syracuse, UCLA, Cal State Bakersfield, USC, Arkansas Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, and Jackson State.

There is not much there in the way of quality wins. UCLA and USC are both experiencing bad years and are not what anyone thought they were. Gonzaga has lost every quality opportunity they have. They have lost to Purdue, Washington, San Diego State, and UConn. All of those are quad 1 losses. Those are games that Gonzaga usually wins but with depth problems and their inability to shoot the ball from deep it has taken its toll on the Bulldogs.

Top-10 two-time impact transfers. dark. Next. Top-10 two-time impact transfers

It is officially time to be worried about Gonzaga for the very first time under Mark Few. The Bulldogs very well could win the West Coast Conference and none of us would be surprised if that happened but the non-conference portion of the schedule was very uninspiring and very unlike the Bulldogs under coach Few.